Courtesy: Hindu Post
When I saw the video of a Kashmir man tied to the bonnet of an army jeep in Kashmir, as a measure to safeguard an army convoy from stone pelters, I had mixed feelings. For one, I did not know the full facts of the situation: who was this man, why did the army resort to this highly unconventional tactic, did the ends justify the means in this case, was there an immediate threat to our armymen, and so on.
Like many others in Bharat, I was unsure what to make of this.
The next day, newspapers reported extensively on the man in the video. His name is Farooq Ahmed Dar, a tailor by profession. He was supposed to have voted that day, the 13th of April (among the very few 2% of Kashmiris who voted in that particular poll), and then gone to attend a funeral in a nearby village on his bike when he was stopped (apparently without reason) by an army patrol. He then claims that he was beaten severely, and tied to the bonnet of the army jeep, in spite of his vehement appeals that he was just an innocent man, not a stone pelter. The claim that he actually voted makes a big difference, since voter turnout being very low was seen as a “rejection of Bharat’s democracy”; in contrast, this man had actually embraced Bharatiya democracy by voting. It seemed particularly unfair and cruel to have picked this man up, at random, beaten him, and then tied him to an army jeep.
The above narrative—of a totally innocent, pro-Bharat Kashmiri man being ruthlessly treated by Bharat’s army—is both (a) completely in line with the Pakistani narrative on Kashmir and (b) bread and butter for Bharat’s ‘human rights’ brigade. As expected, both these parties made a lot of noise about this incident on various forums, including international ones.
The army, on the other hand, claims that Farooq was a stone pelter.
What was the truth of this matter?
The Indian Army faces a very difficult situation in Kashmir. They are not naive: they know full well that a large section of the local populace is against them. They are trained to also try and win hearts and minds of the people. They are aware that at all times, they are targets of a highly sophisticated propaganda machinery with its brain in Pakistan, and many many agents in the Kashmir valley. So why, I asked, would they pick up an innocent man, especially one who had voted, and beat him up? The army was being pelted by stones day in and day out in 4 districts of South Kashmir. Why pick up an innocent man when they were surrounded by stone pelters? Would it not be much easier to simply chase down the nearest stone pelter, and use him as a shield?
So I decided to look deeper at each of Farooq Ahmed Dar’s claims.
A Closer Look at Farooq Ahmed Dar’s Claims
Below, I give all the claims that emanated from Farooq Ahmed Dar in the days immediately following the incident. In each case, the source is provided so that the reader may cross-verify all my quotes.
Claim 1: Farooq Ahmed Dar voted on April 13th
This claim is very central to painting the picture of Farooq Ahmed Dar as a particularly wronged Kashmir man. He makes his claim in all his interviews. Here is one:
“After voting I had a tea with my mother and left for neighboring village for condolence meeting.”
“I even showed ink mark of the voting but they [meaning, the Indian army] didn’t listen.”
Let us examine this issue. We see in this report that the reporter who met Farooq Dar says that, “Interestingly, no voter ink seems visible on any of his fingers.”
Note, the voter ink is regarded “indelible”. It does not wash off easily. This is certainly suspicious. Why is there no voter ink on Farooq Dar’s fingers visible 2 days (April 15) after he claims he voted?
Claim 2: Farooq Ahmed Dar was beaten very badly by the Indian Army
Farooq makes the claim repeatedly that he was beaten with gun butts and wooden sticks (at times he calls them batons). For instance, here:
“They damaged my bike, thrashed me severely with gun butts and wooden sticks and in an almost unconscious state tied me to the front of the jeep and paraded me through 10 to 20 villages.”
Indeed, he claims he was almost at the point of death:
In a state of shock, Dar, with his left forearm bandaged, said he believed that fact that he was still alive is a “miracle”. “At one point I had given up the hope of returning home alive… I thought all my bones have been broken as my entire body was in pain due to ruthless beating.”
In another interview, he says he was beaten, and then pushed into a stream:
“They thrashed me for 20 minutes,” Dar said, adding that after the beating, they attempted to push him into a stream. “My leg was immersed in the water but I managed to push myself back and got back up.”
Now, someone who has been beaten for 20 minutes with gun butts and sticks will have bruise marks all over his body. Does Dar show any bruise marks in the day after this claimed savage beating? Let us examine the evidence:
Face: Fig. 1 – No sign of bruising or beating on face (see also Fig. 2)
Chest: Fig. 2 – No sign of bruising on upper chest whatsoever. Face also clearly seen to be clear, without any sign of beating.
Hand: Fig. 3 – No bruising anywhere, except a bandage on one wrist. That bandage is the ONLY sign of any violence that we have seen on Dar, and it is not a cast (for a fracture or any bone damage) but a cloth bandage.
Feet: Fig. 4 – This picture shows Dar’s feet uncovered. Again there is no sign of any bruising whatsoever.
Claim 3: Dar was in great pain during the trip on the jeep
“When I was tied in front of the army jeep, it hurt a lot,” Dar told me. “My hands were tied behind my back throughout the journey,” he continued. “I thought I will die, such was the pain I was going through.”
Fig. 5: Note that Dar does not wince, writhe, frown, etc. A man in such pain that he thinks he will die seems to have a rather straight face. Put another way—on seeing this picture, would you believe this man is in such pain that he thinks he is going to die? See also Fig. 6 that his neck is straight: most of the time, if one is in lot of discomfort, one hunches their neck forward—the strength goes out of the neck.
Claim 4: Dar’s hands were tied behind his back during the jeep ride
To repeat his claim here “My hands were tied behind my back throughout the journey,”
Fig. 6: One can see from the side view of his jeep ride that his hands were actually NOT tied behind his back at all, but in a relatively comfortable position around his hips.
Conclusions based upon the evidence
The evidence above allows us to make some conclusions:
- Dar is clearly incorrect in saying his hands were tied behind his back
- Dar shows no bruising on his face, on his neck, on his top chest, and on his feet. If there was bruising elsewhere, why would he not show it to cameras, or even make reference to it? That casts doubt on the “severely beaten, almost to death” claim
- Dar does not appear to be in physical pain during his jeep ride—there is no writhing, no wincing etc. that a person in that sort of pain would exhibit
- The only reporter that spoke of his voting ink said that it was conspicuous by its absence.
I leave the readers to make the final conclusion on whether Dar is telling the truth or not. My guess, based on the evidence above, is that he is not. Instead it appears to be a doctored claim, calculated to cause the greatest damage to the reputation of the Indian Army.
PS: In a recent sting conducted by Republic TV, Laskar-e-Toiba operatives in the Valley receive Rs. 10,000 to “inflate claims” such as “if one person has died, say 5 have died” in order to put political pressure on the Bharatiya state and its army. I don’t know what is the situation with Farooq Ahmed Dar, but the reader should note that such inflations are done systematically by forces inimical to Bharat.