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Friday, July 10, 2009

India's own Guantanamo Bays: The Week's story on Secret torture chambers

A 14-year-old boy, Irfan, was crossing the road near his house in Delhi when a Tavera car screeched to a halt near him, he was bundled into the car and pinned down under the heavy feet with pistol kept to his head.

The mother kept searching for the boy. Had it not the car's numberplate and the judiciary's help, the boy may not have been tracked and released in ten days, from a secret Abu Gharaib-like torture cell in faraway Gujarat where he underwent such torture which even the adults can't even dream to endure.

This explosive story by news magazine 'The Week' has caused ripples in administrative circles. After a long time, a news magazine has done such an investigative story that brings to light something which was either not known or just talked about in whispers.

The magazine's journalist has unearthed and located these secret detention camps a la Guantanamo Bay, which are present in several Indian cities. The Week's managing editor Philip Mathew has written a special full page introduction for the story and the purpose of this extraordinary revelation. He writes:

..The muffled cry will never reach you. Nor the snap of bone. It is a strange silence, as if tranquilised by terror....the cover story is vastly different from Hitlerian terror, what is common though is the sadistic streak that strips a human of his dignity and sometimes his life...

The Week's cover story on secret torture champers comes at a time when mature democracies are pausing to listen to their conscience....many innocents suffer grievously as they were picked up on mere suspicion and had no access to legal help, nor their families know where they had been taken...

The extensive groundwork and the interviews by The Week's senior correspondent Syed Nazakat are a revelation. Yes, terrorists need to be treated differently. But does the organised might of the state need to torture 14-year-old innocent minor by abducting them and keeping them in soundproof cells that don't have windows and where new definitions of torture are scripted every minute?

Many are traumatised for their life and others die in these chambers without anybody's knowledge. Former DGP and Intelligence Bureau (IB) officer, Dr KS Subramanian's interview is also an eye-opener. He doesn't deny about such practices and says, "...in terrorist-related cases, the police may feel incentive to describe people as terrorists and kill them for professional reasons and career advancement.'

He mentions how farmers were killed in the name of Naxalites. The exhaustive report also tells about the exact location of these terror cells in Kolkata, Palanpur (Gujarat), Delhi, Mumbai and Guwahati--often in houses faraway from police stations.

The importance of the story lies in the fact that often journalists working on a particular beat get sympathetic and close to the system, rather than the citizens. In turn, they turn their back on such grave abuse of human rights. However, the issue is that we always feel it is 'the other' who suffers, not us and we forget.

When women get gang raped in custody, many feel that such incidents keep happening Dalits and Tribals or perhaps to that particular class of 'poor'. When innocents get killed in encounters, we remain indifferent. And in process cede our rights and liberties.

The use of drugs through injections, water boardings, attaching electrodes on genitals and other techniques of torture (as described by the magazine) are not something which any civilised state should allow on innocent citizens.

As the Week's editor writes, "...Irfan is not just Tasleema's 14 year old son. He is an Indian citizen with rights, just like your son and mine..... ". Read the story. Link to the editor's introduction and the story 'India's secret torture chambers'. It's chilling and shocking to say the least. Congratulations to the writer and the magazine for their courage.