The atrocities committed by Indian state and its barbaric forces in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, as well as its attempts to kill and maim free Kashmiris across the Line of Control in Azad Jammu and Kashmir continues to be a clear and present danger to even the most basic human rights of Kashmiris. Men, women, children, and the elderly, nobody is safe from the dangers of the savage Indian forces that seem hungry for blood, spurred on by a Centre that provides it immunity from prosecution for even the most serious human rights abuses. There are countless cases of innocent Kashmiris being killed, arbitrarily arrested, tortured, maimed and termed as ‘terrorists’ all in their legitimate struggle for freedom at the behest of the Indian state. The eye-opening accounts shared below of their plight which has become a routine, and the danger of torture, humiliation, and the threat to their lives that is always present must be brought before the world so that the world powers take action to put a stop to these ever-increasing atrocities.
This reign of oppression and tyranny must come to an end!
A Nightmare in Paradise
Dr. Hadia Tariq
The night of August 6, 2019 was eerily quiet, the gentle burble of the stream passing through a village in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir was the only sound that could be heard so the sudden thumping on the door was like thunderclaps waking the entire family. Nobody dared to speak, a mother pressed her sleeping infant to her bosom looking, at the men around her in fear. A visitor at this time of the night was always bad news, it could mean only one of the two things, either it was another raid, or it was some poor soul running from the soldiers looking for shelter.
The 24-year-old Muzaffar Nabi quickly put on his shirt knowing very well whoever it was, it was extremely dangerous to keep them waiting. Just before he opened the door, he looked back into the courtyard to make sure that all the females and the children had gone inside. It was always better to be prepared for the worst. Taking a deep breath, he opened the door and came face to face with the village watchman.
“Muzaffar, the soldiers are looking for you. Come quickly,” the old man stated before turning around beckoning him with his hands. The young carpenter turned back to instruct his family to lock the door behind him, a part of him sighed in relief, at least his family was safe tonight. He took a calming breath trying to make his expressions neutral as it was unwise to let the soldiers see fear; they reacted to it in the same way wild hounds react to the stench of blood, with a crazed frenzy.
A group of uniform clad men stood on the main road. As soon as they saw him, they pounced, grabbing him by the collar one dragged him to the middle of the group, and without any preamble started to kick him, bringing the young man to his knees. Looking up at them in the glow of the moon all he could see was the whiteness of their eyes and the yellowing teeth grinning mockingly down at him from all directions. In that moment it was as if the monsters in the stories his mother told him as a child had come to life, turning his worst nightmare into a reality.
He tried to ask what he had done and felt not one but multiple strikes on his back, he tried to shield his body but failed miserably as the beasts started to hit him with iron rods, cables and the back of their guns. In the beginning he tried to stay quiet hoping to deprive them of the satisfaction of making him scream but lost control and began to wail, begging for mercy. The kicks from the heavy leather boots knocked him on his stomach making it easier for the assaulters to strike his back and legs. He felt wetness trickle into his left eye but couldn’t check if he was bleeding. Someone grabbed him by his hair raising his head a few inches and shouting, “This is what you get for throwing stones at the army,” before pushing him back on the ground.
Muzaffar noticed that he wasn’t being tortured alone but that there were a few more men being beaten as well, their wails haunting the village, a message for those who were inside their houses, ‘today it was them, tomorrow it could be you’. Time became fluid, he couldn’t tell if hours had passed or mere minutes, he hoped the abusers would get tired at some point but there were too many of them, if one would tire two more would take his place. At some point he had stopped resisting, laying motionlessly on the cold hard ground letting the animals beat him, until he lost consciousness.
A sudden sharp burning and stinging in his chest and thighs brought Muzaffar back to the earth, he felt his body convulsing and rising a few inches from the ground before falling back, his mouth opened in a silent scream, they had electrocuted him. He felt a heavy boot on his chest as someone shouted, “Tell me the name of one stone pelter, and we will stop, or this continues.”
Muzaffar tried to shake his head to tell that he didn’t know anyone but felt another strike of the iron rod on his chest. This torture continued for two hours, when the beating would result in losing consciousness, he was electrocuted. At one-point Muzaffar wished that he would just die, death would bring an end to this agony. When the horizon brightened with the first light of the day the soldiers finally stopped, piling up the almost lifeless bodies of five men on top of one another in the middle of the road before getting into their vehicles and left howling with sadistic glee.
As Muzaffar watched their blurry vehicles vanish into the darkness, he no longer wished for death but prayed that he lived long enough to see a free Kashmir, a place where no one was ever tortured for existing, where human rights were protected, where you could leave your house at any time of day or night without the fear of being assaulted by the so-called ‘protectors’ of the land. He wanted to live long enough to see a Kashmir where no father had to bury his young martyred son, where no mother had to wonder if her children would come back when they left home each morning, where no child would be raised without a father, where no daughter would fear for her safety. He wished to see a Kashmir where everyone was free to worship however they pleased, where there were no restrictions on congressional prayers, where mosques, temples and churches were equally accessible and safe. He prayed to live long enough to see the day when each dawn brought hope and each dusk peace, he prayed for his home to be his own once more. The call of the Fajr prayer by the muezzin was the last sound that entered the young man’s ears before he lost consciousness bringing an end to the night from hell in the valley that was considered heaven on earth.
The Wounds Just Won’t Heal: Bleeding Kashmir
“This one doesn’t work,” Khatana states, displaying two hands with mangled fingers to a local Kashmiri interviewer. “Nor this one. Nor this one. And this one is also useless,” he continues. Using his whole hand to point to each disfigured line that was once a finger, he adds how one at a time, each one was maimed beyond recognition by the Indian soldiers.
Qalandar Khatana used to be a farmer until he was picked up by the Indian Border Security Force in the early 1990s and accused of being a guide to militants. In Jezza Neumann’s 2012 documentary film ‘Kashmir’s Torture Trail’ (Channel Four, UK) he enters the room on crutches, and recounts the horrific experience of being detained by the Indian paramilitary Border Security Force. He stumps along on stubs where feet should be, dressed in a modest stone-grey ‘shalwar kameez’. The bottom of his shins is mummified in heavy bandages. Despite being old, the wounds above both missing ankles remain clearly unhealed, and the mixture of congealed blood and disinfectant stains on the bandage testify to it being a continual source of trauma.
Abid, the young interviewer who documents the tales of torture of the Kashmiri survivors over the years, asks Qalandar Khatana about his feet. Khatana details how before the questioning could even begin in the interrogation room, a horde of Indian soldiers stormed into the barracks, dogpiling him. Within seconds, one chopped off both his feet, severing them entirely. As the blood gushed all over, “I looked on,” he remembers, seeing his hacked feet a few feet away from him, twitching and quivering as the life went out of them. His voice is steady. Emotionless. But the pain induced through the effort made to sit on the floor is visible on his face.
He proceeds to lift up his shirt to reveal a stretch of skin, severely knit and woven together: a souvenir from the “interrogation”. A chunk of flesh from his waist was chopped into bits. After being seasoned with chili and salt, each bit was picked with the tip of the knife and fed to him one by one. The rest of the captives with him met the same fate. With each bite fed, the soldiers jeered at them, daring them to say that Kashmir should be free.
The interviewer, who maintains a record of the stories of survivors over the years, looks unsurprised. Each line of Khatana’s account is laden with abuse – the evidence branded forever on his body. On investigation by the State Human Rights Commission in Kashmir, it was found that all his claims were true; just one of a multitude that result in the mutilation and maiming of the survivors; and the death of more than one in ten, through various forms and degrees of torture that continue till today.
Khatana’s story is barely from the start of the “insurgency” in Kashmir, with the atrocities continuing every day with what can only be called impunity. Though, in some semblance of justice and acknowledgement he was due to receive compensation, none has been paid out in all these years.
He looks at the two flies buzzing around the blood-stained hooves at the bottom of his legs, and states dejectedly, “The wounds just won’t heal.”
Javaid Ahmed Magray; Neither the First, nor the Last
Four years later, the Joint Secretary, Ministry of Defense received a letter from the State office of Jammu and Kashmir within which Article 7 of the AFSPA was imbued.
“Protection to persons acting under Act. ― No prosecution, suit, or other legal proceedings shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Central Government, against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act. 7. (Repeal and Saving)”
Ghulam Nabi was requesting permission to file a lawsuit against the Subedar of Assam Regiment responsible for the death of his teenage son. The search for justice and accountability of a helpless father was denied by the Indian Government three years later on the basis of the following statement, “The individual killed was a militant from whom arms and ammunition were recovered.”
No evidence of any kind was found to support this claim but the Indian Government stood by the word of its own armed personnel and overlooked the testimonies of Javaid’s relatives and neighbors which guaranteed his innocence. Even the Nowgam Station police report confirmed that the “deceased boy was not a militant – and has been killed without any justification by a Subedar.”
It was revealed not long after the incident that the Junior Commissioned Officer in question had shifted locations along with his unit. The circumstance was much too suspicious to be considered coincidental.
“The problem is that the army never accepts that sometimes these violations happen. They’re always in denial,” said Ghulam Nabi, father of the deceased.
Such enforced disappearances and killings have been the norm, horrifying as it may be, in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir since partition. The revocation of Article 370 and 35A have increased military presence in the region and reduced media coverage. The silence of the international community in the case of Javaid Ahmed Magray and other such victims demonstrates that these unjust killings are neither the first nor the last ones to occur. India must be stopped by the world from continuing this genocide before it is too late.
It was a pleasant and serene evening of April 11, 2020 in Seerihan Sayidan, Forward Kahuta, Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Tayyab Kazmi’s wife dressed her children while he bid them with a contented smile as they ran outside their house to play with their friends. As Tayyab laid down to rest in his single-story home, a loud explosion jolted his peaceful being and he ran outside to look for his children. Overcome with worry and fear for his children, he dashed outside to the front yard, not caring for his own safety. He jolted with shock when, as he stepped outside, an artillery shell hit a tree in front of his house and a shrapnel from it landed in his chest. The tranquility of his small world turned into bleak darkness as he lay unconscious on the ground with scattered craters and shrapnel all around. Yet again, he rested with stillness but this time amidst the unwanted romance of gunpowder and smoke. Kazmi was given first aid by locals until Pakistan Army arrived at the scene, evacuating him to the nearest CMH. “After the bomb exploded, I didn’t know where the children were and couldn’t hear anything, while he lay unconscious” Tayyab Kazmi’s wife said.
Though Kazmi did not succumb to the injury caused by piercing of shrapnel inside his chest but the fear of the unknown engulfed him and his family for the rest of their lives. His children suffered from shell shock and refused to speak for days after the incident which nearly took the shelter of their lives. Populace living close to the Line of Control (LoC) remains a testament to this inhumane and brutish targeting by the Indian army. Pointing to the shrapnel-scarred walls of the houses, one of the locals said, “This has become a norm here in Kashmir”. When the mortar and artillery shells begin to land in the villages, those outside their homes run helter-skelter for any shelter they can find, residents of the area say. A month ago, a shell ripped through the roof of another local’s house causing serious injury to a kid. The fear of unknown grips the people in the area who remain inundated with constant threat posed from across the LoC. Later the site was visited by UNMOGIP officials who interacted with the locals, though a futile undertaking.
Kazmi survived but he lives with the remains of shrapnel inside his chest and dwells with the everlasting frightening memoirs gifted from across the border. There are hundreds of Kazmis who have suffered from such physical and psychological trauma and the number goes on increasing. The decades-old Indian atrocities in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir coupled with the blatant violation of the Ceasefire Agreement on the LoC targeting innocent civilians, undoubtedly speaks volumes of a retarded and unethical mindset prevailing and nurtured in the BJP-led India. The unprovoked shelling on civilians is a peculiar occurrence of its kind whereby people of a country feel unsafe in their own homeland. Pakistan always exercises restraint in responding to such violations and chooses to target Indian military instead of civilians, exhibiting respect for the rules of combat and civilian lives. United Nations must not limit to only inscribing the unilateral Indian violations victimizing civilians in AJ&K but also influence the Modi regime to stop killing innocent people across the border, impelling the Hindutva ethos to muse humanity for a change.
A Wounded Paradise
This wilderness of yellow leaves – which is my homeland
This carnival of suffering – which is my homeland
Surrounded by the splendid beauty of Parigham – a Kashmiri village – Muzaffar Ahmed, a 20-year-old boy lived with his family in constant fear. Terror was the crux of his life and Indian soldiers were the architects of that terror. Not even once did the boy or his family sleep in peace because the threat of the soldiers was continually looming over them. Their uneasiness, however, became true when Indian soldiers barged into their house in the middle of the night on August 7, 2019.
“They dragged Muzaffar and his brother onto the streets and assaulted them with sticks, gun buts, and iron chains,” cried their mother.
Unable to sit on the bruises, Muzaffar remarked, “The torture continued for three hours. We not only received the beating but also electric shocks. We felt that our souls were about to flee. They forced us to eat dirt and drink drainage water.”
This inhumane torment was further intensified by the heartless perpetrators when the boys begged for mercy. Sonaullah Sofi, Ahmed’s father, lamented over the haunting incident as a helpless father who was unable to protect his sons from the barbaric beating of the Indian soldiers. His sorrow was intensified when he put his young sons and eight other people in the ambulance and took them to a hospital in Srinagar. For Muzaffar Ahmed and his family, God’s heaven on earth became a living hell where their lives had no worth.
Summer 1992 — when for two years Death had turn
Every day in Kashmir into some family's Karbala.
–Agha Shahid Ali
Muzaffar Ahmed’s story is tragic but what’s more heart-wrenching is that every Kashmiri Muslim is facing the same brutal fate at the hands of the Indian authorities. State-sponsored terrorism is prevalent in Jammu and Kashmir ever since its occupation by India but recently it has gained further momentum after the government stripped the region of its semiautonomous status. Moreover, communication blackouts, unjustified abductions, extrajudicial killings, sexual harassment, curfews, and destruction of food and properties of innocent Kashmiris are some usual practices with which the state inflicts torture. 60-year-old Abdul Ghani Dar had to send his daughter to a safe place before the raids. His eyes drenched with tears when he said, “They raid my house looking for my boys, but they are in search of my daughter.”
Similarly, Bashir Ahmed Dar survived two sessions of hardcore beating only because his brother joined the rebel group. Nazir Ahmed Bhat, a resident of Arihal states that Indian forces marauder their “homes and hearths like a victorious army” and now, they behave “as if they have a right over their [Kashmiris’] lives, property and honor.”
Today, Kashmir is a highly militarized area with heavy deployment of Indian troops for one sole purpose – taking over Kashmir by robbing the Kashmiris of their identity, properties, and basic human rights. Public Safety Act, a law that enables the state to detain a person for two years without trial for maintaining public order, is one way through which India is achieving its motive. Indian authorities repeatedly manipulate this Act to put young Kashmiris, especially the ones who voice their concerns, behind bars. More than 3000 Kashmiris have been arrested ever since the crackdown began and many Kashmiris were thrown under the bus using this act. The only crime committed by these Kashmiris is that they do not surrender before the tyranny of the Indian state and keep fighting to retain their identity which is inherently Kashmiri, not Indian.
India, under the Modi regime, has turned into a xenophobic state that pushes its minorities towards the peripheries, but its treatment of the Kashmiris is on another level. It constantly monitors them and never forbids its soldiers from the use of force. Modi gave his troops ‘total freedom’ to subjugate the ‘militants’, primarily the native Kashmiris who disregard the state’s narrative and rebel against it. The Desh Bhakt soldiers use curfews, late-night raids, unconstitutional arrests, and beatings to police the indigenous Kashmiris, but if they fail to do so, they turn the Paradise into a slaughterhouse. Agha Shahid Ali sketched this plight and the bloodbath of Kashmiris in his poems Dear Shahid and I see Kashmir from New Delhi at Midnight in the following verses:
You must have heard Rizwan was killed. Rizwan:
Guardian of the Gates of Paradise.
Only eighteen years old.
Yesterday at Hideout Café (everyone there asks about you),
(Verse 3, Dear Shahid)
...Don't tell my father I have died, he says, and I follow him
Through blood on the road and hundreds of pairs of shoes, the mourners left behind,
As they ran from the funeral, victims of the firing.
From windows, we hear grieving mothers, and snow begins to fall on us, like ash.
Black on edges of flames, it cannot extinguish the neighborhoods,
The homes set ablaze by midnight soldiers.
Kashmir is burning.
(Verse 3, I see Kashmir from New Delhi at Midnight)
Victims of CFVs at LoC
Uzma explained with a heavy heart that her father was a role model for her and he wanted to see her become a doctor in the future. But the death of her father is no less than an ordeal for her and her family because not only have they lost a beloved member of their family, but also the breadwinner of the house and person who could guide them has been killed at the hands of the barbaric Indian forces. Still, Uzma is determined to become a doctor and has decided to face all sufferings of life bravely. But she only has one question, “When would the United Nations hold Indian army accountable for committing such brutal acts and stop India from repeating these stories of atrocities by killing innocent people and depriving hundreds of children of their parents?”
Makhan Bibi, 38, wife of Muhammad Fayyaz is facing a lot of challenges in running the functions of her household, for she is unable to fulfill the livelihood, educational and health requirements; responsibilities that have been thrust upon her due to the killing of her husband who was nothing but an innocent civilian bystander that became a target of India’s hatred. She has three sons and three daughters, all of whom are receiving an education. But she is not the only widow in the village whose husband died because of unprovoked Indian firing, rather the sad reality is that there are dozens of other such cases in AJ&K. This fact was also highlighted by other women who became widows because of the merciless acts of Indian army across the LoC. They say that they were unable to manage their households because in the rural areas, particularly one under constant threat of Indian CFVs, where due to social constraints only men were active to earn livelihoods, it was difficult for them to earn and feed their children. It becomes most heartrending for them when their children desire something but they remain unable to fulfill their wishes.
Jamila Bibi, 38, belongs to Grase Valley in the upper part of district Neelum, Karimabad. She lost her 16 years old daughter during shelling on the LoC on November 13, 2020. Her daughter Sajida was grazing the cattle in the woods nearby with her cousin Shazia when suddenly Indian army started shelling the area. One of the shells fell just near the girls. The shell pierced Sajida’s body, separating her arm and different parts of the body were blown to pieces. She died at the spot. Shazia, her accompanying cousin, did not leave the site unscathed either. She got injured and lost an eye. For Jamila Bibi, Sajida was more like her son because she was so strong and hardworking that each and every household work was performed by her, including cutting and carrying back wood from the forest. Shazia was admitted in Combined Military Hospital, Rawalpindi and after recovery she was transported back to her village by Pakistan Army via helicopter. She expressed her gratitude to Pakistan Army for extending support during her treatment and facilitating her and her entire family during this difficult time. She said that there was no such law in the entire world that permitted any army to target innocent civilian population. India has been committing crimes against humanity by directly targeting civilian settlements. Indian army performs such cowardly acts to divert the world’s attention from the fragile and volatile situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
According to Shabir Shah from Nikruh Grase Valley, due to Indian shelling on November 13, 2020 a mosque and more than two dozen houses were damaged and more than twenty livestock were killed. Muhammad Aftab from Tehjiyan explained that on November 13 it seemed as if India had attacked their village because the extent of shelling was not even presumable. Merely a few days earlier had he completed construction of his new house that costed him around 8 million Rupees. On Friday, November 13, his family had planned to move into the new house after performing religious rituals and prayers. As they were preparing for prayers heavy shelling started and a number of shells hit his new house. It was a narrow escape for his entire family who hardly got refuge in a bunker nearby. Due to heavy shelling his new house burnt to ashes along with all livestock and material, and he could do nothing except watch from the bunker as his entire life’s earning was engulfed in fire. In the same village more than 12 houses were destroyed on the same day. Muhammad Aftab told that in April 2020 Indian army targeted his entire village and due to heavy firing, his brother’s two-year-old son died while his sister was carrying him in her lap. Despite bearing such a huge loss of lives and assets, Aftab audaciously intimated Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi that no such acts of barbarism and cowardice would suppress faith and courage of the local population.
It is no secret that Indian army routinely targets civilian population living close to the Line of Control (LoC) in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The 767-kilometer-long LoC divides Kashmir into Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. In 2020, instead of combating and taking measures against the catastrophic COVID-19 pandemic ripping through their country, Indian forces breached the ceasefire agreement on the LoC numerous times, using light and heavy weapons and artillery ammunition. According to the AJ&K’s State Disaster Management Authority, which deals with natural disasters in AJ&K, due to unprovoked Indian firing 33 people, including 17 women were killed and 260 people were injured along the LoC due to Indian CFVs in 2020. The shelling damaged 596 houses, 40 shops, 9 mosques, a primary health center, an office of the agriculture department, buildings of 7 educational institutions, a petrol pump, 23 vehicles and 5 motorcycles were destroyed and 192 cattle heads were killed.
The Prime Minister of AJ&K, Raja Muhammad Farooq Haider Khan condemned Indian firing across the LoC and said that the brave people who dwell near it were the first line of defense of the country, as they have always fought the enemy aggression shoulder to shoulder with the armed forces and the enemy’s vicious brutalities cannot weaken their courage. The sacrifices offered by the people have been inimitable and long-lasting which cannot be compensated, but the government has tried to give a relief to the victims by issuing a notification through which the government of AJ&K would give three thousand rupees from its own budget to each member of the household of a martyred family head. The provision would be given to widows for lifetime and to their children till the age of 25 years.
The 2003 Ceasefire Agreement between India and Pakistan had given a sense of relief and protection to local population and opened an era of development of Neelum Valley. But since 2016, India has consistently and audaciously escalated tension on the LoC by breaching the agreement on several occasions.
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