Brutality exposed, but no end to the impunity

Exposed Video grab of J&K policemen stripping a youngster before thrashing him
Exposed Video grab of J&K policemen stripping a youngster before thrashing him

WHAT WAS hidden in police lock-ups so far is slowly coming out in grainy videos from the Kashmir Valley. A video clip uploaded on YouTube recently shows personnel of the Jammu and Kashmir Police stripping two young men naked before whipping them with belts.

The two-minute video clip titled ‘Kashmir: Indian militiamen assault detained Kashmiri teenagers’ — apparently shot with a cell phone by a policeman inside what is believed to be a police station in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district — shows a group of policemen forcibly taking off the two youngsters’ clothes and thrashing them, while the two keep pleading that they are not guilty.

After the video went viral on the Internet from 8 January, the police filed an FIR (No. 12/2013) under Section 66(A) of the Information Technology Act at the Baramulla police station. Under the controversial section, those who send “false and offensive messages through communication services” can be jailed for upto three years. Rights activists in the state say the police are targeting the whistleblower instead of taking action against those seen torturing the young men on the video.

“The FIR has been lodged against the person who leaked the torture episode. But there is no investigation into the role of those who were watching the crime and taking sadistic pleasure in it,” says Khurram Parvez, a Srinagar-based rights activist. “Had this video been about a similar incident outside Kashmir, the entire nation would have demanded answers.”

This is the latest in a chain of videos from Kashmir to have emerged on social networking sites and YouTube. In 2011, a video clip showed a soldier of the Indian Army shooting an unarmed man point blank after pulling him out from the rubble of a demolished house. The army did not question the authenticity of the video and claimed that the man shot dead was Pakistani militant Ahsan Bhai.

In September 2010 a three-minute video clip titled ‘Indian Army repeating Abu Gharib in Kashmir’ showed CRPF and policemen parading Kashmiri boys naked in Sopore town of north Kashmir. The video triggered massive outrage against the security forces, and Inspector General of Police (Kashmir) Shiv Murari Sahai promised a fair investigation. More than two years later, the probe is yet to pin down those responsible for the atrocity.

Reacting to the latest video clip, top politicians have sought an impartial probe and demanded that a case be filed against the policemen who tortured the two youngsters. PDP leader and former CM Mehbooba Mufti says the subsequent FIR lodged by the police is “yet another incident of silencing the whistleblowers.” Mufti believes such incidents are routine in the state. In 2010, more than 120 boys were shot dead, 95 percent of them students, and yet no justice was done, she says.

Promising to take up the issue with the government, Mufti says the Delhi-based media has glossed over “such a heinous act under the garb of security and nationalism”. The ruling National Conference’s senior leader and J&K Law Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar declined to speak with TEHELKA. “Let me enquire from the police officials first,” he said.

MEANWHILE, POLICE officials say they are investigating the veracity of the video. “The probe may throw up a lead against the officers who stood by doing nothing when the boys were being thrashed.”

Section 66(A) of the IT Act was used in this case even as a public interest litigation against the controversial clause has already made its way to the Supreme Court. SC lawyer and cyber law expert Pavan Duggal says the section is used to gag freedom of speech. “If the video shows police atrocity, it was wrong to file a case under the IT Act.” Agrees Brinda Karat of CPM, who says, “Section 66(A) is being misused to give impunity to the police.”

Anil Parashar, an official of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the country’s apex statutory human rights body, told TEHELKA that the video needs to be examined first. “If we find a violation of rights, then the NHRC will help the victims get justice.”

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