The Indian soldiers descended on Bashir Ahmed Dar’s house in Indian occupied Kashmir
on August 10, a few days after the government in New Delhi stripped the disputed Himalayan region of its autonomy and launched a crackdown.
Over the next 48 hours, the 50-year-old plumber said he was subjected to two separate rounds of beatings by soldiers.
They demanded that he find his younger brother, who had joined rebels opposing India’s presence in the Muslim-majority region, and persuaded him to surrender or else “face the music”.
In a second beating at a military camp, Dar said he was struck with sticks by three soldiers until he was unconscious. He woke up at home, “unable to sit on my bruised and bloodied buttocks and aching back”, he said.
But it was not over. On August 14, soldiers returned to his house in the village of Heff Shirmal and destroyed his family’s supply of rice and other foodstuffs by mixing it with fertiliser and kerosene.
In more than 50 interviews, residents in a dozen villages in Kashmir told The Associated Press that the military had raided their homes since India’s government imposed a security crackdown in the region on August 5.
They said the soldiers inflicted beatings and electric shocks, forced them to eat dirt or drink filthy water, poisoned their food supplies or killed livestock, and threatened to take away and marry their female relatives. Thousands of young men have been arrested.
Colonel Rajesh Kalia, spokesman of the Northern Command, the Indian army’s headquarters in Srinagar, dismissed the villagers’ accounts as “completely baseless” and asserted the Indian army valued human rights.
Frustration, anger and fear have been growing in Kashmir in the five weeks since the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi stripped the region of most of its semiautonomous status on August 5 and imposed a curfew and a communications blackout.
Although some restrictions have been eased in the main city of Srinagar, with students encouraged to return to school and businesses to reopen, rural residents complain of what they perceive as a campaign of violence and intimidation that seems designed at suppressing armed rebellion or dissent.