Youth compelled for forced labour by Indian army in Kulgam

Srinagar, February 28, 2018 (PPI-OT): In occupied Kashmir, for the past several days, Indian troops have been snatching I-cards of youth in Kulgam district and then summoning them to their camp where they are beaten up and compelled for forced labour. The residents of Ashmuji area of the district talking to media men said the Indian soldiers dial their numbers and summon them to their camp. They said that not only the students but middle aged men are also being subjected to harassment and forced labour in the Indian army camp.

“My I card was snatched by Indian army and later I was asked to report to their camp. As I went there next morning, I was beaten up on the allegations that I am a stone-pelter. I was then forced to work as a labourer. I was allowed to go home in the evening but told that I should report to the camp again,” said Muhamad Amir Sheikh, a final year student at the Government Degree College Kulgam. He said that the Indian soldiers forced him to haul construction material, oil barrels and other materials besides breaking stones and cutting grass at the camp.

An 11th class student, Umar Rehman Dar, who also was forced to work at the camp said, “I was made to carry big iron rods and boulders. They let me go in the evening but they did not return my I-card. They told me to bring my other friends along the next time. Though my father went there to fetch my card, he was told to tell me to come myself.”

“My entire body is aching. I am not even able to sleep properly. I feel scared that the army might come home any time and beat me up for not coming to the camp,” Umar added. Another student, Ubaid Abdullah Dar said, “I too was summoned and made to do all sorts of odd works by army men from morning till evening and then told to come again along with my friends. I have switched off my phone because the Indian forces used to make calls too frequently.”

Suhail Ahmed Dar, a student from Boys Degree College Islamabad, said his I-card was snatched by the Indian soldiers who also asked him to report to the camp. “I didn’t go after I heard from other what they make you do there,” he said. 41-yaer-old Muhammad Altaf Khanday, a shopkeeper, was also called to the camp and was forced to work in the camp.

“The Indian army even calls us on our phone numbers asking us to report to their camps. They threaten us of dire consequences if we don’t,” said a group of villagers on the condition of anonymity because they fear reprisal. The practice of forced labour by the Indian troops and paramilitary personnel was common throughout the 1990s in the Kashmir Valley, especially in Kupwara district.

Engineer Abdur Rasheed, who is now a member of the so-called Kashmir Assembly from Langate area of Kupwara, has said that he too was taken as a bonded labourer by the Indian troops. “The people in north Kashmir areas of Handwara and Langate used to be quite frequently taken for bonded labour and forced to clear the road for the Indian army right from 1989 to 2004. We fought against it despite facing wrath of the army,” Engineer Rasheed said.

He said at that time the Indian army had termed it as propaganda to malign their image. Now when similar incidents have come to the fore in southern Kashmir this validates the truth of our ordeal, he added. Engineer Rasheed has approached the Human Rights Commission of the occupied territory seeking compensation for the bonded labour he was forced to do in the past.

Meanwhile, two brothers carried their dead sheep to the Deputy Commissioner’s office in Bandipora, as they came crying and lamenting for justice. Shepherd, Nazir Ahmed Tantray and his brother were allowed to enter the mini secretariat main gate only after sustained protest and their agreeing to leave their dead sheep behind. The brothers, both residents of Athwatoo village, said that the Indian army’s 14 Rashtriya Rifles has been creating a fear psychosis among the locals ever since it set up a camp there by occupying villagers’ land in 2002.

Narrating the gruesome details of the death of his livestock, Nazir said, “Eleven of my sheep have been killed by Indian army dogs that roam free around the village.” “Four sheep are missing from my flock of 20. After searching everywhere in the village, I found one, dead with dog bites, in a pit near the 14-RR camp. I don’t know where my other three sheep are.” Locals accompanying him said that 41 kanals of land belonging to locals is under the occupation of Indian army camp. “Four kanals of these are mine,” added Nazir.

For more information, contact:
Kashmir Media Service
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