In Kashmir, brutality of videos deepens anger against India

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SRINAGAR: One video showed a young Kashmiri man strapped to a patrolling Indian army jeep as a human shield against stone-throwing protesters. Others showed soldiers beating local men with sticks as other troops stood by with guns drawn.
As Shabir Ahmed watched the crude clips, captured on cellphone cameras and uploaded to Facebook, he felt terrified. They reminded him of his own 2001 detention by Indian army soldiers who suspected him of being a rebel sympathizer; he said they subjected him to beatings, waterboarding and drinking water mixed with chili powder.
“For two nights I couldn’t sleep. I was not shocked but exhausted” after watching the recent videos, said 38-year-old Ahmed. “I have suffered a great deal in torture by soldiers. Suddenly, I felt as if demons reopened my old wounds and started haunting me.”
Rights groups have long accused Indian forces of using systematic abuse and unjustified arrests in Indian-controlled Kashmir. The Indian government has acknowledged the problem exists, but denies it is part of a wide strategy to intimidate residents.
Kashmiris have been uploading videos and photos of alleged abuse for some years, but several recently posted clips, captured in the days surrounding a violence-plagued local election April 9, have proven to be especially powerful and have helped to intensify anti-India protests.
“Welcome to the world of social media,” said Siddiq Wahid, historian and former vice chancellor of a Kashmir university. “You don’t need verification and you don’t need proof. The optics are so clear.”
One video shows a stone-throwing teenage boy being shot by a soldier from a few meters (feet) away. Another shows soldiers making a group of young men, held inside an armored vehicle, shout profanities against Pakistan while a soldier kicks and slaps them with a stick. The video pans to a young boy’s bleeding face as he cries. Yet another clip shows three soldiers holding a teenage boy down with their boots and beating him on his back.
The video that drew the most outrage was of young shawl weaver Farooq Ahmed Dar tied to the bonnet of an army jeep as it patrolled villages on voting day. A soldier can be heard saying in Hindi over a loudspeaker, “Stone throwers will meet a similar fate,” as residents look on aghast.
“When they were driving me around, they were saying, ‘We will shoot (you),’ and were throwing stones at my head,” Dar told The Associated Press. “I was told not to talk. In one of the villages, an elderly man begged for my release but they didn’t listen to him.”
Police have since registered a criminal case against unnamed Indian soldiers in that case, for the first time citing a video as evidence. In addition, the army’s “own internal inquiry has been initiated into the jeep video,” according to spokesman Col. Rajesh Kalia.
But India’s topmost law officer, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, lauded soldiers for managing to defuse a “nasty situation” by containing the protests and saving the polls.
“Why so much noise?” he asked about the complaints. “Military operations cannot be subject of such discussions on social media,” Rohtagi told the Hindustan Times newspaper.
Students across Kashmir have been rallying this month at anti-India demonstrations, facing off against heavily armed riot police and paramilitary soldiers.
“Most students like me use social media, and some among us use stones to protest against India. Our brothers (militants) use guns for the same purpose,” said Aslam, a 22-year-old science major at the University of Kashmir who gave only his first name out of fear for police reprisals.
Viral videos showing police officers beating civilians or soldiers forcing children to do push-ups in public have “not only outraged the residents here, but also strengthened their belief that the remedy lies in relentlessly seeking justice to end these foul practices,” said Khurram Parvez of the Jammu-Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society.
The rights group has conducted decades of research and estimates that at least 200,000 people have been tortured during Kashmir’s decades-long separatist conflict fueled by anti-India sentiment among a mostly Muslim population and a deployment of hundreds of thousands of troops.
Kashmir’s troubles began in 1947, with the first days of Indian and Pakistani independence, as the two countries both claimed the region in its entirety. They have since fought two of three wars over their rival claims, each administering a part of the territory divided by a heavily militarized line of control.
On the Indian side, most public protest was peaceful until 1989, when armed rebels rose up demanding the region’s independence or merger with Pakistan. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in that uprising and the ensuing military crackdown.
Among the angriest now are Kashmiris under 35, who have grown up in a politically radicalized society amid the brutal armed conflict and high unemployment. They a

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