The Indian army is reportedly looking into videos showing its members committing horrific abuses in Kashmir — an 86,000-square-mile disputed land in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent.
In order to understand the latest bout of unrest in the embattled region, it is important to know what the Kashmir dispute is.
Kashmir is claimed by both nuclear-armed India and Pakistan. It has been a bone of contention between the two neighboring nations since 1947. To this day, neither country has tried to give the people of Kashmir the freedom they deserve and demand. Instead, both sides have been accused of resorting to violence in attempts to occupy the disputed territory. The hostilities gave birth to largely two sets of Kashmir separatists: one that’s pro-Pakistan (Kashmir is predominantly Muslim) and the other that seeks independence from both Pakistan and India. More than 70,000 people have reportedly been killed in the conflict since 1989.
At least two controversial video clips emerged online and went viral over the past week.
Here's the video as well. A warning can be heard saying stone pelters will meet this fate. This requires an urgent inquiry & follow up NOW!! pic.twitter.com/qj1rnCVazn— Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) April 14, 2017
This one shows a man, now identified as a shawl weaver named Farooq Ahmad Dar, tied to the bumper of a military jeep, purportedly being used as a "human shield" by Indian soldiers.
It is believed Dar was targeted after he was accused of pelting stones at the Indian army personnel. But it later turned out the man was peaceful and was among the very few people who had cast a vote in elections even though local separatist leaders called for a boycott.
“They damaged my bike, thrashed me severely with gun butts and wooden sticks and in an almost unconscious state tied me to the front of the jeep and paraded me through 10 to 20 villages,” Dar told The Wire. “I have never ever in my life hurled stones on forces. But I am not able to understand why I was beaten ruthlessly and then tied to the vehicle. What was my crime?”
The other video doing rounds on the web shows four men dressed in Indian army uniforms brutally beating a defenseless Kashmiri youth with sticks and kicking him all over his body.
While both the videos are shocking, they are, unfortunately, part of the atrocities taking place in the region for nearly seventy years. However, the increased use of technology and especially social media tools has helped people in these embattled regions highlight abuses that previously went underreported.
“It is a well-established truth that we have been used as human shields for the last 30 years,” Ghulam Mohammad Lone, a resident of Beerwah, told Anadolu Agency. “It’s just that in the past we had no mobile phones to take such videos. You cannot capture such things on video all the time but such things have taken place all the time.”
Indian army spokesman Col. Rajesh Kalia has said the authorities are looking into the contents of the videos and verifying their authenticity. However, Indian authorities in Jammu and Kashmir are reportedly trying “to quash a rash of viral videos” and could initiate a possible crackdown on social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp to prevent people from uploading and sharing similar abuses.
“WhatsApp groups are circulating rumors and speculation, and by the time a denial is put out, the damage has been done,” Shahid Chaudhary, the head of Kashmir’s information department, told an Indian newspaper. “We can’t track down each of the hundreds of thousands of youth active on social media, we can’t stop them unless we take away the medium.”
Meanwhile, violence in the region continues between Kashmiri protesters and security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir.
A 17-year-old was shot dead by Indian security forces earlier this month, according to Al Jazeera. At least 50 college students were also wounded by police officers, who fired pellets and tear gas.