Torture, Insect Style

The other day SI readers boopalanj and guruprasad brought up the issue of different types of torture including the Chinese and Medieval flavors.

We were reminded of it today as we were reading an article in the Sunday edition of our favorite newspaper, the New York Times.

On P.12 of the print edition of the Week in Review section, the Times has an interesting story on the use of insects as a torture mechanism. We present below an excerpt from the piece:

The ancient Persians developed a gruesome practice called scaphism, which involved force-feeding a person milk and honey, lashing him to a boat or hollow tree trunk, and then allowing flies to infest the victim’s anus and increasingly gangrenous flesh. Siberian tribes simply tied a naked prisoner to a tree and allowed mosquitoes and other biting flies to deliver as many as 9,000 bites per minute — a rate sufficient to drain a person’s blood by half in about two hours. And the stories of Apaches staking captives on anthills to ensure lingering and painful deaths are not merely the stuff of Hollywood westerns.

The epitome of insectan torture was developed by a 19th-century emir of Bukhara, in present-day Uzbekistan. He threw political enemies into a bug pit, a deep hole covered with an iron grille and stocked with sheep ticks and assassin bugs. The bite of the latter has been compared to being pierced with a hot needle, and the injected saliva digested the victims’ tissues until, in the words of the emir’s jailer, “masses of their flesh had been gnawed off their bones.”

Here’s the context of the story for the benefit of those who think keeping up with current affairs is a mortal sin. Apparently, one of the forms of torture considered by the CIA was the use of insects (harmless, or so the spooks claim) on Al Qaeda prisoners like Abu Zubaydah to loosen their tongues.

Forget the notorious Indian prisons, we bet even a small police thana in India will rival the Chinese, Medieval and ancient Persians in devising novel and unheard of techniques of torturing those unfortunate enough to be in their custody.

4 Responses to "Torture, Insect Style"

  1. boopalanj   April 20, 2009 at 5:03 am

    Quite agreed with the last paragraph..!

    A Special Task Force was formed to catch Bandit Veerapan, before he was encountered (/died naturally). STF’s atrocities with the tribals [especially women] in the name of interrogation, if heard, will get the balls rolling in the stomach..!

    Later a commission was set up to investigate about this matter and I read that one of the girl to have told in front of the judge – ‘If Lathis had the ability to eject semen, I would have got conceived 27 times..!’ For men, the testicles will hold the clip like electrodes of a car battery..

    Was quite uncomfortable to read it.. Responds:

    Disgusting. BTW, what was the name of the commission?

    We’ve seen those forest areas where Veerappan was holed up. Very isolated areas. People can get away with anything in those parts.

  2. boopalanj   April 20, 2009 at 5:05 am

    And.. Thanks for the mention..!

  3. Aswin_Kini   April 20, 2009 at 5:56 am

    Hi, this was an interesting post, but could you please avoid Maiming India at the slightest opportunity you get.

    Have you any idea how the Americans or the CHinese JAilers treat their prisoners. How many videos have been released on the net displaying American/Chinese soldiers inflicting almost every form of gruesome torture on their inmates for no reason. Buddy, you need to learn facts. IN India, jailmates do get tortured, but the percentage is low compared to the US and CHina. “we bet even a small police thana in India will rival the Chinese, Medieval and ancient Persians in devising novel and unheard of techniques of torturing those unfortunate enough to be in their custody.” This is an extremely biased statement. Responds:

    Come on, face the reality.

    In India, there’s no penalty even if the cops get caught in torturing those in their custody. But in the U.S. there’s usually a price to be paid by the cops if they are caught torturing those in their custody. Remember the Abner Louima case in NYC? The NYPD cops who shoved their batons up Abner Louima’s bottom are in jail.

    Every Indian kid knows that encounters (extra-judicial killings by the police) are nothing but cold-blooded murders. Yet encounters take place every day in some nook of India and no cop is punished or hauled up before the courts.

    Police brutality uncovered in India so far is nothing but the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

    You might want to read the comments of others to this post. Pl see comment of boopalanj (above).

  4. boopalanj   April 20, 2009 at 9:59 am

    You may look into these links for more information:

    Tehelka site:


    National Human Rights commission website: Responds:

    Interesting links. Thanks.

    We recommend that people who believe there’s a ‘Ram Rajya’ in India or that there’s no torture in India at the hands of the police read these stories.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login