December 15, 2010

"..I was like a football. Then they started kicking me and beating me with lathis"

Ruhaan, a human rights activist, has been arrested three times since November 1995 and detained for periods of a few days during which he was badly tortured. He has never been charged or tried. On all three occasions he was accused of helping the militancy in some way. During his interrogations he was frequently questioned about his human rights work. (Name of The Victim has been changed to Ruhaan)

Ruhaan was first arrested on November 2, 1995. He was held for five days by the BSF before a screening committee consented to his release. The second time was on May 19, 1996, just days before the first round of national parliamentary elections. He was arrested at 9:00 p.m. by Major Raju of the 7th Jat Regiment of the army, an officer well known in the neighborhood, and questioned about acquaintances who were known to be activists. Ruhaan was taken to a temporary army camp at Bagat-i-Kanapori in Srinagar and questioned about his links to the militant groups. He was also questioned about his human rights activities, his contact with Hurriyat leaders, and about the election boycott supported by the Hurriyat. The next day, the major, accompanied by his commanding officer, repeated the questions and then threatened Ruhaan with force if he did not cooperate. They left and then returned after an hour, when they repeated the same questions. Then they ordered their men to use force. RUHAAN described what happened next:

I was taken by the major and four subordinates to a small room, four by six feet, possibly a bathroom, with marble tiles on the floor and the walls. They stripped me down except for my underwear, and tied my hands and legs. They took a thick wooden roller and placed it under my knees as I was sitting. Then they told me to put my arms underneath the roller and up, and they tied my hands above my legs. I was like a football. Then they started kicking me and beating me with lathis [truncheons]. Then they began repeating those same questions. They got very frustrated, because I wasn't telling them anything I hadn't already told them. They also asked me: "How many Afghanis are in your home? Which militant leaders do you know?" Then they put a cloth in my mouth and spread another cloth over my face. I was lying on the floor facing the ceiling. They poured water into a bucket and then they poured the bucket out over my face. The water went into my nostrils, completely choking me. I was desperate to get out of that situation. I lost consciousness. When I came to, they were saying: "Now tell the truth! Cooperate!" I told them I would, so they gave me a few minutes to recover, but then the thing repeated itself. Again I lost consciousness; perhaps this was a longer spell, I'm not sure, but when I came to, I was exhausted. The major was patting my cheeks and saying my name. At first I couldn't recognize him. Then the major signalled for someone to come, and he brought a small magnet-type telephone box: when you turn the crank, a current shoots through the wires. They attached one wire to my left earlobe and the other to different places: one of my toes, my other ear, and my penis. They ran the current, and I lost consciousness again. When I came to, I noticed that my whole body was wet: I had urinated and defecated. I was taken to a bathroom outside the house, was given a bucket of water and told to clean myself up. I couldn't stand or stretch my arms. They helped me do some exercises for about two hours, and then I was able to stand up again and sit.

That night Ruhaan 's interrogators permitted a friend of his to come see him. After that, the major again told Ruhaan to come work for the army and stop his other activities. The next morning RUHAAN was taken to some other officials with one of the intelligence agencies. He was taken to the headquarters of the Jat Regiment. The commanding officer, Colonel Sharma, lectured him for an hour about the need to work for the army. When he was released on May 21 he was told to report to the camp every third day. He did so for about six weeks, and each time he was questioned again about his activities. After that, he received permission from Colonel Sharma not to report to the camp.

Ruhaan was detained for a third time in February 1998. At midnight on the night of February 2, fifteen to twenty members of the Special Operations Group (SOG), a police unit, came to his house, accompanied by some officers, escorted by the CRPF, and some intelligence people in military clothes. They searched the house and took all of his copies of human rights reports and some religious books. They took RUHAAN to SOG headquarters in Srinagar, where he was kept for the night. Ruhaan stated:

Then the torture started. They didn't tie me, but they rolled a big wooden roller over my leg muscles as I was lying down, and they passed electricity through me-one wire attached to a toe, the other to my penis-while they were questioning me. They asked me about my links with Asia Watch and Amnesty International. I told them everything I had done and who I had been in touch with, because this is my work. This was the first time I have ever heard of a person being tortured in front of a senior police officer. They also beat me. The next day I was taken into interrogation in one of the rooms by a junior police officer. He pointed his revolver at my temple and threatened to kill me. He asked me about my links to the militants: "Give me the weapons! Give me the wireless set!" I was beaten with lathis and kicked and punched. Then they hung me from the ceiling. They tied my hands behind my back with a rope, they put the rope through a pulley in the ceiling, and then they pulled the table on which I was standing out from underneath me. Then they used electricity as I was hanging. They did this four times; the fourth time I lost consciousness. When I came to, I was on the floor. I couldn't move my arms, which were behind my back, so two policemen kicked my back to get me to move my arms. Then they returned me to my cell. The next day the torture was lighter. They used the roller on my thighs, and they punched me and threatened me with a pistol, and they told me: "Unless you tell us something about your involvement, you will not get out of here." I gave them the names of all the militants I knew, and told them anything else I knew: the connections I had with human rights people, etc. This situation continued for ten days.

After that, Ruhaan was held for an additional five days during which he was lectured not to continue his human rights activities. He was then transferred to a police station where an FIR was registered against him charging him with propagation against the state of India because of his human rights work. The next day he was granted bail, but he was not physically released that day. The SOG had recommended that Ruhaan be held under the Public Safety Act, a preventive detention law that permits detention without trial for two years, but the senior state police officer cleared the bail order, and Ruhaan was released on February 25. Under the bail order, Ruhaan was required to remain in Srinagar.

(Annual Report of UN Human Rights 1 July 1999)

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