Collateral Damage in our ‘War on Terror’

The Express Story today on the detention and torture of 6 Muslim men/boys in the wake of the Hyderabad blasts makes for chilling, terrifying reading. Amongst over 70 Muslim men who were arrested by the Hyderabad police, they detail custodial abuse and torture which ranges from stripping, to severe beatings on the hands and soles of their feet, to electrical shocks administered to genitalia. With characteristic insouciance and perversity the government has announced a ‘healing touch’ compensation of Rs 30,000 to each victim of the police’s tactile ministrations.

They were among 70 Muslim men picked up by the Hyderabad police in the wake of two terror attacks in the city last year. At least 15 of them, according to a report by a state government panel, were subjected to various forms of torture during custody that lasted six to nine months: stripping, physical abuse, electric shocks, some had their beards plucked out; in one case, a two-litre water bottle was said to have been hung from the victim’s penis.

Now the Andhra Pradesh government admits they are innocent and, as a ‘healing touch,” is offering them a “rehabilitation package” of Rs 30,000 and Rs-80,000 loans to buy autorickshaws.

The obscenity aside, this should come as no surprise. India is amongst only 8 countries in the world which refuses to ratify the international Convention against torture, which means that it sees no problem in accepting torture as a legitimate instrument of its technologies of rule. Some of us might indeed remember the travesty of Devindar Singh, SP Special Task Force, boasting on TV news of having poured petrol up a man’s anus as a de rigour protocol of interrogation in Kashmir. Meanwhile, elsewhere on the Titanic, the demand for stronger ‘anti-terror’ laws which will enable the police to keep individuals at their tender mercy for upto 180 days without charge, continues unabated.

The government has told us the price of a destroyed human body and life – Rs 30,000. Perhaps this would be a good time to start asking ourselves the price of seeing our collective face transform into a monstrous distortion, like in a trick mirror at the fair.

A UN-supported poll in 19 countries revealed that India has the most number of people supporting torture of terror suspects by the State. Which may explain why a report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights, released the same week, said torture in India by the police and security agencies is widespread and endemic.

Around 59% of Indians — the highest number — said it was permissible for State authorities to use torture and other means of physical intimidation against those suspected of terrorist activities on grounds that the information they may have would save innocent lives.

Twelve per cent of Indians also supported the use of violence against law-breakers in general. Only 28% favoured an unconditional ban on torture by the State.

In Oscar Wilde’s tale, The Picture of Dorain Gray, the protagonist maintains a clear unblemished visage as the corruptions of his life ruin his likeness on a wall. We will need an army of magical portrait painters in this country before this war is over.

5 thoughts on “Collateral Damage in our ‘War on Terror’”

  1. Go on heap injustice onto the poor. After all Allah is watching everything and will do justice. What else can one say about such situations where the ordinary poor man comes under the wrong side of the law.


  2. The 70 men that were picked up for questioning was only the visible part – (well visible because of the outcry). Muslim young men were subjected to very banal kind of harassment on a daily basis. This was happening at particular road junctions and not everywhere. And now I am hearing of work place harassment where all kinds of jealousies and rivalries are gradually being rearticulated into anti Muslim diatribes. In turn, many of these young men are turning to expressions of piousness through dress codes, ardent namaz practices and an unprecedented interest in “true” interpretations of religious edicts regarding the conduct of everyday life.

    a few weeks after the blasts in Hyderabad, crossing crossing a busy junction on foot – i noticed the first sign of a city that has changed forever – a notice from the police commissioner hung on the traffic signal urging people to report anyone who looked, spoke, or acted strangely. STRANGELY ? for god’s sake!

    Everyone in Hyderabad looks, speaks and acts strange and increasingly so as hundreds of thousands of poor people from all over the country are streaming to the city, some times in groups and often singly and for many many people hyderabad is also the gateway to go to the middle east or to any of the emerging labor markets. and it is a city that is dominated by contractors and speculators in land and construction and finance !!


  3. Strange. People will be first to jump on authorities on a small pretext. Then flows endless stream of Intellectual language which try to show all others except the humans in uniform are innocent creatures waiting to be exploited by all. Rediculous. Probably people will understand only when they personally undergo the trauma of this idiotic terrorist voilence which is ripping apart all civilised customs. In serach of terrorists may few suspects will have to suffer this. there is no way out unless the general populace behave responsibly.


  4. to satyadev,

    I agree with your comment that people tend to blame the authorities, but then the authorities blame the people and we are all stuck in a loop of the “blame game”, which solves little. I think it is sometimes the authorities to blame but other times it is groups radicalised by one or other type of perceived injustice that may then, if no mediation is available, turn to violence (if deliberate against innocent civilians this is terror), this also solves little and has the likely effect of even more retaliation.

    The analysis, after studying “TERROROLOGY” by many peace activists is to try to find the root causes in each and every situation where violence has been used against innocent people whichever nation they belong to, that is -cause and effect- the difficulty is trying to mediate between opposing groups and find common ground then dialogue, often this doesn’t work but at least the times that this way does work, can and does save many many innocent lives, please try!


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