November 02, 2010

India's Guantanamo Bays

World's oldest democracy United States may have been forced to close Guantanamo Bay detention centre, but India who claimed herself the largest democracy runs 40 such illegal secret chambers in Jammu and Kashmir and in its different states, where suspects are subjected to extreme interrogation techniques for months and years. Leading Indian news magazine "The Week" in its forthcoming issue accessed by KTNS has revealed the horror of torture chambers, far from the eyes of law.

"Now I would never dream of doing the things I did when I was in charge," said Maloy Krishna Dhar, former joint director of Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB), while admitting existence of such centres. Top police officers also told the journal that these chambers were their precious assets. "They are our own little Guantanamo Bays," they said.

Quoting K. S. Subramanian, former director general of police, who has also served in the Intelligence Bureau (IB), these sites exist and are being used to detain and interrogate suspected terrorists and it has been going on for a long time. His colleague Dhar also agrees that it was because of these centres that militancy in Punjab and Kashmir was contained. The investigating team of the magazine has identified 15 secret interrogation centres-three each in Mumbai, Delhi, Gujarat and in Jammu and Kashmir, two in Kolkatta and one in Assam. But, officials admit that there could be more and roughly put their numbers at 40. In Palanpur region of Gujarat all security agencies share one detention centre.

The report said that these sites existed and were being used to detain and interrogate suspects and it had been going on for a long time. An officer, who worked in one of the detention centres admitted that extreme physical and psychological torture, based loosely on the regime in Guantanamo Bay, was used to extract information from the detainees. It included assault on the senses like sleep deprivation, keeping prisoners naked to degrade and humiliate them, and forcibly administering drugs through the rectum to further break down their dignity

Mostly suspects are brought blindfolded so they can hardly pinpoint the place. The only faces they got to see were those of the interrogators.

An officer who worked in one of the detention centres admitted that extreme physical and psychological torture, based loosely on the regime in Guantanamo Bay, is used to extract information from the detainees. It includes assault on the senses (pounding the ear with loud and disturbing music) and sleep deprivation, keeping prisoners naked to degrade and humiliate them, and forcibly administering drugs through the rectum to further break down their dignity. "The interrogators isolate key operatives so that the interrogator is the only person they see each day," he said. "In extreme cases we use pethidine injections. It will make a person crazy."

The biggest of the three detention centres in Mumbai, the Aarey Colony facility in Goregaon, has four rooms. The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) questioned Saeed Khan (name changed), one of the accused in the Malegaon blasts of September 2006, here. He was served food at irregular intervals (led to temporary disorientation) and was denied sleep. Another secret detention centre maintained in the city by the ATS at Kalachowky has a sound-proof room. Sohail Shaikh, accused in the July 2006 train bombings, was held here for close to two months. "He was kept in isolation for days together," said an officer. "He crumbled after being subjected to hostile sessions. The smallest of the three facilities at Chembur has just two rooms.

Parvez Ahmed Radoo, 30, of Baramulla district in Kashmir valley, a student in India’s Pune University was illegally detained in Indian city Delhi for over a month for what the Indian secret agencies claimed trying to plot mass murder in the Indian capital Delhi on behalf of the what they called Jaish-e-Mohammed. Parvez wrote an open letter from the Tihar jail, where he is currently held, in which he said he was arrested from the airport on September 12 and kept in custody for a month. Apparently, he was first taken to the Lodhi Colony police station and then to an apartment in Dwarka locality in South-West Delhi where electrodes were attached to his genitals and power was switched on.

In Dehi, the magazine team found secret detention centres at Dwarka in south-west Delhi, the Interstate Cell of the Crime Branch near the diplomatic enclave of Chanakyapuri in central Delhi, and the Lodhi Colony police station in south Delhi.

What Former India secret agency IB’s deputy chief Dhar says such detention and torture centres were an inevitable part of the war on terrorism. Security agencies need such facilities. "If you produce a suspect before court, he will never give you anything after that," he said. In other words, once you record the arrest you are within the realm of the law and you have to acknowledge the rights of the accused-arrested and contend with his lawyer.

Moulvi Iqbal from Indian state Uttar Pradesh, who was described a suspected member of the Harkat-ul-Jihadi-Islami who is currently lodged in Tihar, was held at a secret detention centre for two months according to his relatives. They said that during interrogation a chip was implanted under his skin so that his movements could be tracked if he tried to escape. "He fears that the chip is still inside his skin," said one of his relatives. "That has shattered him."

Kolkata has its own Gitmos in Bhabani Bhawan, the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Department, and the Alipore Retreat in Tollygunj, a large bungalow that is said to have 20 rooms. "A large number of innocent people, as well as suspected terrorists, have disappeared after being taken to such secret detention centres," said Kirity Roy, a Kolkata-based human rights lawyer. "Their bodies would later be found, if at all, in the fields."

In Kashmir which is under occupation of India the notorious Papa-2 interrogation centre was closed down few years back when government of India planed to build bridges with people. (Here it may mention the Papa-2 is a dread one center head by SOG and Indian paramilitary forces) But still there are many like the Cargo Special Operation Group (SOG) camp in Haftchinar area in Srinagar and Humhama in Budgam district. Then there are the joint interrogation centres in Khanabal area of Islamabad district and Talab Tillo in Jammu and one in Poonch House in Jammu. Detentions at Joint Interrogation Centres (JICs) could last months. Lawyers in Kashmir have filed 15,000 petitions since 1990 seeking the whereabouts of the detainees and the charges against them without avail.

The most recent victim of the torture regime was Manzoor Ahmed Beigh, 40, who was arrested by the SOG personnel from Aloochi Bagh in Srinagar on May 18. His family said that he was chained up, hung upside down from the ceiling and ruthlessly beaten up. He died the same night. Following public outrage, the officer in charge of the camp was dismissed from the service in June.

Maqbool Sahil, a Srinagar-based photojournalist who was held at Hari Niwas interrogation centre for 15 days, says it is a miracle that he is alive today. "If you tell them [interrogators] you are innocent, they will torture you so ruthlessly that you will break down and confess to anything," he said.

K. Subramanian believes that it is a murky business. The Indian ministry of home affairs does not directly handle such operations; they are the task of agencies like the RAW and the IB.

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