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‘They’d beat us and put chilli powder on our wounds…’: Poonch Torture Victims Recount Horror

After a militant attack killed four Army soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch on Thursday, security forces allegedly detained some civilians.

One of the detainees, Mohammad Ashraf (52), told The Indian Express that he and four others were tortured by security forces last week. “They removed our clothes and beat us with lathis and iron rods, and rubbed chilli powder on our wounds,” he said.

Three of the detainees died during interrogation, according to reports, and five, including Ashraf, were taken to Government Medical College Hospital in Rajouri on Saturday.

Ashraf told The Indian Express that he was the man in the viral video that showed him and four others being stripped, hit with metal rods and sticks, and having “chilli powder on the wounds” until they fainted.

He has been suffering from insomnia and trauma since last Saturday. “How can you sleep when your body is in agony and your mind is haunted by the memories of torture every time you close your eyes?” he said.

Ashraf lives in Hasbalote village in the Thanamandi area of Rajouri district. He has been working as a lineman with J&K’s Power Development Department since 2007, earning Rs 9,330 per month. He has three children – a daughter who is 18 years old and two sons who are 15 and 10 years old. His wife passed away on March 23 this year.

The other four who were tortured with Ashraf and are now in Rajouri hospital are Farooq Ahmed, 45, Fazal Hussain, 50, and Hussain’s nephews Mohammad Betab, 25, and a 15-year-old. They all belong to the Thanamandi area. A hospital doctor said they all have “soft tissue injuries” but did not give more details.

We were all unable to stand or sit properly. “They (hospital staff) use wheelchairs or stretchers to move us for tests or to the washroom,” said Ashraf.

He said he, his brother and uncle Fazal Hussain were taken by police from their home in Thanamandi on Thursday evening, soon after the militant attack. The police let them go home after three hours, asking them to come to Thanamandi police station the next day, he said.

But on their way to the police station on Friday morning Army personnel phoned him and asked Ashraf to come to Manyal Gali first. There, they put them in a vehicle and took them along to their post at DKG Top.

The Army PRO, however, denied any information of the five men admitted in the Rajouri hospital.

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