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In Kashmir, Abuses Bruise Hopes for Peace

Patil reiterated that any talks on Kashmir would take place "within the four walls of the constitution," which describes the region as an integral part of India. But he also said India would talk to Pakistan "unconditionally" about Kashmir and asserted that "many things have been said and done" already to address the concerns of its citizens. He added, however, "I am not expected to give you all the details."

Such claims are viewed with skepticism in Gund Dachina, a bucolic, poplar-shaded village at the edge of terraced rice fields about 30 miles north of Srinagar. Behind the village is a steep forested ridge that is said to be teeming with militants. More visible are the Indian soldiers, several hundred of whom are encamped on the playing fields of a nearby high school. The other day, soldiers in armored vests and heavy steel helmets moved warily through the village on foot, with rifles at the ready. A few miles down the road, locals lined up to display identification cards at one of the army's ubiquitous checkpoints.


Syed Rehman Mir, a Kashmiri doctor, said he was hospitalized last month after Indian police tortured him for allegedly aiding Islamic militants. (John Lancaster -- The Washington Post)

_____India - Pakistan Talks_____
India, Pakistan End Talks Stalemated Over Kashmir (The Washington Post, Sep 7, 2004)
India, Pakistan Extend Peace Talks (The Washington Post, Sep 5, 2004)
India Test Fires Nuclear-Capable Missile (Associated Press, Aug 29, 2004)
Special Report: India - Pakistan
Primer: The Conflict in Kashmir
___ Photo Gallery ___

The Struggle for Kashmir

As a doctor, Mir enjoys considerable status in the village, where he lives with his wife and three children in a spacious brick house with a garden full of flowers and a Maruti car parked in the driveway. A balding, round-faced man with a reddish beard, he was recently promoted to "block medical officer" of a nearby district, where he supervises 21 government clinics.

After being arrested on Aug. 4, Mir said, he was taken to an interrogation center in Srinagar and accused of giving money to a militant group. Mir acknowledged that he might have done so inadvertently; a few weeks before the arrest, he said, a stranger in a suit and tie dropped by his clinic and asked him to hold a bag of cash for one of Mir's patients. Mir said he thought little of the request at the time but later learned that the patient had been arrested for working with the militants.

"They said, 'You must be a middleman,' " he recalled of his interrogators, whom he identified as members of the Jammu and Kashmir police.

The physical abuse started immediately, he said, when a police officer slapped him twice across the face, rupturing one of his eardrums. Then his interrogators made him strip naked and sit on the floor while electrical current from a hand-cranked generator was applied to his genitals and feet, which were splashed with water for better conductivity. At the same time, he said, two officers placed a wooden stave across his legs, bore down with all their weight and rolled it repeatedly back and forth, opening half-dollar-size wounds on his thighs.

The torture was repeated on the third day of his imprisonment. "I was crying, 'I am diabetic. I am going to lose my legs because of this torture,' " recalled Mir, who takes medication for his condition. "They said, 'Yes, we want you to lose your legs.' "

The officers also beat him on the back and buttocks with a length of tire, he said, and hung him twice from the ceiling by his arms for 10 or 15 minutes at a stretch. The ordeal finally ended on the fourth day, he said, when guards found him unconscious on the floor of his cell. He was taken to Sri Maharaja Pratap Singh Hospital, where a doctor noted bruises and torture marks on his thighs and back, according to a copy of the examination record.

Mir was hospitalized for 12 days. During that time, he said, police dropped the accusations relating to the money transfer and instead charged him with giving a hand grenade to two militants who used it in an attack.

The two were arrested and named Mir in their confession, according to a police charge sheet. Mir said he had never heard of the two men, let alone supplied them with a grenade.

Javaid Gillani, the senior superintendent of police in Srinagar, said in an interview that he did not know how Mir was injured but denied security forces were involved. Such allegations, he added, are "generally not true."

Special correspondent Rama Lakshmi in New Delhi contributed to this report.


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