We were beaten throughout the day, says J&K civilian

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Security personnel check a man in Poonch on december 25, 2023, ahead of Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Pande’s visit.

Security personnel check a man in Poonch on december 25, 2023, ahead of Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Pande’s visit.
| Photo Credit: ANI

There is growing evidence indicating torture by sprinkling salt and chilli on the wounds of rounded-up civilians, in the wake of the militants’ ambush that left four soldiers dead in Dera Ki Gali in the Poonch-Rajouri sector on December 21. Local people claim two civilians could be seen in the 29-second viral video of “torture” allegedly committed by the security forces.

Farooq Din, son of Gulab Din, a resident of Upper Bangai, Thanamandi, was among five “severely injured” admitted at the Rajouri hospital. They were all rounded up from Upper and Lower Bangai and Haspalote areas in Rajouri’s Thanamandi on Friday morning around 9 a.m., a day after the attack.

Also read | Army chief Gen. Manoj Pande exhorts commanders to conduct operations in ‘most professional manner’

“I am battling for my life. I am not sure if I will survive. Friday was the horrendous day of my life. We were beaten up from morning to evening with batons. We were sprinkled with salt and chilli till we dropped unconscious. They also put us in the water. This treatment was meted out to all those who were rounded up with me. We were around four or five people,” injured Farooq told The Hindu. Mr. Farooq said he was not able to move because of the injuries “all over his body”.

In the past, Mr. Farooq’s family has been the victims of militants. “We have lost several members to the bullets of militants. I lost my brother, uncle and sister-in-law to militants in the past. I fail to understand why we were picked up this time. Please pray I manage to survive,” Mr. Farooq, who is a labourer by profession, said. He is married with a daughter.

Those injured being treated at the Rajouri Hospital besides Mr. Farooq include Fazal Hussain, Zulfkar, Mehtab and Muhammad Ashraf.

Meanwhile, local people on Tuesday claimed the video of alleged torture, which went viral on social media, had in it the civilians rounded up from Topi Buffliaz from Poonch’s Surankote on Friday.

“The civilians from Surankote have been spotted in the video and identified by their close relatives. The civilian in a red T-shirt [with chilli sprinkled on wounds] is Irfan, son of Abdul Hamid. Shoket, who is dead, could be seen at the end of one of the video clips,” Gujjar leader Talib Hussian told The Hindu.

Three civilians were found dead after being picked up by the Army in the wake of the ambush by militants on security forces’ vehicles, leaving four soldiers dead, at Dera Ki Gali, which has Rajouri district on one side and Poonch district on the other.

The Army has already initiated an inquiry into the allegations that the civilians, in the video, were picked up by the soldiers. The J&K Police have also lodged a First Information Report (FIR) under Sector 302, attempt to murder, in the case against “unknown persons”. However, no official report has confirmed the veracity of the video so far.

Meanwhile, Noor Ahmad, brother of deceased civilian Safeer Hussian, expressed hope that the families will get justice after the Army and police actions. “My brother was not in any video. I am hopeful to get justice. My only appeal is that the security forces need to differentiate between right and wrong and punish under the law. No law justifies what was done to my brother,” Mr. Ahmad, who is working in the Border Security Force (BSF) for 32 years, said.

Over 15 civilians were rounded up by the security forces from sparsely located villages near the attack site.

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