Srinagar: Tahab region in South Kashmir's Pulwama district has been witnessing a series of instances of violence and ‘torture’ against young men, say villagers. Last week, 17-year-old Nadeem* reportedly swallowed poison to avoid ‘further torture’ by the armed forces, something which the Army has denied, terming it as “baseless.”
But villagers tell a different story. The 10th grader was reportedly detained twice earlier, prior to the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5. His family said he had suffered grave injuries during his previous detentions and was afraid of the same recurring this time, too. Speaking with NewsClick, Nadeem's father, who is in his 60s, said: "My son's last words were that he is “dying for Kashmir”. He also said that grave injustice being done to the state."
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After news of the teenager’s death spread, the entire region is in a state of terror. Some of the boy’s neighbours said he was beaten up by the forces for not carrying his ID card but was later released. Nadeem's father said: "He did the job of denting and painting of cars. Last week, when he returned home from his job, he locked himself inside the room. We initially did not notice anything suspicious. He refused to eat lunch on the pretext of finishing his studies. We later offered him tea and dinner, but he refused that too. It was at night, when we offered him a glass of milk when his cousin suspected that he may consumed some poisonous substance."
The teenager was rushed to a local hospital where the standard procedure to deal with cases of poison consumption was followed. His family said after that he was referred to another hospital, where his tests showed serious internal injuries. As per his family, Nadeem was in different hospitals over the course of three days following alleged consumption of poison. Finally, he was brought to Sri Mahtab Raja Hospital in the district, where the doctors told the family that the chances of his survival were very slim. "I knew he wouldn't be able to live long, so I apologised to him for any wrong that I had done. He simply said that he is dying for the state of Kashmir, " his father said.
Cases such as that of Nadeem, when taken to the police, become Medico-Legal Cases (MLCs). To conduct an enquiry into such cases, apart from medical inputs from doctors, additional details from the police are sought.
However, locals said there was no option to approach the authorities in the present context of Kashmir, where absolute control rests with the armed forces.
"I don't understand, what’s my son’s fault? We don't know what to do next, as there is no scope for justice in the state," Nadeem’s father said.
Nadeem's case is among several other stories of ‘torture’ surfacing from this apple farming region. There have been various reports, where other ‘victims of torture’ said they were picked up by the armed forces in the middle of the night and beaten up brutally. One such victim, on the condition of anonymity, said: "They raided my house, questioning if I had burned down the apples due to the fear of militants. My entire family, including women from the neighbourhood, came to my defence and tried to stop the personnel from taking me with them. The women were physically pulled out from my house and I was thrashed, "he alleged.
Another torture victim in Shopian said: "I was taken by the forces at 2 a.m at night, as they said they wanted to search me. So, I followed. My bag was searched and my mobile phone and card were taken away and I was beaten up. They kicked me in the face multiple times. I was later asked to report to the local police camp, where I was beaten again up for over an hour after which I fell unconscious. I was picked up by my father later and taken to hospital.”
The victim's cousin claimed that the Army personnel,"did not know if he is alive or dead,” adding that two other people from the same village were also reportedly taken away."
The victim's mother, in her 70s, said she was also threatened and chased away by the forces. "I was hoping that they will listen to me as I am old, instead they ended up threatening me with a gun," she added.
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In 2016, during the mass protests following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen’s Burhan Wani, Shopian was one of the main areas where protests were intense. For months, scores of villages were out of bounds for police and security forces until an area-domination operation was carried with more than 3,000 additional police and paramilitary forces in early 2017.
Since the government imposed a clampdown across Jammu and Kashmir and unilaterally revoked Article 370 on August 5, tension has intensified in the area.
*Note: Names have been changed to protect the identity of the victims.