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Don’t beat us, just shoot us’: Kashmiris allege violent army crackdown BBC report

Security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir have been accused of carrying out beatings and torture in the wake of the government’s decision to strip the region of its autonomy.

The BBC heard from several villagers who said they were beaten with sticks and cables, and given electric shocks.

Residents in several villages showed me injuries. But the BBC was not able to verify the allegations with officials.

The Indian army has called them “baseless and unsubstantiated”.

Unprecedented restrictions have put Kashmir into a state of lockdown for more than three weeks and information has only trickled out since 5 August when Article 370 – as the provision giving the region special status is known – was revoked.

Tens of thousands of extra troops have been deployed to the region and about 3,000 people – including political leaders, businesspeople and activists – are reported to have been detained. Many have been moved to prisons outside the state.

The authorities say these actions are pre-emptive and designed to maintain law and order in the region, which was India’s only Muslim-majority state but is now being divided into two federally-run territories.

The Indian army has been fighting a separatist insurgency here for over three decades. India blames Pakistan for fomenting violence in the region by supporting militants – a charge that its neighbour, which controls its own part of Kashmir, denies.

Many people across India have welcomed the revocation of Article 370 and have praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for taking the “bold” decision. The move has also been widely supported by mainstream media.

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I visited at least half a dozen villages in the southern districts which have emerged as a hub of anti-India militancy in the past few years. I heard similar accounts from several people in all these villages of night raids, beatings and torture.

Doctors and health officials are unwilling to speak to journalists about any patients regardless of ailments, but the villagers showed me injuries alleged to have been inflicted by security forces.

In one village, residents said that the army went from house to house just hours after India announced the controversial decision that upended a decades-old arrangement between Delhi and Kashmir.

Two brothers alleged that they were woken up and taken to an outside area where nearly a dozen other men from the village had been gathered. Like everyone else we met, they were too afraid of reprisals to reveal their identities.

“They beat us up. We were asking them: ‘What have we done? You can ask the villagers if we are lying, if we have done anything wrong?’ But they didn’t want to hear anything, they didn’t say anything, they just kept beating us,” one of them said

“No specific allegations of this nature have been brought to our notice. These allegations are likely to have been motivated by inimical elements,” army spokesperson Col Aman Anand said.

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