J&KKashmirWaheed-ur-Rehman Para tortured in detention, UN experts say

Waheed-ur-Rehman Para tortured in detention, UN experts say


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SRINAGAR — Experts from the United Nations have raised worry over “repressive measures and broader pattern of systematic infringements of fundamental rights” in Kashmir, and have requested Government of India to reply to charges of human rights violations in the territory.

Five UN experts sought New Delhi’s response to three main allegations: the “enforced disappearance” of Naseer Ahmad Wani from southern Kashmir’s Shopian district, the “extrajudicial killing” of Irfan Ahmad Dar in north Kashmir’s Sopore, and the “arbitrary detention” of PDP leader Waheed-Ur-Rehman Para from Pulwama through a letter sent to the Indian government at the end of March and made public on May 31.

Para, who was detained by National Investigating Agency (NIA) in November last year on “terrorism charges” was reportedly subjected to “ill-treatment” and “abusive interrogations” that lasted 10 to 12 hours a day, according to the letter.

“He was held in a dark underground cell at sub-zero temperature, was deprived of sleep, kicked, slapped, beaten with rods, stripped naked and hung upside down,” said the letter, adding “Para was examined by a government doctor three times … and three times by a psychiatrist. He requested medication for insomnia and anxiety.”

Para, a youth leader from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), was arrested after a virtual meeting with UN Security Council members in July last year, during which he condemned “human rights violations” in Kashmir, according to the UN experts’ letter.

Para “raised the alarm about India’s actions in Jammu and Kashmir, its treatment of Muslim minorities, and recent border tensions with China” during his meeting with UNSC members, according to the UN experts’ letter.

“Following this engagement, Para received threats from officials with the NIA indicating he was inviting trouble by engaging in such events. They gave him an ultimatum that if he did not cease speaking out about the Government, action would be taken against him,” the letter said.

Para was apprehended just days after filing his candidacy papers for the council election in Pulwama, his home seat. While he was released on bond in the “terrorism” case, he was re-arrested in another case.

Another example brought up by the UN experts is that of Irfan Ahmad Dar, a 23-year-old shopkeeper from Sopore area in north Kashmir, who was detained on September 15 from his shop by policemen.

“Dar was detained at the Police Station Sopore without a warrant,” the letter said, adding that the next morning, Dar’s family was told that he was dead.

“The police claimed that Dar was killed while he was trying to escape from their custody. However, while performing their last rites on his body, it was found that his facial bones had been fractured, his front teeth were broken and his head appeared to have bruises of blunt force trauma. His family was allowed to see his body for about 10 minutes before burial,” the experts wrote.

They added that “in response to the protests against the killing, the district administration ordered a probe. During the probe, two policemen were suspended from their duties for ‘negligence of duty’ for allowing him to escape, however nobody was held accountable for his killing”.

The UN experts have also requested a response from the Indian government in the instance of Naseer Ahmad Wani, a 19-year-old from Doompora village in Shopian district, who was a case of “enforced disappearance”.

“On November 29, 2019, a 44 Rashtriya Rifles (44 RR) team raided his home, where he lives with his family, allegedly claiming that his phone was used by militants,” their letter said, adding that they “searched every corner and vandalized the property”.

“While searching the house, the Army personnel kept two children alongside them using them as human shields. Both of them were also beaten. The Army personnel assembled all the women in a single room and asked their names, took their photographs and requested everyone to handover their mobile phones. They were threatened that if they did not comply, they would be stripped naked,” the letter said, adding that “five soldiers entered Wani’s room, and locked the door from inside”.

As per the letter, “For more than half-an-hour, the family members, locked in the adjacent room, heard his cries while he was being beaten. The soldiers then took him out with them.”

According to the UN experts, the family went to the police on November 30, 2019, which referred them to an Army camp, where they were turned away. “Late that evening, the same Army officers visited Wani’s house. The Army Major told his family that there was no need to return to the police station or to initiate any legal proceedings as they had released Wani,” said the letter.

“On the following evening, on 1 December, the Major along with some personnel returned to Wani’s home. He assembled all the family members in a single room and pointed his gun at a family member’s neck and threatened them not to make any further enquiries or take legal action,” the letter said.

According to the letter, the police filed a missing person complaint on December 2, 2019, in response to the family’s previous request. “However, Wani’s fate and whereabouts are still not known,” it said.

The UN experts say, “While we do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of these allegations, we are expressing our grave concern that, should they be confirmed, they would constitute arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and ill-treatment, enforced disappearance.”

The UN experts said the allegations are “part of what appears to be an ongoing pattern of serious violations of human rights by police, Army, security agencies and the judiciary in the Jammu and Kashmir region”.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a 43-page report in July 2019, urging the appointment of a commission of inquiry to undertake a “comprehensive, independent, international investigation” into claims of human rights abuses in Kashmir.

However, accusations of human rights violations in the region have been often dismissed by the Indian government as “false.”

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