India, May 21 (AP/UNB) — A prominent rights group in Indian-controlled Kashmir is advocating for the United Nations to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate what it calls the endemic use of torture by government forces amid a decades-long anti-India uprising in the disputed region.
The Jammu-Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society on Monday released a detailed report saying India is using torture as a "matter of policy" and "instrument of control" in Kashmir, where rebels have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989.
"Torture is the most under-reported human rights violation perpetrated by the state," the report noted. "Due to legal, political and moral impunity extended to the armed forces, not a single prosecution has taken place in any case of human rights violations" in the region, the report said.
Indian authorities said they would study the report before commenting on it. In the past, officials have acknowledged torture exists in Kashmir but have denied that Indian forces strategically use sexual and other abuses to control the population.
The 560-page report, researched for a decade, recommends an investigation be led by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It also urges India to ratify the U.N. Convention against torture and also allow global rights groups "unhindered access" to Kashmir.
Last year, the U.N. in its first report on Kashmir called for an independent international investigation into reports of rights violations like rape, torture and extrajudicial killings in the region. The report, which JKCCS helped with field research, particularly criticized Indian troops for firing shotgun pellets against protesters, blinding and maiming hundreds of people, including children.
India rejected that U.N. report as "fallacious."
The new report includes 432 case studies involving torture and maps trends and patterns, targets, perpetrators, locations and other details. The cases include 293 civilians and 119 militants, among others, and 27 were minors when they were tortured. The report says 40 people among those later died due to various injuries inflicted due to torture.
Juan E. Mendz, former U.N. special rapporteur on torture, said the report would help draw attention to the need to express concern about India's human rights record.
"For the worldwide struggle against torture, this report will constitute a landmark," Mendz, who teaches human rights law at American University in Washington, wrote in the prologue of the report. "I am convinced that a report, when it is as rigorous, evidence-based and persuasive as this one is, constitutes a building block towards public awareness of the tragedy of torture."
JKCCS has written scathing reports in the past about the brutality by some of the hundreds of thousands of Indian troops stationed in the region and highlighted the widespread of powers granted to them, which has led to culture of impunity and rights abuses. They were first to publicize thousands of unmarked graves in remote parts of Kashmir and demand that they be investigated to determine who the dead were and how they were killed.
Monday's report said the institutions of the state like legislature, executive, judiciary and armed forces use torture "in a systematic and institutional manner."
India's clampdown has a long history in Kashmir and the conflict has existed since the late 1940s, when India and Pakistan won independence from the British empire and began fighting over rival claims to the Muslim-majority region. The two rivals have fought two of their three subsequent wars over Kashmir, and each administers a portion of it.
New Delhi initially grappled with largely peaceful anti-India movements in its portion of Kashmir. However, a series of political blunders, broken promises and a crackdown against dissent escalated the conflict into a full-blown armed rebellion in 1989. The rebels are seeking a united Kashmir, either under Pakistan rule or independent of both. Since then, about 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
Most Kashmiris resent the Indian troop presence and back rebel demands.
India has long seen the Kashmiri struggle for self-determination as Islamabad's proxy war against New Delhi. Rights groups have also criticized the conduct of militant groups, accusing them of carrying out human rights violations against civilians.
Kashmir is patrolled by the military, paramilitary and police and remains one of the most militarized regions in the world.
Coils of barbed wire and security checkpoints are common, and emergency laws grant government forces sweeping powers to search homes and make arrests without warrants and to shoot suspects on sight without fear of prosecution.
In the past, the government has said the allegations of rights violations are mostly separatist propaganda meant to demonize troops. The Indian army previously said it has punished 59 soldiers in 25 proven abuse cases, out of 995 complaints it has received.
According to the JKCCS report, the methods of torture after the eruption of armed rebellion include stripping detainees naked, rolling a heavy log on their legs, waterboarding, electrocution including of genitals, burning of the body with hot objects, sleep deprivation, and sexual torture, including rape and sodomy.
In one of the case studies, the report highlighted torture of a civilian named Qalandar Khatana by paramilitary soldiers in 1992. "His flesh was cut from buttocks and he was made to eat it. His legs were broken and he was not given any medical assistance," it said.
Later Khatana's legs got infected with maggots and were amputated, the report said.
Indian troops also tortured his wife leaving her ribs broken, the report said, adding "she died a few years later due to the injuries."
For years, international rights groups have accused Indian troops of using systematic abuse and unjustified arrests to intimidate residents opposing India's rule. Human rights workers have accused Indian troops of sometimes even staging gunbattles as pretexts to kill for promotions and rewards.
"Despite global attention and condemnation of torture following exposés of indiscriminate torture practiced in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prisons, torture remains hidden in Jammu and Kashmir, where tens of thousands of civilians have been subjected to it," the report said.
Apart from advocacy, the report serves "as an institutionalized form of memory of trials and tribulations of the people" of the region, said Parvez Imroz, a prominent rights lawyer and JKCCS president.
India is not exceptional "in its pervasive and systematic" use of torture those deemed dangerous or threatening to national security, said Saiba Varma, an anthropologist at the University of California, San Diego who has researched psychiatric ailments in Kashmir.
"In making these bodies spectacles, the state is further exerting its power, not only on those who have been tortured, but by also sending a message to those who have not been tortured, saying, 'this could be you,'" she said.
She said the effects of torture have been "systematic, pervasive, and psychologically, physically and socially devastating" in Kashmir.
"Torture is not just a technology on the individual body, but it is a profoundly social, relational, and political technology," she said.
Dhaka, May 21 (UNB) - A day after exit polls predicted a sweeping victory for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the Lok Sabha elections, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi on Monday released an audio message advising party workers to not fall for "rumours" intended to make them drop their guard ahead of the counting of votes on May 23.
"My dear Congress workers, sisters and brothers... Don't let rumours and exit polls discourage you. This is being done just to break your determination. It is very important that you remain alert amid all this. Please continue to keep vigil outside strongrooms and counting centres. We are confident that our combined efforts will bear fruit," she was heard saying in the clip, reports NDTV.
The poll of polls, an aggregate of exit polls released just after voting concluded at 6 pm on Sunday, predicted that the NDA would sweep over 300 of the country's 543 parliamentary seats while the Congress and its allies manage around 120. It also showed the BJP making deep inroads in West Bengal, winning 13 of its 42 seats, and making big gains in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh despite surprise losses in last year's assembly elections.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had expressed a similar sentiment on Sunday, hours after the exit polls were released. "I don't trust Exit Poll gossip. The game plan is to manipulate or replace thousands of EVMs through this gossip. I appeal to all opposition parties to be united, strong and bold. We will fight this battle together," she tweeted. The Trinamool chief has long supported unity among diverse political parties to defeat the BJP.
Lalu Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal, which was also shown to be trailing behind the ruling BJP-Janata Dal (United) combine in Bihar by most exit polls, also made light of the post-election predictions. "Exit polls happen. It is a business decision made by news channels to show exit polls that favour the party liked by their target audiences. They don't want people to turn their teleivison sets off in disappointment because then the TRPs (television rating points) will plummet. This is also why they are so excited by the exit polls," it said in a tweet on Sunday evening.
Kathmandu, May 21 (AP/UNB) — A Sherpa mountaineer extended his record for successful climbs of Mount Everest with his 24th ascent of the world's highest peak on Tuesday.
Kami Rita reached the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) peak Tuesday, which was his second time on the summit in a week. He climbed to the top on May 15 then returned to base camp before climbing again this week.
Nepal Department of Tourism official Mira Acharya said Rita reached the summit on Tuesday along with several other climbers taking advantage of favorable weather.
There are 41 teams with a total of 378 climbers permitted to scale Everest during the spring climbing season. An equal number of Nepalese guides are helping them to get to the summit.
Several climbers have already, while dozens are expected to make their attempt this week.
Only a few windows of good weather each May allow climbers the best chance of summiting Everest.
Tuesday's climb brings Rita, 49, closer to his target of 25 ascents of Everest before he retires from high mountain climbing.
Rita's two closest peers have climbed the peak 21 times each, but both of them have retired from mountain climbing.
Rita first scaled Everest in 1994 and has been making the trip nearly every year since.
His father was among the first Sherpa guides employed to help climbers reach the summit, and Rita followed in his footsteps and then some. In addition to his nearly two dozen summits of Everest, Rita has scaled some of the other highest mountains, K-2, Cho-Oyu, Manaslu and Lhotse.
Sherpa tribespeople were mostly yak herders and traders living deep within the Himalayas until Nepal opened its borders in the 1950s. Their stamina and familiarity with the mountains quickly made them sought-after guides and porters.
Jakarta, May 21 (AP/UNB) — Indonesia's President Joko Widodo has been elected for a second term, official results showed Tuesday, in a victory over a would-be strongman who aligned himself with Islamic hardliners.
Official counting was completed just before midnight and the Election Commission announced the formal result early Tuesday. It said Widodo won 55.5% of the vote in the April 17 election to 45.5% for his challenger, ultra-nationalist former general Prabowo Subianto.
Thousands of police and soldiers are on high alert in the capital Jakarta, anticipating protests from supporters of Subianto, who refuses to concede defeat. The Election Commission's headquarters in central Jakarta are barricaded with razor wire and heavily guarded.
Subianto, who also lost to Widodo in 2014, has alleged massive election fraud in the world's third-largest democracy but hasn't provided any credible evidence. Votes are counted publicly and the commission posts the tabulation form from each polling station on its website, allowing for independent verification.The formal result was almost the same as the preliminary "quick count" results drawn from a sample of polling stations on election day.
Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, is an outpost of democracy in a Southeast Asian neighborhood of authoritarian governments and is forecast to be among the world's biggest economies by 2030. A second term for Widodo, the first Indonesian president from outside the Jakarta elite, could further cement the country's two decades of democratization.
Widodo's campaign highlighted his progress in poverty reduction and improving Indonesia's inadequate infrastructure with new ports, toll roads, airports and mass rapid transit. Subianto ran a fear-based campaign, emphasizing what he sees as Indonesia's weakness and the risk of exploitation by foreign powers or disintegration. He aligned himself with hardline Muslim groups and won massive majorities in conservative provinces but was defeated by Widodo in his populous East Java and Central Java strongholds.
Subianto declared himself the winner last month and in a video released after results were announced Tuesday again refused to concede defeat but called on supporters to refrain from violence.
Under Indonesia's election law, Subianto can dispute the results at the Constitutional Court.
He and members of his campaign team have said they will mobilize "people power" for days of street protests rather than appeal to the court because they don't believe it will provide justice.
"We reject the results of the presidential election," said Azis Subekti, one of the witnesses for Subianto at the official declaration of results. "This refusal is a moral responsibility for us to not give up the fight against injustice, fraud, arbitrariness, lies, and any actions that will harm democracy."
Police this month have arrested 31 Islamic militants they say planned to set off bombs during expected street protests against the election result.
The Election Commission said Widodo won in 21 of 34 provinces and got 85.6 million votes compared with about 68.5 million for Subianto.
Beijing, May 20 (AP/UNB) — At least three people were killed and four others buried in the collapse of a building in southern China on Monday, authorities said.
Framework surrounding a bar in the city of Baise in Guangxi province gave way at around 1 a.m., trapping or injuring almost 100 people.
The local government said in a statement on its microblog that 87 people were injured. Rescuers were using search dogs and electronic monitors to try to find other survivors.
The bar was located on the top of a three-story, steel-framed building.
China has recently suffered a spate of building collapses and other industrial accidents largely blamed on the skirting of safety requirements amid a slowing economy.
On Thursday, a building being refurbished collapsed in Shanghai, and in March, 78 people were killed in a blast at a chemical plant in the country's east.
In November, at least 22 were killed in an explosion outside a chemical plant in the northeastern city of Zhangjiakou, which will host competitions in the 2022 Winter Olympics.