Guest post by ADITYA PRAKASH
The following is a narrative of a torture victim I gathered during my time in Kashmir as a researcher. The person interviewed was tortured by the 2nd Dogra regiment of the Indian Army.
Where is your gun?
On the night of 28th October 1991, the 2nd Dogra Regiment of the Indian Army was conducting interrogations in Palhallan. Palhallan is a large village in the Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir.
People suspected of having links with terrorists were interrogated. The women and men were asked to come out of their homes. The women were asked to gather at the local dargah (shrine) and the men were lined up in the village school.
A major from the 2nd Dogra handpicked Manzoor Ahmad Naikoo to step forward. Others were also short listed for interrogation. Manzoor was taken inside the school and forced to strip. He was made to sit on a chair. His hands were fastened to his back.
‘Taaki main kuch na kar sakoon’
He was completely immobilized. The army personnel then asked him for his gun. Manzoor Ahmad said he had no gun. He tried to convince them that he was a shopkeeper and never owned a gun.‘Main siyasati aadmi nahi hoon. Tab bhi nahi tha. Ab bhi nahi hoon. Bas Kashmir mein yeh zulm band hona chahiye’
The army personnel then tied a cloth drenched in oil around his penis and lit it on fire. The interrogation party watched behind their balaclavas as Manzoor shuffled in his seat in inexplicable pain.
‘Unhonen mere penis pe kapda bandh diya aur tel dalkar aag laga di. Unke chehre nahi dikh rahe the’
His shrieks did not find an audience. His voice was muffled by the cloth that ran tight through his mouth, gagging him. After this they asked him again,
“Where is your gun? Give us your gun and we’ll let you go”
Manzoor was searing with pain. He said, “My answer is still the same. I have no gun please let me go.”
The patrol made him get up and escorted him to a house. They tied his hands and legs and Manzoor noticed that the house was his own. The irony of it was venomous. The army personnel tied his hands and legs again. They dunked him face first into a bucket of water. He was then made to lie flat. A rod was shoved in and out of his anus.
‘Woh andar bahar andar bahar karte rahe aur meri bleeding shuru ho gayi’
Manzoor Ahmad lay bleeding. The army’s interrogation was still incomplete. He had electrodes were placed all over his body.
The officer asked him,
“Where is your gun?”
Manzoor channeled the little energy he had and as his voice was finding words, the officer slammed his boot on Manzoor’s wind pipe. He was then electrocuted several times. Every time he was asked and tried to reply, he was choked by the officer with his boot. The electrocutions were also interspersed with beatings. The army personnel battered his chest with their helmet of issue.
‘Meri sehat bahut acchi thi. Koi aur hota to mar jaata. Mere saath ek school teacher bhi tha jiske saath us din ye zulm hua. Usne vahin dum tod diya.’
(I was very strong. That is why my body could bear the torture and see me through alive. There was a school teacher who also faced a similar torturous interrogation. He didn’t make it through)
The interrogated men were then collected and their hands were tied together in the village high school. This file was then asked to walk out naked out of the school.
‘Mere pet mein swelling a gayi thi. Andar mera rectum phat chuka tha. Yeh swelling internal bleeding ki vajah se thi’
Manzoor was made to stand up and walk. His stomach has swelled because of the internal hemorrhaging. He collapsed after a few steps.
Someone said, ‘The army doesn’t need another death. He’ll die if he faces more. Leave him.’
The next day Manzoor Ahmad discovered that the 4000 rupees in his house had been robbed. His watch was gone. So were his 20 chicken and tempo.
We can’t treat you at AIIMS
This ordeal lasted an entire night with Manzoor Ahmad. The morning of the 29th of October, Manzoor arranged himself to go to the SMHS (Sri Maharaja Hari Singh) hospital in Srinagar. This is the government hospital and the one Manzoor could afford. He was taken into their emergency ward.
Manzoor’s rectum was devastated. A colostomy was performed. A colostomy is a surgical procedure in which a stoma is formed by drawing the healthy end of the large intestine or colon through an incision in the anterior abdominal wall and suturing it into place. This opening, in conjunction with the attached stoma appliance, provides an alternative channel for feces to leave the body. [Source: Wikipedia]
He spent 10 days in hospital. But a few months later, the stitches opened. The puss that leaked collected to form a painful abscess. Manzoor sought correction at the same hospital. He was refused by the surgeon.
‘Government hospital mein jo doctor tha, usne mera operation karne se inkaar kar diya. Usne kaha ki sirf 15% chance hai recovery ka. Uska sochna tha ki agar operation nakaam hua to zindagi bhar iski baddua lagegi mujhe’
(The surgeon did not want to put his medical career at risk by performing a dubious surgery. The surgery had a thin 15% chance of success. Further, he was superstitious that Manzoor would curse him if the surgery went wrong)
Manzoor Ahmad then went to Delhi on his meager income to get treated at AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences). AIIMS is India’s leading government hospital. He traveled 900 km from his village for treatment. The way was mountainous as ever. He travelled in excruciating pain. All the while his feces were leaking from his side outlet.
When he reached they asked him his details on a form and once they learned he was a Kashmiri interrogation victim, AIIMS shunned him. Manzoor had traveled for nothing.
The World Red Cross approached Manzoor Ahmad later and offered to treat him. The Medical Board in Srinagar refuses to give them the go ahead.
Twenty years hence as of 2012, Manzoor Ahmad Naikoo still suffers from leaking faeces. This has restricted his life. He can no longer go to social gatherings for long for fear of soiling himself. He knows medical terminology precisely, having learnt it the tough way.
Manzoor is a medium built man of 52. He looks young; like he is in his thirties. He claims his hair has just started graying.
A little boy of 5 is holding Manzoor Ahmad’s hand. All through this interview his sparkling green eyes have worn a blank expression. He has been patient. He tugs Manzoor’s kurta a few times letting him know this was not his scene.
‘He doesn’t speak Hindi does he?’, I ask.
‘No’, says Manzoor.
I am relieved.
He laments that even as recently as 2010, 10 people were killed in his village as terrorist suspects. He says they were innocent.
He concludes by saying he is not a political person and likes to lead a quiet life. He says India judges Kashmiris and its other citizens by different standards.
‘Hindustan mein do aaine hain. Ek saare Hindustan ke liye aur ek Kashmir ke liye’
All excerpts are what Manzoor Ahmad Naikoo told Aditya Prakash in Hindi/ Urdu.
Aditya is a second year student of Development Studies at TISS, Mumbai.