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Pakistan Deaths
Pakistan Cases
8.15% positivity

ISLAMABAD: Security forces in Indian Occupied Kashmir have been accused of carrying  out beatings and torture in the wake of the government's decision to strip  the region of its autonomy.

The BBC heard from several villagers who said they were beaten with  sticks and cables, and given electric shocks.

Residents in several villages showed me injuries. But the BBC was not  able to verify the allegations with officials.

Unprecedented restrictions have put Kashmir into a state of lockdown  for more than three weeks and information has only trickled out since  August 5 when Article 370 - as the provision giving the region special  status is known - was revoked.

Tens of thousands of extra troops have been deployed to the region and  about 3,000 people - including political leaders, businesspeople and activists  - are reported to have been detained. Many have been moved to prisons  outside the state.

The Indian army has been fighting a separatist insurgency here for over  three decades.

I visited at least half a dozen villages in the southern districts  which have emerged as a hub of anti-India militancy in the past few years.

I heard similar accounts from several people in all these villages of night  raids, beatings and torture.

Doctors and health officials are unwilling to speak to journalists about  any patients regardless of ailments, but the villagers showed me injuries,  alleged to have been inflicted by security forces.

In one village, residents said that the army went from house to house  just hours after India announced the controversial decision that upended  a decades-old arrangement between Delhi and Kashmir.

Two brothers alleged that they were woken up and taken to an outside  area where nearly a dozen other men from the village had been gathered.  Like everyone else we met, they were too afraid of reprisals to reveal  their identities.    "They beat us up. We were asking them: 'What have we done? You can  ask the villagers if we are lying, if we have done anything wrong?' But they  didn't want to hear anything, they didn't say anything, they just kept beating  us," one of them said.

"They beat every part of my body. They kicked us, beat us with sticks,  gave us electric shocks, beat us with cables. They hit us on the back of  the legs. When we fainted they gave us electric shocks to bring us back.  When they hit us with sticks and we screamed, they sealed our mouth  with mud.

"We told them we are innocent. We asked why they were doing this?  But they did not listen to us. I told them don't beat us, just shoot us. I  was asking God to take me, because the torture was unbearable."

Another villager, a young man, said the security forces kept asking  him to "name the stone-throwers" - referring to the mostly young men  and teenage boys who have in the past decade become the face of  civilian protests in Kashmir Valley.

He said he told the soldiers he didn't know any, so they ordered him  to remove his glasses, clothes and shoes.

"Once I took off my clothes they beat me mercilessly with rods and  sticks, for almost two hours. Whenever I fell unconscious, they gave  me shocks to revive [me].

"If they do it to me again, I am willing to do anything, I will pick up  the gun. I can't bear this every day," he said.

The young man added that the soldiers told him to warn everyone  in his village that if anyone participated in any protests against the  forces, they would face similar repercussions.

All the men we spoke to in all the villages believe the security forces  did this to intimidate the villagers so that they would be too scared to  protest.

In a statement to the BBC, the Indian army said it had "not  manhandled any civilians as alleged".

We drove through several villages where many residents were  sympathetic towards separatist groups, whom they described as  "freedom fighters".

It was in one district in this part of Kashmir in February that a  suicide attack killed more than 40 Indian soldiers. This is also the  same region where popular Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani was  killed in 2016, after which many young and angry Kashmiris joined  the insurgency against India.

There's an army camp in the region and the soldiers regularly comb  the area to track down insurgents and sympathisers, but villagers say  they often get caught in the middle.

In one village, I met a man in his early 20s who said the army  threatened to frame him if he didn't become an informant against  militants. When he refused, he alleged, he was beaten so badly  that two weeks later he still cannot lie on his back.

"If this continues I'll have no choice but to leave my house.  They beat us as if we are animals. They don't consider us  human."

Another man who showed us his injuries said he was pushed  to the ground and severely beaten with "cables, guns, sticks  and probably iron rods" by "15-16 soldiers".

"I was semi-conscious. They pulled my beard so hard that I  felt like my teeth would fall out."

He said he was later told by a boy who had witnessed the  assault that one soldier tried to burn his beard, but was stopped  by another soldier.

In yet another village, I met a young man who said his brother  had joined the Hizbul Mujahideen - one of the largest groups fighting  Indian rule in Kashmir- two years ago.

He said he was recently questioned at an army camp, where  he alleged he was tortured and left with a leg fracture.

"They tied my hands and legs and hung me upside down. They beat  me very badly for more than two hours," he said.

The UN Commission on Human Rights has also called for setting  up a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to conduct a comprehensive  independent international investigation into allegations of human  rights violations in Occupied Kashmir. It has released a 49-page  report on alleged excesses by security forces in the region.

Copyright APP (Associated Press of Pakistan), 2019