Indian Army Launches Probe of Custodial Torture Deaths of Civilians in Kashmir

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In a significant development, the Indian Army has initiated a thorough investigation into the tragic deaths of three civilians who were allegedly in the custody of the military. This decision comes at a time when India’s Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh, is on a visit to the region to assess and review security measures in the volatile area.

The urgency of this action is rooted in the growing anger and outrage in remote parts of Kashmir, where locals have accused army personnel of torturing the three detainees to death within a nearby military camp. The civilians in question were detained following a recent ambush by rebels fighting against Indian rule. The ambush targeted two army vehicles in the southern Poonch district, resulting in the unfortunate loss of four soldiers’ lives and leaving three others wounded.

The Poonch and Rajouri districts, where these events transpired, are in close proximity to the highly militarized Line of Control (LoC) that divides the disputed Himalayan region between India and Pakistan.

After the incident, the bodies of the civilians were eventually handed over to the local police, who then contacted their grieving families. Shockingly, the bodies bore clear and distressing signs of severe torture, leaving the local population clamoring for a fair and transparent investigation.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh expressed his concern, stating, “Each of our army personnel is important to us,” and he assured that the authorities were taking the “required steps” to investigate the incident thoroughly. He was also scheduled to meet with the families of the three deceased civilians to address their concerns directly.

In an official statement, the Indian Army affirmed, “The matter is under investigation. Indian Army stands committed to extending full support and cooperation in the conduct of investigations.” Concurrently, the local police have registered a murder case against unidentified individuals.

As tensions continue to escalate, the government has taken the drastic step of suspending internet services in Kashmir. This move follows the dissemination of disturbing videos online that reportedly depict the torture of the detained civilians just hours after their incarceration.

Indian Army Chief Manoj Pande made a visit to Poonch to review the operational readiness of the troops in the area, as confirmed by defence spokesperson Suneel Bartwal. However, he claimed to have no knowledge regarding the inquiry ordered into the deaths of civilians in Poonch.

The local perspective sheds light on the human tragedy unfolding in the region. Mohammad Sidiq, a councillor of Topa Pir village, revealed that nine individuals, including his 26-year-old shepherd nephew, were apprehended by Indian troops for questioning. He lamented, “One of them was let off, and eight others were tortured, and three, including my nephew Shoukat Ahmad, were killed.” Sidiq further emphasized the need for justice and questioned the treatment of those who support Indian troops along the borders.

Another resident, Mohammed Younis, narrated a similar harrowing experience, stating that soldiers detained his two brothers and a cousin. While an elderly man was eventually released, the others were subjected to ruthless beatings and electrocution. Younis expressed his anguish, saying, “My two brothers and a cousin are badly hurt due to torture. They are being treated in an army hospital.”

Internationally, Pakistan has strongly condemned the deaths of the civilians, with its foreign ministry issuing a statement calling for those responsible to be held accountable.

The long-standing conflict in the region persists as both nuclear-armed rivals, India and Pakistan, administer separate portions of Kashmir while claiming the entire territory as their own. The Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir has witnessed a protracted insurgency since 1989, with India attributing it to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism—a claim that Islamabad vehemently denies. Tragically, tens of thousands of civilians, rebels, and government forces have lost their lives in this enduring conflict.

Adding to the complexity, since 2019, the situation in the region has been characterized by mounting discontent following New Delhi’s decision to revoke the region’s semi-autonomous status and impose severe restrictions on dissent, civil liberties, and media freedoms while intensifying counter-insurgency efforts. Although the Kashmir Valley has historically been the epicenter of anti-India insurgency, remote areas like Rajouri and Poonch have witnessed an upsurge in deadly attacks against Indian troops over the past two years, resulting in the loss of at least three dozen soldiers’ lives.

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