Asia

Screams in the night in Indian Kashmir

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HIRPORA, India: The soldiers came after midnight, Abid Khan says, his hands trembling, one of around two dozen young men in just one part of Kashmir who say they have been tortured by the Indian army.

The alleged abuse, residents say, is aimed at creating a climate of fear after India stripped the long-restive, blood-soaked Himalayan region of its autonomy on Aug 5.

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Khan, 26, from Hirpora village in Shopian district, says he was dragged out and blindfolded along with his brother, who has learning difficulties, on Aug 14.

"They gave electric shocks to my brother right on the road outside. I heard him scream painfully," Khan told AFP, showing marks on his arms, legs and buttocks.

Once inside the nearby Chowgam army camp, Khan said soldiers stripped him naked, tied up his legs and wrists, suspended him and beat him with rods.

The camp major, Khan said, accused him of inviting Riyaz Naikoo from Hizbul Mujahideen – one of several militant groups fighting Indian rule – to his recent marriage.

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An uprising in Indian Kashmir – backed New Delhi says by Pakistan which since 1947 has controlled the other part of the region – has killed tens of thousands since 1989, mostly civilians.

"I kept repeating that was not true," Khan said. "Then they gave me electric shocks again on my genitals and wounds. One of them said 'I will make you impotent'."

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After being released at dawn and barely able to stand, Khan says he kept vomiting for 10 days and only managed to start moving around again after 20 days.

"I can't eat properly anymore," he said. "I don't go into the room my wife sleeps in anymore … It's better to die with a bullet than undergo such torture."

Abid Khan's medical record said he suffered 'trauma due to assault by security forces' (Photo: AFP/TAUSEEF MUSTAFA)

'PEOPLE-FRIENDLY'

New Delhi says its Kashmir lockdown since last month, with mobile service and the internet still snapped in most areas, is to prevent "terrorists" backed by Islamabad from stirring up trouble.

READ: Protests mount in Indian Kashmir clampdown

India's national security advisor has denied that the military has committed any atrocities, a statement echoed by Colonel Rajesh Kalia, an army spokesman in Kashmir.

"All counter-terrorist operations are conducted in the most professional and people-friendly manner. Allegations of manhandling levelled against the army are completely baseless," Kalia told AFP.

But people in Hirpora say they often hear screams from the army camp at night.

Three other villagers told AFP they were also tortured. In total, around two dozen young men in the villages of Shopian told similar stories.

"The army is making examples of two or three young men from each village," said one resident of Shopian who has compiled a list.

The pattern is often of soldiers raiding homes, taking identity cards and mobiles and telling young men to report to the camps to retrieve them.

One 21-year-old, who declined to be named but shared with AFP photos of his wounds, said he has reported to the Pahnoo camp three times since Aug 27 and was abused each time.

An officer accused of him of giving food to rebel

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