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India condoned “torture” of prisoners in Kashmir: Mulford

J. Balaji

— PHOTO: AP

In this file photo, security personnel detain protesters in Srinagar.

NEW DELHI: The Government of India “condoned” the “widespread severe torture” of prisoners in Jammu and Kashmir, North-East and other parts of the country during 2002-2004, the then Ambassador of the United States in New Delhi, David Mulford, told Washington in a confidential cable.

In the cable, released by WikiLeaks on Friday, Mr. Mulford cited the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) but hastened to add that it had stressed that it was not asking for the U.S. government action (against New Delhi), “but may seek to mobilise support in the future, if its relations with the Government of India (GOI) do not improve.”

Mr. Mulford also cautioned the State Department that there was a risk of the issue backfiring.

“Their [ICRC] approach to us [America] may be a prelude to a more assertive stance vis-a-vis New Delhi, which could be helpful in goading the Home Ministry and Ministry of Defence (MoD) to taking firmer action, but also risks backfiring if the GOI starts to back out of a long-negotiated working relationship, which has produced valuable results over the past decade,” he said.

Recalling the discussions held by U.S. diplomats here with ICRC officials about the situation in Kashmir, he said that though the ICRC felt government institutions were encouraging mistreatment of the detainees, there were nonetheless some signs of progress.

He recalled the ICRC's description of blood-curdling types of torture adopted by various security forces operating in the Kashmir Valley and also in the North-East and said: “The fact that the ICRC reversed its practice of the last several years to provide this briefing to us reflects its frustration with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), although we note that their experience with security forces in Jammu and Kashmir is clearly better than in the past, pragmatic and bordering on the positive.”

The data showing stable trend lines of ill-treatment and torture in detention centres were very disturbing, because “the practice continues unabated.” It did not appear that the GOI was planning anything precipitous, but the ICRC was clearly upping the ante with the GOI, “which it charges with not playing ball.”

The ICRC considered the status quo “unacceptable,” and wanted a substantive dialogue with the GOI on the issue of treatment of suspects/prisoners.

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