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Kashmir Police chief fumbles on torture camps

Srinagar, Tuesday, December 21, 2010:

I G Sahai
IG Police Kashmir S M Sahai

Indian administered Kashmir’s police chief for restive Kashmir province nearly admitted to the presence of torture camps in the region in an interview to BBC World Service (radio) broadcast December 17.

Whistleblower site Wikileaks in a cable had revealed that International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) had collected enough data to prove systemic torture prevalent in the detention centres and jails of Indian administered Kashmir. ICRC officials had briefed US officials that India condones the practice.

When Sahai was asked by BBC what he thought of the allegations, he replied,”

“I do not know how the Red Cross could have accessed that information because they normally would not have access to these kinds to locations so it is a completely unfounded.”

Asked to clarify what kind of locations he meant, the police chief said, “Where the accusers (sic) have carried out the torture”

So such locations do exist, the BBC host shot back and Sahai went on defensive watching his words, but he seemed to make a few more slips.

Play clip

Link for full story on BBC World Service (Play 35:00 onwards)

Indian police and troops in the restive region are frequently accused of human rights violations like torture, illegal detentions, custodial killings, and fake encounters.

The ICRC communication described in the Wikileaks cable is based on their interviews with jail inmates.

Rights groups in Kashmir say torture by state police and troops is widespread in Kashmir and in not limited to jails where people usually serving long term detentions are kept.

Most of the detainees, they say, were tortured in police lockups and specialized torture centres.

Sahai seemed to drop hints about the nature of his objections about the location of tortures, when asked that ICRC had access to jail inmates in Indian administered Kashmir and had based their observations on interviews of some 1500 detainees.

“.. They are only detention centres where people are jailed and no torture takes place, so I do not know how they (ICRC) made this claim” Sahai said referring to jails ICRC has had access to.

On further queries Sahai said, “I said they do not have access to places where people who are under questioning are kept.”

The places of "questioning" seems to refer to police lockups and infamous interrogation or torture centres such as the SOG Cargo building, Papa 2, and Hariniwas.

The last two centres have been renovated and turned into state guest houses.

A former state official, who moved into Papa 2 soon after its renovation and rechristening as Fairview Guest House, got it exonerated from priests.

The US envoy in Delhi Robert Blake had cabled Washington about the information he got from ICRC officials in 2006.

“There is a regular and widespread use of IT (ill treatment) and torture by the security forces during interrogation; -- This always takes place in the presence of officers; -- ICRC has raised these issues with the GOI for more than 10 years; -- Because practice continues, ICRC is forced to conclude that GOI condones torture” the cable quotes the ICRC official.

The official also opines that “detainees were rarely militants (they are routinely killed), but persons connected to or believed to have information about the insurgency.

“ICRC has never obtained access to the ‘Cargo Building’ the most notorious detention center in Srinagar,” it adds. ( Read full cable here)

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