“I was stripped naked by my torturer”
By Umer Beigh
Last two decades of Indian-held-Kashmir have gone through number of cases of torture, humiliation, fake encounters, disappearances, molestations, sexual assaults and other forms of harassment. Showkat Ahmad, 36, still remembers three months of torture in the torture centers, Papa-2 and Gogaland.
Showkat is from downtown area Srinagar and was 16-years-old when he was arrested in a cordon in December, 1992. He remembers every torture he went through. Last twenty three years have added in the vocabulary of Kashmir some infamous names of torture centers like Gogaland (Zovjah), Hari Niwas, Papa-2, Papa-1, and Papa-4 (Hotel 4). All these centers had their own specific methods of torture like OT (Operation Theater), Tiger, Snake, Workshop etc.
As a young boy, Showkat was able to live after such tortures. He is not keen to look forward from his experience. Showkat says the third degree is “worst in world” and no human can do what they did with us. “One day they beat me vigorously, my eyes burst into tears and they continued it till it became unbearable for me. To ease the pain I bit a leg of chair. Then I spoke what I didn’t know. It was my bad luck,” he reminiscences.
Electric shocks, beating and abusing seems normal to Showkat. He witnessed many persons dying in the torture centers. “Concrete roller rolled over body was huge pain and above all psychological tortures. I couldn’t even remember my mother’s name when once asked; this is how they make you weak. How can you tolerate humiliations like when they mix your food and urine,” he recalls.
In Indian-held-Kashmir, one of the regular ways to arrest is any Indian forces agency will pick you up and claim ‘he takes money for helping rebels’. Tortures are always inhuman. Many of those who go through it suffer from various health ailments like problems in stomach, heart, limbs, impotence, eyes, sleeplessness, memory loss and many more. It is a small part of the history of human rights abuses and absolute impunity that Indian forces enjoy.
Torture has not been specific to men only, Kashmiri woman have equally suffered. Due to the prevailing social stigma only a few among them have revealed their ordeals and were reported in media. Haseena, 23, from Rajwara, Handwara, unfolds her struggle with life after she was “arrested and then tortured in custody”.
Haseena with green eyes and a fair complexion believes it all happened because she was the most beautiful girl of her area. It was in September 2004 when Haseena was a class IX student in a school in Zachaldara. She recalls her worst time with sigh of uneasiness when some police men arrived at school and asked the principal about her.
Haseena was brought from her class to talk with the police men. Confused Haseena was asked to accompany them to police station but she resisted. “Then my principal asked me to accompany them, as the class was going on I went all alone with them,” she says.
As Haseena reached the police station, the uniformed men who earlier showed sympathies by patting on her shoulder pushed her in a room. “Right then my heart started beating fast and I couldn’t understand what was going on,” Haseena recalls. She was taken in custody for investigation.
Haseena was sure that she hasn’t done anything wrong but still a murder case was slapped on her. According to her she had done nothing which they “claimed”. They “forced” her to answer but she had no clue. Main purpose of the torture was to admit “their allegations”. “I was 15-years-old that time and they tried every force on me to put their words in my mouth,” she says.
Her hands, legs were tied and she was beaten up to pulp by gun butts and logs by women police. “They even rolled a heavy roller over my legs, and then I was tied upright by ropes,” Haseena recalls that dark time.
The then Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) of the concerned police station had arrived and ordered policewomen to leave the room. “I was scared. Pain had exceeded the resisting threshold, and DSP Altaf Khan started tearing my school uniform. I was naked in front of him and then he asked me who killed the boy? That boy was murdered by some unknown gunmen. He wanted me to accept that I know the unknown people who had killed that boy but I resisted as I did not know who they were,” says Haseena, crying.
The then DSP is now a Superintendent of Police, serving as a commandant in an armed wing of police force. Earlier he was serving in one of the volatile areas of the region where he was attacked by militants but escaped safe.
However, on contacting, SP Altaf Khan, he denied torturing her. He said, “Allegations, speculation and other things don’t make somebody guilty. Yes, it is true Haseena was brought from school to custody for inquiry purpose as her cousin was a militant. He had met her late night some days back during that time.”
On being asked about the torture as she says, he said nothing like that happened. “In any case of assault on her, if she admits she was hit, obviously there must have been a medical report confirming she was hit. She was questioned in custody just for three hours. There might be her personal interest now that’s why she says it after 8 years. Anyone can be alleged but that doesn’t mean allegations are true,” he said.
Haseena says she resisted as she didn’t have any clue about the murder. Later the police officer had asked her that he will let her go only if she “gives him the names of other girls involved”. When she denied of being involved in any case and did not know anybody else the officer then had told her “to let him to do whatever he wants to”. She adds, “Then he started to behave badly with me. I was roped. When he came closer to me I spit on his face which he couldn’t tolerate and he kicked on my abdomen with those peculiar police shoes. Believe me that hit changed my life”.
Those words which the officer has told her still haunt Haseena. After the incident she was admitted in a hospital for treatment where it was proved that she wasn’t raped but nobody wants to believe that she was not raped. Haseena has recently undergone a surgery; she says her appendix was ruptured right at that moment. Loss of blood that day and further for eight months has spoiled her dream to have a baby. Her uterus has got affected because of that injury due to the hit. She was married twice and both times she got divorce only because they came to know the reality that Haseena can’t be a mother.
Like many others who became impotent during torture. Haseena comes in those unfortunates whose life turned nonetheless mystery, life without happiness. She always remains depressed which has ultimately affected her and her parent’s life. She feels a change in the attitude of her siblings also.
Haseena says all her relatives and neighbors keep on bitching about her that she was raped which has become a big hurdle in getting her other sisters married. According to her she doesn’t know how to be happy. “Whether I am at home or out; tears always pour out. I always think how unfortunate I am,” she sighs.
She has already lodged her case to the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) which gave a judgment, confirming she was tortured and molested. So far, according to the estimate survey done by State Human Rights Commission; around two hundred thousand (200,000) individuals have been tortured in Indian-held-Kashmir. Coming on a recent survey which they have recorded on a particular village, they found one among six individuals in rural areas is a torture victim. Along with general disorders, psychiatrists say the victim’s general disorder remains drug abuse, depression and the anger towards the agency through which they have suffered.
She reframes those days before the torture. She claims that there were many killing attempts on her by agencies. “Innocence was perished, there is no purpose to live without dignity, and my life was taken away.”