Torture in army custody: ‘The army tried to pull off my nails with a machine used by a mechanic’: Real Tripura

Real Tripura
Victim’s interview 01/ 2014, Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Real Tripura is the office secretary of the Khagrachari Government College branch of the Hill Students’ Council (PCP). He appeared in this year’s HSC examination and is waiting for his result. He got involved with PCP while he was a ninth grade student at Gomati B K High School. On 8 August, Real Tripura was arrested from Guimara bazaar while addressing a rally organized by PCP to demand the release of two minor boys including a school boy arrested on 6 August. He was taken to Sindukchari Zone and tortured very badly. The army released him the next day after PCP called a road blockade for Sunday. After release, he gave an interview with where he narrated his harrowing experience of torture by army. We reproduce his full statement below:

Real Tripura: I have been working with Hill Students Council since I was a ninth grade student. At first I worked in Matiranga. As I got admitted to Khagrachari College, I am now working in Khagrachari.

Got arrested
On 6 August, the army arrested a student of Guimara High School and another minor boy. On 8 August, Tonoy and I from PCP Khagrachari district branch went to Guimara to attend a rally called in protest against their arrest. We began a protest march at 2pm. We went round the bazaar and held a rally in front of the Press Club. After a welcome speech (by another PCP leader), I began to speak. I was just 4-5 minutes into my speech when, all on a sudden, the army attacked us. Two army personnel caught me. I said to them, ‘What are you doing?’ They said, ‘Be quiet, you bastard’. Then they began to beat me. I tried to run away, but they struck me on my head with a stick and I fell on the ground senseless.

They poured water on my head and hauled me on to a vehicle. After some time I opened my eyes. They blindfolded me with the banner of our rally and took me to Sindukchari Zone. While on the vehicle, they beat and kicked me with their boots.

Torture at Sindukchari Zone
I was kept at the veranda of Sindukchari Zone for five minutes and then taken to Captain Ahsanul Islam’s room. There they interrogated me. They asked me questions like ‘what is your name’, ‘where do you live’, ‘why have you come to Guimara’ etcetera. I said, ‘I have come to Guimara to attend a rally. Then they asked me what I had spoken at the rally. I said that I had spoken to demand the release of the two boys. The Captain said, ‘You have staged demonstration against the army.’ I said, ‘It must be against the army, since you people have arrested the two boys. That’s why we have written about the arrest (of the boys) by army on the banner.’

Thereafter, I was handed over to two intelligence agency personnel who began torturing me. They were beating me in such a way, you cannot just imagine. After 10 – 15 minutes, they took me to the room again to interrogate me further. ‘Where is your weapon, where do your leaders live, tell us their name’ they asked. I said, ‘All my leaders live in Khagrachari.’

Then the army took out a laptop and showed me pictures of procession and our leaders. I saw my photo marked with a round sign. Showing me the picture, they asked: ‘Who are they?’ I said, ‘This is me.’ Then they asked where it was taken and what I was doing. I said, ‘You can see all on the banner. So, why do you ask me?’ ‘You talk too much’ they said curtly, and then began beating me again. At that time, they asked the names of many people, including Amal Tripura (He was also marked with a round sign). When they asked me about him, I said I knew him only by face, not by name. After that, they began beating me.

Then they took out a photo of a workshop at Rubber Plantation and asked me whether I knew where it was. I said I did not know. They took my mobile phone set and showed that my profile photo kept on the mobile was similar to the one they had. Then they beat me again. They kept beating me this way till the evening. Later, they made me to sit on a bench at a veranda and threatened me by pointing a gun at me, while telling, ‘We will shoot you, kill you, burn you alive in a hole on the round.’ (They said they had killed 2 – 3 Jummas earlier.) I was scared a bit. But soon I picked up courage and became determined to die.

Then the army men hanged me by the hands tied with a rope and pierced needles (like office pins) into my body. Moreover, they tried to pull off my nails with a machine used by a mechanic and hit my joints with a hammer. They had a big stick (which was made by themselves). They used it to strike me on my hips and shoulders and sometimes even on my head. When I shouted in pain, they inserted this stick into my mouth. While beating, they asked me where I had kept my weapon. As I replied the same answer again and again, they army asked me to bring out my tongue. When I did, they pulled it with a machine, giving me terrible pain. When I shouted in pain, they pressed my face and forced me to open my mouth before inserting the stick into it, while threatening, ‘We will finish you off right away.’

I learnt how to shout slogans, not how to use weapons
There were some soldiers on duty, who also took part in the beating with rifle butts from behind, resulting in great pain on my left shoulder. Because of this, I cannot move my right hand normally.

Then I said to them: ‘Look, I am a student. Many of your sons may be students too. I work with Hill Students Council (PCP). The PCP leaders did not teach me how to use weapons. I have learnt how to speak at rallies, how to organize rallies and how to shout slogans. As I am the Office Secretary, I have learnt how to write press releases. I have not learnt how to use weapons. You can kill me, but I cannot answer that questions. If you force me to say, I will have to tell lies. Since I don’t like to speak lies, I am not ready to tell you lies. So, you can kill me if you wish.’

I am not an extortionist
Then they (army) said, ‘Let’s see how to tell’ and hanged me upside down with my legs bound up and kept spinning my body. At that time my head swirled so badly that I thought death would have been much better. Once I shouted at them: ‘Please, shoot me dead instead of making me suffer like this.’ They also poured water into my face with a bucket.

They even hit my testicles and said, ‘Tell us everything.’ I said, ‘I have nothing to say more.’ Then they said, ‘Where did you keep your weapons? We have information that you extort Taka 400,000 ($5000) a month from Guimara. Where did you keep this money?’ I said, ‘I am neither an extortionist, nor a terrorist. You also know that. You are incriminating me unnecessarily. You can kill me if you wish, but I cannot tell a lie.’

They kept me torturing till about 2:30pm, with alternately hanging me by my hands and hanging me upside down. When I repeatedly refused to confess to anything, then they closeted with the Sindukchari zone commander. After that, I was pulled down from hanging, but I felt my head spinning and fell on the ground. They took me to the zone commander’s room.

Zone commander’s backhanded comments and enticement
The zone commander politely asked me to sit down. When he wanted to know how I was doing, I said, ‘Uncle, you can see how my situation is.’ Then he said, ‘You are fine, are not you?’ I replied, ‘You are the people who are not letting me stay well. Aren’t you making fun of me?’

Thereafter, he said in a soft voice, ‘My boy, what is this you are you doing? This is not going to be good for your future. Your future is dark. Be good.’ Before the conversation, he however asked about my identity.

He went on to say, ‘You are an educated boy. I will give you money, get you admitted to a university. If not university, I will get you admitted for an honours course. I will take care of your study.’ Then he got one of his men to bring in a wad of banknotes and pointing his fingers at them he said, ‘I will give you money. You stay with us and don’t go there again.’

At that time a Captain beside him chimed in, saying, ‘Sir, we will not kill him ourselves. We will get Santu Larma’s JSS to kill him.’ I got scared a bit. I was thinking he really might have meant what he said.

Half an hour later, they took me from there for supper. I said I would not eat. Nevertheless, they gave me rice with two pieces of cooked Ruhi fish. But I had difficulty eating as I was not used to eating rice made from boiled paddy. Nonetheless, I forced myself to take some and then took some rest. They gave me water. After that, they blindfolded me and took me inside their community centre on the southern side. There they bound me hand and foot and made me to stand alone on the veranda from about 3am to 6am. The whole of my body ached so much that I did not even feel the bites of the mosquitoes.

‘Bro, please switch over to a news channel’
At 6 in the morning, a soldier came and untied me. He took me to a canteen nearby and helped me sit on a chair. My head was spinning and I was not feeling like speaking. But they kept on asking me questions. Another soldier came and said to others, ‘Don’t disturb him again.’ They let me watch TV there. I saw they did not watch news channels and spent their times watching only Bangla films. I said, ‘Bro, please switch over to a news channel,’ and they did. At 7am, they gave me two Parota[1] and Dal[2] for breakfast. Then they gave me water to drink and a paracetamol tablet. Half an hour later, they began interrogating me again. They asked me the same questions again and again (Where is my weapons etc). I also give the same answers. Then they took me under a mango tree and began beating me again. They took a break for 2 – 3 minutes between interrogations. This continued till about 11am.

They were so afraid
The zone commander said to me, ‘My boy, nothing will happen to you. We will not put you to jail. I want you to cooperate with us just once.’ I said, ‘What kind of cooperation?’ Then he smiled and said, ‘You held a workshop on the second day of last month. You have to show us the place where it was held.’ I said, ‘It is in an inaccessible area’ He said, ‘even if it is inaccessible, my men will go.’

It was 1pm. A vehicle arrived and they boarded me on it. A Captain said, ‘Nothing will happen to you. You can be assured of it. We will file a GD (General Diary) and let you go. But you must give me tip offs and I will send you money.’

The soldiers on the vehicle were all new faces. None of those who tortured me was there. These new faces sought to intimidate me.

I forgot to say one thing – while torturing me, the soldiers would say dirty things about Jumma women, which was unbearable. They would say, ‘if I could get one of them, then I would let her understand …’ I protested at this, saying, ‘you are the defenders of the country. Why do you talk like this?’ When I said this, they beat me even more.

Anyway, they boarded me on the vehicle and took me to Matiranga Zone, before halting for 5 – 10 minutes at Guimara Region. One vehicle load of soldiers joined us at Matiranga Zone. Then we went to where the workshop was held. But I think many of the soldiers were afraid to go there. No one was willing to be the first to go. Ultimately, when we reached there, they took pictures and video of the place. Then they took me to Matiranga Zone.

GD at police station and release
A vehicle came from Guimarma Region to take me to Guimara police station. Hapchari Union Chairman Ushey Pru Marma arrived there, and when they finished writing the GD, they asked the chairman and me to put our signatures on it and then let me go.

Chairman Ushey Pru Marma escorted me to Khagrachari on his motorbike. When I reached Khagrachari, I saw my comrades were waiting for me. As soon as I got there, they rent the air with slogans and began a march.

Now my whole body aches and my head spins. I have also difficulty sitting down and standing up. [End]

[1] Kind of thin bread fried in oil or butter.

[2] Lentils


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