Khan Sahib/Srinagar: Farooq Ahmad, 27, was picked up by the army’s 35 RR in Utligam village, tortured, forcibly dipped several times in the icy cold water of a stream, and was later tied in unconscious state to the bonnet of an army jeep as a human shield to prevent protesters from targeting the army patrol, Kashmir Reader has learnt.
A resident of Chill Brass village, Farooq is now unable to move and his one arm is bandaged due to fracture.
Farooq told Reader that it was on April 9, the day the parliamentary by-poll was held in Budgam, that he was picked up by the army’s 35 RR unit posted in Utligam village. “On April 9, I left my home along with my brother Abdul Qadir and another person named Mohammad Amin to attend a condolence meeting at my relative’s home,” said Farooq, a shawl weaver by profession.
“We were riding on two bikes. I was alone riding on my bike. When we reached near Utligam village, a kilometer away from our destination in Gampora, there were clashes going on. My brother, who was riding the other bike, told me that we would take a short cut through the link road connecting Utligam with Gampora,” Farooq said.
He said he refused to take the link road and went ahead on his bike. He saw army men chasing a group of protesters who were running towards him. “As the protesters fled away, the army men caught me at about 11pm. They almost broke my bones beating me with wooden sticks and kicking me with their jack boots. I was confused as to what was happening. They were about 15 army men, all beating me. The people there were watching as mute spectators. They dared not ask the army men to stop,” Farooq said.
He said that he was beaten so ruthlessly that blood squirted out of his nose and other body parts. “I lost all strength to defend myself. Then they took me to a stream bordering the road, and dipped me several times in the icy cold water. I felt pain in my whole body and shivered. I cried loudly but in vain,” Farooq told Reader.
Looking at his condition, Farooq said, women living in the area came out of their homes to protest. “I had lost my consciousness by then. I could only hear the countless bullets being fired and then the teargas shells. The soldiers tied me to the bonnet of their jeep while I was in an almost unconscious state. They kept hurling abuses at me. Then they strapped a white paper to my body on which was written, ‘He is a stone-pelter’,” Farooq said.
Farooq said he was paraded through various villages including Utligam, Sonpah, Nagam, Chakpora, Rawalpora, Khospura, Arizal and Harbpanzu.
“It is a total distance of 25 kiolmeters,” Farooq said. “In pain, I would whisper to them to free me, but the army men would threaten me that they would shoot me in the head. I would fall silent”.
He said that he could see people running away from the jeep when he was being paraded through villages. “Some youth wanted to free me. In Khoshpura, people came out to free me but could not because the army soldiers chased them away,” Farooq said.
In the afternoon, the army took Farooq to the CRPF camp at Hardpanzu. “I was dumped inside a Rakshak vehicle. When I opened my eyes, I was in the Rayar camp of 35 RR. I was crying in pain,” Farooq said.
“People had identified me during the parade. They informed my two brothers. Along with the village sarpanch, my brothers reached the camp and sought my release. In a semi- conscious state I was released at about 7pm,” Farooq said.
For three days, Farooq could not sleep due to the severe pain in his body. He lives with his mother at Chill Brass village in a dilapidated house. He is so frightened that he has not thought of lodging a case against the army soldiers. “I am a poor man. I have a 70-year-old mother living with me. She is extremely scared. They can do anything if I file a case. They can come and shoot me dead in the night,” Farooq said.
Someone shot a video of Farooq while he was being paraded tied to the army jeep. Soon after the video surfaced, Kashmiris took to social media and vented their anger. Many Indians on social media justified the army action saying it will help discipline the Kashmiris who indulge in stone-pelting.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah posted the video on Twitter and wrote, “A warning can be heard saying that stone-pelters will meet the same fate. This requires urgent inquiry and follow-up.”
Army spokesperson Rajesh Kalia said that the authenticity of the video is being verified.