Two Jammu and Kashmir-based human rights groups on Monday released a detailed report on alleged torture of civilians in the state, and called on the United Nations to investigate the matter.
The report, released by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons and the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, used 432 case studies to study alleged torture by security forces in the Kashmir Valley since 1990 and stated that “widespread use of torture continues unabatedly”.
The report claimed no one has been prosecuted for alleged human rights violations till date because of “legal, political and moral impunity extended to the armed forces”. Civilians have been systematically and institutionally tortured by the state to curb dissent, the rights groups added. “Torture has remained unnoticed and survivors continue to suffer in silence.”
While scandals in American prisons such as Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and Abu Ghraib in Iraq received international attention, “torture remains hidden in Jammu and Kashmir, where tens of thousands of civilians have been subjected to it”, the rights groups said.
The activists cited the example of school principal Rizwan Pandit, who was killed in March while he was in the custody of the state police’s Special Operations Group. The police claimed that the 29-year-old died while “he was trying to escape from police custody”, they added.
According to the report, 301 of 430 people allegedly tortured include women, students and juveniles, political activists, human rights activists and journalists. “Entire populations have also been subjected to collective punishments like cordon and search operations,” it added. “Torture and sexual violence have been common.”
The report listed the forms of torture allegedly carried out, and claimed that there had been 24 cases of waterboarding and 238 cases of sexual abuse.
The rights organisations urged the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate the allegations of torture and requsted India to ratify the UN Convention against Torture.
Last year, a UN report on Kashmir criticised India and Pakistan for alleged human rights violations and called for a commission of inquiry by the Human Rights Council. While New Delhi rejected the report and claimed that it was “overtly prejudiced” and had built a “false narrative”, Pakistan welcomed the recommendations.