SHIRAZ, a student, who was arrested by Commanding Officer Joshi of the 81st Battalion of the BSF on January 25, 1995 narrates his ordeal to Human Rights Watch.
Commanding Officer Joshi accused me of being a Pakistani national. At the BSF base camp I was brought to some other Kashmiris to speak with them so they could check my accent. They kept me in base camp until January 27. On the morning of January 27, my hands and legs were tied to the bed, and I was made to lie back on a steel bed. Uniformed BSG soldiers put a piece of cloth in my mouth. Three of them leaned on my chest and head. Then they pumped water into my nose. I was suffocating and choking. I started bleeding from my mouth. Then the soldiers turned me over and beat me on my back and feet with a long iron rod. They also hit me with a leather belt which they had dipped in water. My back was bleeding. There was blood splattered on the wall in the room. Then they made me lie down face up on bed again and tied my hands and feet to bed. They applied electric shock to my feet, genitals, chest, and tongue for twenty minutes in all. Two wires – one on either side of my body – were attached to a generator with a crank which one of the soldiers turned. If he turned the crank fast, the shock was severe; if he turned it slowly, less so.
The following day Shiraz was shifted to the BSF Papa II interrogation centre in Srinagar where he was interrogated by a BSF officer who had “SP”[superintendent] on his uniform and was called Vikas by his subordinates.
He told me that if I spoke on the telephone with my uncle in Karachi, they would not torture me. I have no uncle in Karachi. He said if I would not admit to being a Pakistani national, they would torture me. He said, “First we will destroy your kidneys, then your lungs, then you will die” I was tied to the bed with my legs spread out at nearly a 180-degree angle. For the next thirty minutes, I was again given electric shock to my legs and genitals, and they took lit matches and burned my beard, and finally they applied shocks to my head until I fell unconscious. At one point during interrogation, Vikas, the BSF officer said, “No one knows you are in our custody; we can just throw you in the river and no one will ever know.”
When Shiraz woke up, BSF deputy inspector general Rajinder Mani, the BSF chief interrogator, began questioning him about public opinion in Kashmir. On the evening of January 30, a doctor examined Shiraz because he had not urinated in thirty-six hours, had swelling all over his body and bloody stools. He was given some medicine, but the swelling continued. On February 2, Shiraz was transferred to the Badami Bagh Cantonment army hospital, where he described how he had been tortured. He was given penicillin. However, Shiraz was afraid to tell them that he was allergic to penicillin, and the swelling worsened. On the evening of February 2, Shiraz overheard a doctor tell a BSF officer from Papa II that his kidneys had failed, that his liver was failing and that he had only six hours left to live. The doctor advised the officer that Shiraz “should be thrown on the roadside because it would be a custodial killing if he were to die in the hospital.”
That night, the officer came to me and said they would take me to the Soura Institute Instead, BSF soldiers took me from Army hospital to the police control room in Srinagar. The BSF officer who took me there told me I should not tell anyone in the press what had happened to me. He also said, “If you want to save your life, go to Soura [hospital] yourself.” I was at the police control room for two hours. At 8:00pm the Jammu and Kashmir police took me home. At 1:30am I started vomiting pink fluid. The morning of February 3 I was taken to SMHS hospital, where I stayed for two days. My condition worsened. On the morning of February 4, I was taken to the Soura Institute where I remained for eighteen days. I was given five sessions of dialysis so my kidneys recovered. Since then that terrible experience is always on my mind. When I see a BSF officer, there are no words to express what I feel, because that whole episode – what happened to me – comes to my eyes. I am still very weak. I tire easily. I feel eighty years old.
Ilyas a government employee from Srinagar was arrested by the BSF during a crackdown on November 2, 1995 narrates his ordeal to Human Rights Watch.
At 10:00am I went outside with my sister and asked a BSF officer to allow me and my sister to leave so that she could take an exam. She was allowed to go, but I was not. When I returned home, I discovered that the BSF had already searched the house and left. At 11:30 am several dozen BSF soldiers surrounded the house. Six soldiers entered the house and asked for me by name and said they had to conduct a search of the house again because they had specific information that I had connections with some militants. After they searched the house, they ordered me to come with them. They accused me of knowing the hideout locations of militants. I said I did not. Then they said that militants had been coming to my house. I replied that they did come to my house and to other houses – they enter any home at will and there is nothing we can do to stop them. But since January 1995, no militant had entered my house.
The BSF took Ilyas and one of his neighbours to a nearby BSF camp. Outside one of the buildings, he saw five civilians sitting on the lawn with their pherans pulled around their heads. Some of them were moaning as if in pain. Ilyas was taken to a room where six BSF soldiers were waiting. In the room were a chair, some clothes, and a telephone that is used to send electromagnetic signals.
I was told to remain standing. They asked me my name and when I told them, several of them cursed me. One asked me,” Tell me where the militants are” I said I don’t know. Another said, “They come to your house” I said yes but not since January 1995. Then one of the officers said, “You will not divulge information, so take off your clothes.” I hesitated. Then one of the officers struck me on the head several times while another kicked me in the back and said, “Take off your clothes.” I took off my clothes. They told me to sit, and I sat on the chair. Then one of them kicked me in the back and said, “You are not an officer here this chair is for an officer.” Then I sat on the floor with only my undershirt on and they told me to sit in front of the chair and put my hands behind me on the chair. Then one of them sat on my shoulders so that I could not move my head or arms. Another one grabbed my legs and forced them apart at nearly 180 degrees – as far as they would go. I began crying.
The soldiers continued to ask Ilyas for the names of militants, and he replied that he did not know any. While the two soldiers were still holding his legs apart and the third was still sitting on his shoulders, two others stood on his thighs, causing him great pain in the groin. After two minutes of this, one of the soldiers, an officer, asked, “Why do you want to die? Why don’t you tell us the names?” Ilyas again denied that he knew any. Two other BSF soldiers came into the room, and they were told to “get the telephone” Ilyas described what happened next:
One soldier then picked up the box and brought it over, and the other pulled two wires out of the box. While the first soldier rotated the crank on the box, the second touched my genitals and thighs with the wires. I cried out. This continued for two or three minutes. Then the officer asked me, “Will you now reveal the names?” I said I don’t know anyone He asked what connections I had with militancy, and I said none except I am a social worker and a Kashmiri. Militants come into our homes as you do; how can we stop them? Then the officer signalled with his hand to the two soldiers holding the telephone apparatus. They again applied the wires to my thighs and genitals for three or four minutes. I was crying at each shock. After that the officer told them to stop. Throughout this the other five officers continued to sit on me and hold my legs apart. The one sitting on my shoulders was pulling my hair. The officer asked if I was married. I said no, and he said, “We will render you impotent if you do not cooperate”
The soldiers gave Ilyas electric shocks two more times. The fourth time one of the soldiers placed a green chilli on one of the wires, which increased the pain. Ilyas fell unconscious, and when he came to sense, a soldier told him to stand up and helped him walk around the room. When he came outside he saw the soldiers who had interrogated him questioning the neighbour who had been arrested with him. Ilyas was told to sit with the others on the lawn, and the neighbour joined them a short time later. At about 3:00 pm, they were taken to BSF headquarters in Srinagar, one kilometre away. On the morning on November 3, they were taken to the Papa II interrogation center, where they were separated. Ilyas was made to wait on the lawn where more than ten other persons were being held. He was not tortured there, but most of the other detainees were called up one by one, questioned and then beaten with canes and leather belts.
Ilyas told Human Rights Watch:
“Two detainees were stripped and forced to climb a wooden pole about twelve feet high. Then a BSF soldier would apply shocks to the man with wires. When the man would slip down, crying, they would beat him with lathis [canes]. I also saw at least two persons in Papa II on November 4 who was not able to walk. I talked to one of them. He identified himself as Badshah Khan, district commander of the JKLF in Kupwara, a border district in northwest Kashmir. He told me his back had been burned after kerosene oil had been poured on it. He identified another person there as Alam Khan.”
In the evening Ilyas was taken back to the BSF camp. On November 6 he was again taken to Papa II where the soldiers told him he should work for the BSF as an informer. Ilyas refused. That evening, when he was brought back to the base camp, the Jammu and Kashmir police were called, and he was handed over to them. The police took Ilyas and his neighbour home. Since his torture, Ilyas has suffered numbness in his penis and impotence.
(Shiraz and Ilyas are changed names)