Caught on Camera

An amateur video showing J&K policemen stripping and assaulting two teenage boys inside a police station in north Kashmir went viral on social networking sites. Sameer Yasir meets one of the victims to hear his side of the story.


Every time the sound of gunfire resounds in air during clashes between paramilitary forces and protesters, Ishfaq Ahmad Kanjwal’s face turns red. He covers himself with a blanket and draws curtains on the windows.

A narrow, dimly lit staircase leads to a partially dark room on the second story of Kanjwal house where Ishfaq, 19, has incarnated himself from last two years. A tall, lean boy, Ishfaq has hardly moved out of this room since he was released from Baramulla sub-jail, except his one-month-long stay at a local hospital.

On January 8, a video showing two boys being ruthlessly beaten up by J&K police personnel went viral on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter in Kashmir. The video clip showed policemen stripping two teenagers and thrashing them ruthlessly inside Baramulla police station; the boys are hit with sticks, belts and kicked.

In the two-minute video, a senior police officer is seen sitting on a chair and watching the assault without intervening. The two teenagers in the video keep pleading before the senior police officer of not being guilty. One among the two teenagers who was being beaten was Ishafaq Ahmad Kanjwal. After the assault, Ishfaq was sent to sub-jail Baramulla. It was here that a local politician, moved by the plight of his poor parents, intervened and secured his release.

Recently when one of Ishfaq’s friends showed him the video on his mobile phone, his father Abdul Hamid Khanwal says, he started crying and slept hungry for two days. “I saw policemen capturing the assault on their cell phones but DSP later scolded them and told them to delete the video,” Ishfaq says.

In late October 2010, when he was studying in Class 10, Ishfaq had left home to buy a chicken for supper. When he reached the main market in Baramulla, young boys were pelting stones at the police. Within no time, two vehicles and hundreds of policemen surrounded the deserted market from two sides.

“No stone pelter was caught. Along with a salesman of a shopkeeper, I was taken to Baramulla police station where we were stripped and beaten mercilessly. I continuously told them I was not throwing stones. But they did not listen to me. They were only laughing at us. It all happened in front of a DSP, an SHO and a sub inspector.” Ishfaq says with his head lowered in his lap.

“The chicken which I had bought from the shop was taken by policemen. They also too some cash and a new Nokia mobile phone which my father had bought me on installment basis from a shop,” he says.

Ishfaq father makes a living by selling socks in the main market on a make-shift stall. He says when his son was taken into police custody, he, along with some local people, approached the brother of local MLA who helped them to secure his son’s release. But his release did not end the ordeal of this family.

“Ishfaq was admitted to the hospital but, apart from the bruises and cuts, no one could make out what had happened to him. The doctors said because of the continuous beating he has suffered internal injuries and advised me to take him for special treatment of fear psychosis. The treatment needed a lot of money. I also had to take care of three more members of my family,” his father Abdul Hamid says.

Doctors said that Ishfaq was suffering from depression and anxiety, and his mind had developed a fear. “I am happy that at least he is talking now. He started talking after one year. I am a very poor man and cannot afford his treatment. But I curse those who did this to my son that their children meet the same fate,” his father says.

“He is my elder son. He used to help in my street shop. Now he can’t even do that. He prefers to remain in darkness. He hates light. He draws curtains to make the room dark and sits all day inside. This is what my son who was supposed to be my old age support does now. This is what the police have done to me and to my family,” Abdul Hamid rues.

Curiously, instead of ordering an inquiry into the incident and punishing the police officers involved, the state police lodged an FIR against the unidentified person who had posted the video on social networking sites. The case was registered under Section 66 A of the Information Technology Act. But no arrests have been made so far.



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