Separatists hoping to draw Obama’s attention during his India trip are likely to be disappointed.
|The disputed Kashmir region is claimed in full by both India and Pakistan [EPA]|
Torture has been routinely used in prisons in Indian-administered Kashmir, a US cable released by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks has suggested.
The cable, released on Thursday, says that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had briefed US diplomats on widespread torture in 2005.
The memo, titled “ICRC frustrated with the Indian government”dates back to April 6, 2005, and outlines a confidential meeting in which the ICRC told diplomats of “torture methods and relatively stable trends of prisoner abuses by Indian security forces”, based on data derived from 1,491 interviews with detainees from 2002-2004.
ICRC was quoted as saying their staff made 177 visits to detention centres in Jammu and Kashmir and conducted 1,296 private interviews, but reported that “they had not been allowed access to all detainees”.
Techniques included electric shock treatment, sexual and water torture and nearly 300 cases of “roller” abuse in which a round metal object is placed on the thighs of a sitting detainee and then sat on by guards to crush the muscles, according to the cable.
The memo added that since torture and ill-treatment continues unbated, “the ICRC is forced to conclude that the Government of India (GOI) condones torture”.
Prerna Suri, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in New Delhi, said though shocking, the allegations were not new.
“Human rights groups and activists have been bringing out all these allegations in the last few years at various public fora,” she said.
“The spokesperson of the government of India said that this is an internal assessment of American diplomats, and for them isn’t something that would warrant a response to.”
Suri added that India has consistently denied human rights abuses in Kashmir, and that it is alleged that the root problem comes from a special dispensation that governs Indian troops in Kashmir.
“The Armed Forces special Powers Act gives the army sweeping immunity … They can pick up civilians who they think are perpetrators, and in some cases they can also get away with killings and torture with any prosecution … and some say that this is where the rot actually stems from”.
Suri said the cable was likely to create more restlessness in the region.
“We have seen this year, some of the worst protests on the streets of Srinagar … Hundreds of thousands of people came out on to the streets protesting [against] army rule.”
The cable said the ICRC revealed to US diplomats that in 852 cases, detainees reported cases of ill-treatment, including various forms of torture. As many as 681 detainees were said to be subjected to more than one form of ill-treatment.
The memo added that the ICRC reported that ill-treatment and torture “is regular and widespread” and “always takes place in the presence of officers” and that the ICRC “has raised these issues with the government of India for more than 10 years”.
The cable added that while the ICRC reported that security forces were rougher on detainees in the past, “detainees were rarely militants [they are routinely killed], but persons connected to or believed to have information about the insurgency”.
Violence linked to insurgents in Indian Kashmir has eased since nuclear-armed India and Pakistan launched a peace process in 2004 over the disputed Himalayan region.
But popular pro-independence protests since June have left more than 110 protesters and bystanders — many of them teenagers – dead.
India and Pakistan each hold part of Kashmir but claim it in full.