IPTK/APDP Report: Gory tales of sexual abuse by armed forces, govt gunmen revealed

SRINAGAR: The report, “Structures of Violence: The Indian State in Jammu and Kashmir”, released by The International Peoples Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian Administered Kashmir (IPTK) and The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) on Wednesday, reveals chilling tales of sexual violence allegedly perpetrated by government forces and their local collaborators on Kashmiri women and men during counter-insurgency operations.
Molestation, rape, electric shocks and burning of private parts using chillies and polythene are the commonly-used methods adopted by the armed forces and government sponsored gunmen to torture men and women, young and old, for their alleged militant links, the report says. Based on the testimonies of victims, the 804-page report details 13 cases of sexual abuse and 49 cases of torture.
Two gruesome case studies, listed at number 3 and 5 in the report, are from Baramulla and Anantnag districts of north and south Kashmir, and allegedly involved the Indian army and government sponsored gunmen, commonly called Ikhwanis.
According to the report, on January 26, 1994, soldiers of the army’s counter insurgency 2 RR left a weapon outside a residential house in Sipan village in Anantnag during patrolling. The rifle was taken away by three unidentified men, even as the housewife, living in the building, pleaded with them not to do so. The unknown men also took the house owner with them. “Then five army persons came and tortured the woman in the house of her neighbour Gul Sheikh. They inserted chillies in her vagina….She was later taken to police lines Anantnag, where she was medically examined and her statement was recorded,” says the report. The report identifies the alleged perpetrators as Subedar Rattan Singh, Lance Naiks Pretam Singh and Karan Singh.
The police had filed a case Fir No 29/1994 under sections 307 (attempt to murder) 354 (assault/criminal force on a woman with intent to outrage modesty) 342 (wrongful confinement) of Ranbir Penal Code against the accused soldiers. The police, in two separate communications, had stated that a chargesheet in the case has been submitted and the case file sent for sanction for prosecution under the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). However, it also states that no response has been received from the Defence Ministry.
In a somewhat similar case, a minor girl was subjected to sexual violence by the soldiers of Palhalan camp and government sponsored gunmen after they took her from her house in 1996. The victim, who is a housewife now, told the IPTK how she and her brother were tormented for being neighbours of a Hizbul Mujahideen militant.
“First, the gunmen, on the instructions of Major Sinha, stripped her. Then they beat her with sticks and ran a roller over her legs. Later, they poured melting polythene into her vagina due to which she fell unconscious.” the report says, quoting the victim. Due to the torture, the victim has had difficulties in conceiving children and has had multiple abortions. 19 years later, she continues to receive treatment at various hospitals.
Before subjecting her to torture, Major Sinha alias Liyaqat Ali, and his local collaborators Lateef, wife of Ama Waza — a government sponsored gunman — and another woman, had asked her to reveal the details of her militant neighbour. “Major Sinha had also offered her a reward of Rs 1 lakh for providing information. She told the officer that she knows nothing. She then also learnt that her school going brother too had been abducted,” the report says.
Her brother, who runs a shop now, told the interviewees that he was picked up by government sponsored gunmen Abdul Shaban Tantray and Abdul Rasheed in the autumn of 1996 when he was on the way to school, and taken to Major Sinha.
The three later took him to the army camp located in a Pandit house in Palhalan, where Ghulam Mohammad Wala alias Amma Waza, Mohammad Lateef Mir alias Jarra, Abdur Rashid, Riyaz Ahmad and another Ikhwani nicknamed Saeb, tortured him.
“A roller was run over his legs and stomach by two men on each side. His toes, feet and private parts were given electric shocks. His head was immersed in chilly water while 2-3 men stood on his back. He was also hung upside down,” the report says, quoting the victim. On the third day of his abduction, the victim says that he was taken into another Pandit house by Subedar Mohan Singh. There, he saw his sister in a horrible condition with her feet covered with blood. “Guard Commander Shravan Singh was also there. The victim was told to reveal the information on militants and give up possession of arms,” says the report.
After their release, following the intervention of a relative, the siblings and other family members were driven out from the area by the army for five consecutive days. The report has named 8 alleged perpetrators, including 3 army officers and 5 Ikhwanis in the sexual assault and torture of these Palhalan siblings.
Khurram Parvez, one of the people involved in the making of the report, said that the actual number of cases of sexual violence were higher than the documented ones. He said most victims don’t come forward due to various reasons. “The victims always have a fear of reprisal from the perpetrators. They fear that if they speak the truth, they and their families might be hounded again,” Khurram said.
Social stigma and the lack of hope in the judiciary too, he said, were major factors that prevent victims of sexual violence from speaking out. “Had there been a single conviction in the cases of sexual violence, many victims would have deposed their faith in the judiciary. However, they feel hopeless and hapless,” he added.