Activists Demand Independent Probe Into Torture Methods Used by Armed Forces in Kashmir

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Police beat a Kashmiri Muslim for participating in a religious procession in Srinagar. — AP file photo

The 560-page report filed by Kashmir-based Human Rights group is making many demand the removal of section 197 of the code of criminal procedure of Indian law

Waquar Hasan | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI – Prominent human rights activists have demanded the setting up of an independent commission to investigate the use of torture by the armed forces in the Kashmir valley. The demand began to surface after two Kashmir-based human rights groups brought out a 560-page report which documents the cruel forms of torture used by the security forces in Kashmir. The activists have not just demanded an independent investigation into the methods of torture used in Kashmir but also for some institutional changes that can curb such happenings.

On Monday, Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) released the first comprehensive report on torture in Jammu and Kashmir which revealed that rape, sodomy, electrocution including in genitals, sleep deprivation and hanging from the ceiling, are some of the cruel forms of torture being used by the armed forces and Jammu and Kashmir police against people in Kashmir valley since 1990.

“There must be an investigation into the happenings. An independent commission should be constituted to investigate these cases of torture,” said human rights activist Apoorvanand.

According to the report, these different methods of torture have also caused several deaths of Kashmiris who are taken into custody. The report has also put forward a demand for an international investigation on the issue of Kashmiris being tortured in Kashmir. The investigation according to them needs to be led by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“There is an international convention that opposes torture. It says that torture is unacceptable. A government which is civilized will not allow torture. In our country also, the law completely disallows torture. If you are being tortured then prove in the court. The matter will go against the government and the police. But sadly enough, it is practically impossible to prove it,” said Apoorvanand, who is also a professor at the Delhi University. He then added, “Officials torturing victims, criminals or civilians for any reason is absolutely illegal.”

Ravi Nair, Executive Director, South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre, believes that torturing of inmates is not going to stop unless there are some institutional reforms.

“If you need radical changes in these issues, you will have to bring in institutional changes. Section 197, as well as AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Power Act), should be scrapped. Intelligence Agencies should be brought under the Parliament scrutiny. Compensation to the victims should be made mandatory. These institutional mechanisms should be put in place,” said Nair. He maintained that without institutional changes, such cases will continue to happen.

According to him, there cannot be any solution to the torture unless and until section 197 is outlawed from the Indian constitution. “If there will not be section 197, the government, security forces, and government employees will remain cautious,” he added.

According to section 197 of the code of criminal procedure of Indian law, the public servants including security forces cannot be prosecuted or removed from their service without sanction from the government. “No Court shall take cognizance of any offence alleged to have been committed by any member of the Armed Forces of the Union while acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his official duty, except with the previous sanction of the Central Government,” states the act.

“This act should not be in place in any civilized society. If India calls itself civilized, it should immediately scrap it,” added Nair.

The report also has indicated that the impunity given to the armed forces is responsible for the rampant use of torture in the Kashmir Valley. “Torture is used as a matter of policy by the Indian State in Jammu and Kashmir in a systematic and institutional manner, as all the institutions of the State, be it the legislature, executive, judiciary and armed forces forms a part,” noted the report.

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