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Kashmir: An all-women fact finding mission

Wednesday 25 September 2019, by siawi3

Source: The Wire 25.09.2019 15:27 (2 hours ago)

14 year old boys tortured for 45 days

What’s the news?

An all-woman fact finding team visited Kashmir between September 17 and 21. They went to hospitals, schools, homes, market places, and spoke to people in the rural as well as urban areas – to men, women, youth and children.

The five women – Annie Raja, Kawaljit Kau and Pankhuri Zaheer from National Federation Indian Women, Poonam Kaushik from Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan, and Syeda Hameed from Muslim Women’s Forum – put together a report after their visit to the state.

They said the report “is our chashmdeed gawahi (eye-witness account) of ordinary people who have lived for 43 days under an iron siege. Shops closed, hotels closed, schools, colleges, institutes and universities closed, streets deserted was the first visual impact as we drove out from the airport. To us it seemed a punitive mahaul that blocked breathing freely.”

What did they find?

Among other issues, the report said that across the four districts, residents spoke of “lights, which had to be turned off around 8 pm after Maghreb prayers.”

They heard of cases of disproportionate violence, saying, “In Bandipora, we saw a young girl who made the mistake of keeping a lamp lit to read for her exam on the chance that her school may open soon. Army men, angered by this breach of ‘curfew,’ jumped the wall to barge in. Father and son, the only males in the house, were taken away for questioning. ‘What questions?’, no one dared ask. The two have been detained since then.”

Collating information from people’s testimonials, the report noted that “boys as young as 14 or 15 are taken away, tortured, some for as long as 45 days. Their papers are taken away, families not informed. Old FIRs are not closed. Phones are snatched; ‘collect it from the Army camp,’ they are told. No one in his senses ever went back, even for a slightly expensive phone.”

“A woman recounted how they came for her 22-year-old son. But since his hand was in plaster, they took away her 14-year-old instead. In another village, we heard that two men were brutally beaten. No reason. One returned, after 20 days, broken in body and spirit. The other is still in custody. One estimate given to us was 13,000 boys were lifted during this lockdown.”

The report further quoted villagers as saying, “They (security forces) don’t even spare our rations. During random checking of houses which occurs at all odd hours of the night, the Army people come in and throw out the family. A young man working as SPO told us. ‘We keep a sizeable amount of rice, pulses, edible oil in reserve. Kerosene is mixed in the ration bins, sometimes that, sometimes koyla (coal)’”.

The all-women team wrote that wherever they went, they were met with two “inexorable sentiments.” First, the desire for azadi (freedom). “They want nothing of either India or Pakistan….Abrogation of Article 370, some say, has snapped the last ties they had with India. The second (sentiment) was the mothers’ anguished cries asking for (an) immediate stop to this brutalisation of innocents.”