After torment, Pulwama youth seeks ‘insaaf’

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By Zubair Ali

As he lay stock-still on a bed in Srinagar’s SMHS hospital with tubes attached to his body, Tawseef A. Wani, 27, voices his ordeal in a terrified state of mind.

His plight has already become the talk of the town and yet another human rights abuse in Kashmir. Even unionist camp have come out rallying for Tawseef, demanding stern action against the erring army major, described as the “serial offender” by a former bureaucrat, now seeking his new identity in electoral politics.

“Insaaf”—justice—is the only demand that Tawseef now seeks, in his bruised state.

He starts detailing his torment from a phone call that, he says, came from 44 Rashtriya Rifles camp in Pulwama’s Shadimarg area.

Summoning him to the camp, the caller informed him that they wanted to have a word with him.

“As I entered the camp and went to see Major Shukla in his room,” Tawseef recalls in his painful plight, “he slapped me twice, before his men pounced on me, tied my hands and starting beating me.”

What followed, Tawseef recalls, was a brutal phase of torture.

“While beating me, they asked for my sister’s photograph and threatened to abduct her,” Tawseef says. “Major Shukla asked me to pose with a gun within two days and upload photograph [on social media akin to new insurgent recruits in Kashmir], or get ready to be killed in an encounter. Then, they stripped me naked, tied me with a tree and beat for half an hour.”

The ruthless beating left him numb and unconscious. His bruised back still bears the imprints of that torment.

“I don’t know how I managed to reach Shadimarg market, where I was given water, before rushed to hospital,” he says. “Then I don’t know how I was shifted here.”

While the army spokesperson says they are still ascertaining the incident, Tawseef’s torture is being seen through the latest development in the slain Indian army rifleman’s case.

On the basis of investigation, the Indian army has detained three Kashmiri RR men, including Tawseef’s brother “for sharing information” about the rifleman Aurangzeb who was abducted and killed after leaving the camp for his home in Poonch in June 2018.

Aurangzeb of 44 Rashtriya Rifles was reportedly a “buddy” of Major Rohit Shukla.

Before his death, a video uploaded on Twitter shows that Aurangzeb is being questioned by gunmen about his closeness with Major Shukla.

Some 45 days before Aurangzeb’s abduction and subsequent killing, Major Shukla was involved in one of the dramatic encounters in Kashmir.

On 30 April 2018, the major was commandeering a joint force to counter A++ category Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Sameer Tiger.

While Tiger was killed in that encounter, Shukla was left injured, with a bullet wound on his right hand.

Notably, a day before his killing, Tiger had threatened the major in a viral video.

Major Shukla is an Indian Army’s decorated officer, who received the Shaurya Chakra, the third highest peacetime military award from the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind at the Defence Investiture Ceremony–I, at a ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi on March 27, 2018.

It’s said that he has commanded more than 40 operations against militants.

Currently posted with the 44 Rashtriya Rifles in Pulwama’s Shadimarg area, Major Shukla is believed to have acted against Tawseef after his brother was detained in his “buddy” Aurungzeb’s case.

But while only an enquiry will reveal the real motive behind the outrageous action, Major Shukla’s conduct has already drawn flak in Kashmir, with Pulwama’s own and PDP youth leader Waheed Para terming it “very unfortunate and unacceptable” incident.

“Instead of becoming messengers of peace, youth are asked to pose with gun or die in an encounter. Wonder! Such a low,” Para tweeted.

Tawseef is pursuing his Masters in Humanities and has reportedly lost his father to the Kashmir conflict.

“I will talk to the Corps Commander regarding the matter,” Mehbooba Mufti said while visiting Tawseef in SMHS hospital. “I am sure Governor Sahib will take note of this matter… his brother is also missing, his whereabouts are not known.”

The least that can happen is that the officer is transferred and an enquiry is ordered into his conduct, Shah Faesal, former DC Pulwama, reacted over the incident: “Many youth from that area have reported to me that the officer [Major Shukla] is a serial offender.”

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