- Arrested at 17, Indian forces stripped Khatana’s skin off, chopped off his legs, electric shocks to his eyes, broke each of his fingers
- “I am alive, but dead. I can’t walk, I can’t see and can’t work”
SRINAGAR: Twenty three years have passed and a Kupwara man, victim of arguably one of the most horrendous cases of torture by Indian forces, is still waiting for justice. And has even been forced to beg for his and his wife’s survival.
Kalandar Mohammad Khatana, 40, son of Chana Mohammad Khatana of village Kothiyan Halqa Mori, Kalaroos in district Kupwara of north Kashmir was arrested by the Border Security Force (BSF) in December 1992. He was just 17 years old when troopers from the nearest BSF camp, at Mori, arrested him from his home and start torturing him at the camp.
The ‘crime’ was that he was accused of being a guide for militants. The torture at the Mori camp lasted for least two weeks, then he was shifted to BSF camps in Baramulla, Pattan and, later, Papa 2.
“It was January 1993 when the forces shifted me to Papa 2 camp in Srinagar for further interrogation. Here, they broke all the records of human rights violations. They chopped off my skin with a knife and later rubbed salt into the wounds. After some time they rolled wooden logs over my thighs, and then electrocuted both of my eyes. After two months, the Indian forces chopped off both of my legs with knives and threw me into a dark room. I was in that room for maybe a month, and thousands of insects attacked my legs, thighs and shoulders. After six months, they shifted me to Jammu jail, where I remained for the next 4 years,” Khatana told Kashmir Reader recently.
“I was neither a guide for militants nor did I have any relationship with any militant organisation,” he said, “I was a simple boy, like other youths of our area, but the Indian forces wanted to force me to accept that I was a militant guide and that some arms were recovered from my possession. But I always refused to accept these allegations,” he said.
The jail authorities, he said, released him in 1997, but by then he had been handicapped by damage to his eyes, legs and hands: “The Indian forces not only chopped off my legs, they also broke all the fingers of both my hands. Now, I am not only without legs, but I can’t see with my left eye because of the electric currents, and I can’t work because of my broken fingers. In other words, I am alive, but dead. I can’t walk, I can’t see and can’t work.”
“Later, I registered a case of human rights violation, and the government provided me Rs 25,000 as compensation. The JVC hospital at Srinagar provided me two plastic legs, with the help of (noted human rights defender) Parvaiz Imroz. A NGO gave me a tricycle, but two years ago it was damaged and I have no money to repair it.
Khatana, who has three children, was later forced to start begging for his livelihood. “I am begging door to door in Kupwara, Handwara, Sopore, Baramulla and in Uri. I have no other source of income. Neither has the government allotted me any sort of monthly relief nor has any other organisation helped me. Now I have no other option but to beg,” Khatana said, his eyes brimming with tears.
“I earn a few thousand rupees per year during Ramadan and some people give me clothes and a few other necessities. My children are now not dependent on me, but my wife, Bali Begam, who has been ill for many years, depends on me. We have God and not much else,” he said.
Khatana was married to Bali Begam when he was 17, and had a son before his arrest. He became father to two daughters after his release. Sources say the three children are now married; the daughters living with their husbands, and the son with his wife. But Khatana and his wife are living alone and have no source of support except his seeking alms.
General Secretary Voice of Victims Abdul Qadeer Dar, said his organisation had also filed a case on Khatana’s plight in the High Court but it was still ‘in process’. He also said they had appealed to government agencies to adequately compensate Khatana and that the culprits who tortured him should be brought to book.