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INDIA

Kashmir video showing human rights violations adds fuel to deadly protests

6 min

In recent weeks, violent clashes between security forces and protesters in some parts of Indian-administered Kashmir have led to the deaths of nearly 100 people. The emergence of an amateur video apparently showing Kashmiri security forces parading and humiliating naked young men has added fuel to the fire.

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In recent weeks, violent clashes between security forces and protesters in some parts of Indian-administered Kashmir have led to the deaths of nearly 100 people. The emergence of an amateur video apparently showing Kashmiri security forces parading and humiliating naked young men has added fuel to the fire.

Warning: The content of this video may be considered disturbing.

In the above video, the young men are holding their clothes in their arms, and are told repeatedly to not cover themselves, including their genitalia. The men in uniform address them in Hindustani, a colloquial mix of Hindi and Urdu, and occasionally insult them. The scene allegedly occurs in the northwestern town of Sopore, but it is unclear when or by whom it was shot. Indian authorities say the video has not yet been ‘authenticated' and that they have asked state security agencies to investigate the matter.

The video spread rapidly among Kashmiri and Indian Web users after emerging on social networks such as Facebook and YouTube early in September. Its propagation has fuelled popular rage in Kashmir valley, where there is widespread popular resentment against the presence of Indian armed forces in Jammu & Kashmir (the official name for the Indian part of the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir). The disputed region is claimed by both India and Pakistan and has been the cause of two of the three wars between the two arch-enemies since the two South Asian nations were created out of the former British empire.

The recent clashes have seen Kashmiri youths pelt stones at the heavily armed security forces who have retaliated with tear gas, baton charges and live ammunition, feeding a deadly cycle of violence.

Amnesty International has denounced the response - or lack thereof - of local authorities to this video.  "The approach of the local police raises serious concerns. Instead of investigating and identifying the perpetrators of the humiliating treatment, the police appear to be more concerned about who uploaded and circulated the video clip," said Donna Guest, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific programme.

Post written with France 24 journalist Apoorva Prasad

“This proves that a systematic humiliation of the Kashmiri population is part of the standard operating procedure of the Indian state"

Shuddhabrata Sengupta is an artist and writer with the Raqs Media Collective and works at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi. He wrote the following comment of the video on kafila.org.

The video does not appear to have been taken in the recent weeks. The fields we see in it have been harvested. It has to be either autumn or spring. But it has not been taken that long ago either. It has to be a) from after cell phones were allowed to be used in Kashmir and b) after cell phones capable of shooting video became cheap and popular, which places the incident - and it's recording - roughly within the last two to three years. In some of the official and media responses that are beginning to trickle in, this business of ‘the video is not recent' is getting some mileage. As if somehow, the reality that the video portrays needs to be distanced from the current meltdown in Kashmir. Assuming that is the case, the implications of what the video shows become even more disturbing. It proves that a systematic humiliation of the Kashmiri population is part of the standard operating procedure of the security establishment of the Indian state in Kashmir. This is neither anything new, nor associated with the current wave of unrest. It has been in operation for several years now.

The banal violence of the scene is in some ways far more distressing than the images [of] gun battles and blood on the streets that we have become accustomed to harvesting from the past few months in Kashmir. At least in the pitched street battles, we see adversaries,= - albeit unequal adversaries - policemen, paramilitaries, soldiers one one side and the angry tide of stone pelters on the other. [sic]

Here, there are no adversaries. Prisoners are not in a position to be adversarial when they are surrounded by heavily armed men in uniform. What we see instead are unarmed captives, people who are in no position to threaten or endanger the security forces. That such people should be made to undergo a humiliation such as this is proof of the extent to which the forces of the Indian state in Kashmir have become brutalized [sic] by the experience of serving in Kashmir."

"I believe the video is a fake, made by the Pakistani secret services"

Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal, now retired, is the director of the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), in New Delhi, India.

All I can say is the men in the video are not Indian army personnel. They could be police [Kashmir state police or paramilitary forces] but nothing proves it. I believe it is most likely a fake, made and circulated by the ISI [Pakistani secret service] to discredit Indian security forces. They have done such things in the past."

"This is not the only video showing human rights violations in Kashmir"

When our team directly contacted, via Facebook and Twitter, a few Kashmiris who had taken part in or witnessed the protests, they were highly reluctant to talk. We were told that authorities have arrested people for simply posting this video or talking about it, and a climate of fear seems to pervade the valley. Unif [not his real name] agreed to answer our questions on condition of anonymity.

This video of Indian forces abusing Kashmiri civilians is nothing unusual. This is not the only video that shows human rights violations in Kashmir, there are many others. The vast majority of Kashmiri people want an end to the Indian administration of the state. We want a free Kashmir, with its own constitution, prime minister, and government [editors note: in 2008, Indian Kashmir held elections which were widely considered free and fair. They were won by a coalition between the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference and India's Congress Party]. We are protesting to demand the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act [which grants special powers to the armed forces in "troubled areas" and has been widely criticised by human rights groups], the recognition of Kashmir as a disputed state, and the release of Kashmiri prisoners."

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