Tuesday, Dec 26, 2023

Civilian ‘tortured’ in Poonch speaks: ‘I am in video… they rubbed chilli powder on our wounds’

The civilians were allegedly picked after four Army soldiers were killed in a militant ambush in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch on Thursday.

poonch, indian expressAn Army personnel during a cordon and search operation after the recent ambush on two Army vehicles that left five soldiers dead, in Poonch district, Saturday, Dec. 23, 2023. (PTI Photo)

One of the men who was allegedly picked up by security forces in Poonch has told The Indian Express that he and the other detainees were stripped, beaten and smeared with “chilli powder on the wounds” until they lost consciousness.

Speaking from his hospital bed, Mohammad Ashraf (52) claimed he and four others were picked up by security forces last week after which “they removed our clothes and beat us with lathis and iron rods, and rubbed chilli powder on our wounds”.

The civilians were allegedly picked after four Army soldiers were killed in a militant ambush in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch on Thursday. Three civilians died allegedly during questioning, and five, including Ashraf, were admitted to Government Medical College Hospital in Rajouri on Saturday.


“I am the person in the viral video that shows a man being beaten with iron rods and lathis by Army personnel,” Ashraf told The Indian Express, referring to a video that was widely shared on social media.

He said he has not been able to sleep since last Saturday due to the trauma. “Who can sleep when you have severe pain all over the body and the thoughts of torture haunt your mind the moment you close your eyes?” he said.

Festive offer

From Hasbalote village in Rajouri district’s Thanamandi area, Ashraf has worked as a lineman with J&K’s Power Development Department since 2007, drawing a salary of Rs 9,330 per month. With that, he supports his three children – an 18-year-old daughter and two sons aged 15 and 10. His wife died on March 23 this year.

The other four admitted at the Rajouri hospital with Ashraf are Farooq Ahmed, 45, and Fazal Hussain, 50, as well as Hussain’s nephews Mohammad Betab, 25, and another aged 15. They are all from the Thanamandi area.


A doctor at the hospital said all five have “soft tissue injuries” but did not elaborate further.

Ashraf said none of them can stand or even sit up properly. “They (hospital staff) take us on wheelchairs or stretchers when we have to be moved for tests or to go to the toilet,” he said.

He claimed that he was picked up by security forces from his home around 9.30 am on Friday. “They took me to Manyal Gali near DKG (Dehra Ki Gali) where their colleagues were already sitting with Farooq Ahmed in a Tata Sumo. After some time, Mohammad Betab and his brother were also brought, and they all took us to their camp at DKG,” he said.


“After we reached there, at 10.30 am, they switched off our mobile phones and started beating us with lathis and iron rods without saying anything,” he claimed. “After some time, they removed our clothes and again started beating us with lathis and iron rods, and rubbed chilli powder on our wounds until we fell unconscious.”

The 15-year-old, who is studying in class 10, is admitted in the same room at the Rajouri hospital. He claimed that during questioning, security personnel asked him whether he had provided food to militants and referred to a feast that was held at his house eight days prior to the militant attack.

“I told them that the feast was organised for the marriage of my brother, Betab,” he said. He alleged that after these questions, he was beaten along with the others.

Betab is a labourer who worked in Kashmir, and had come home nearly two months ago for his wedding, which took place on December 15.

“I had planned to stay at home with my wife for around a month before going back to work in Kashmir,” he said.


He also alleged that he was beaten up: “There is no skin left on my upper body.”

He said he was picked up along with his brother and uncle Fazal Hussain by a police party from their home in Thanamandi on Thursday evening, just hours after the militant attack. The police allowed them to return home after three hours, telling them to report to Thanamandi police station the next day, he said.


However, on their way to the police station on Friday morning, “Army personnel called us on our mobile asking to first visit them at Manyal Gali. There, they took us into a vehicle and brought us to their post at DKG Top,” Betab said.

The Army PRO has denied any knowledge about the five men admitted to the Rajouri hospital.

First published on: 26-12-2023 at 07:04 IST
Latest Comment
Post Comment
Read Comments