‘We will not protest this year’ — A 2007 report from Kunanposhpura

April 6, 2016

[More than 25 years have elapsed since the Kunan Poshpora mass rapes in Kashmir. Like many other victims of state violence, justice eludes the survivors. Such casual condoning of sexual violence in conflict regions — be it in Kashmir, North East or Chhattisgarh — stands in stark contrast to the public clamor for capital punishment for rape, and aptly illustrate how notions of “national security” and “patriotism” have successfully trumped any idea of justice. “There can be no peace without justice”, and it is in this spirit that we publish below an unedited version of a 2007 report by journalist Dilnaz Boga. We also append the published version of the report, along with a response from the Army to an RTI query, and leave it to the reader to draw the necessary inferences. — Ed]

By Dilnaz Boga

Kunanposhpura (Kupwara), February 23 2007

‘We will not protest this year’

As some youngsters indulge in a day of stone-throwing in Downtown, Srinagar, to oppose the Al-Aqsa mosque excavations, some victims of alleged mass rapes that occurred on February 23, 1991, by the army in Kupwara, vow to stay silent

42-year-old Zainab Hassan looks away as she pauses to recall the day hell descended on her tiny hamlet, which lay in the lap of picturesque mountains in Kupwara district of Kashmir. One would expect to see a tear-stained face trace the moments of helpless despair and terror, but here in Kunanposhpora, tears went dry, over a decade-and-a-half ago.

Zainab and her mother-in-law were allegedly raped by Indian Army personnel in the dead of the night on February 23, 1991, along with other women of the village. She recalled, “It was just the two of us at home. The men folk were asked to step out of the homes as a search operation was in progress at 11 pm. I remember there was 7 feet of snow outside.”

But this was a search operation like no other. Zainab’s mother-in-law Zahira added, “Approximately 1,200 army men came to the village, looking for militants at 11 pm, then another unit joined them at 3 pm. They stayed till 9 am the following morning. Some of them entered our homes, breaking everything. There was no electricity so we couldn’t see their faces very well. They were in an inebriated condition and continued to drink from big bottles.

But the worse was yet to come as the two men pleaded with the men in olive to leave. Little did they know that three temporary “interrogation centres” were being setup by the forces outside. Later in the night, the en of the village would be dipped into barrels of water there in the open in the thick of winter. They would be left there till 7 am the next day.

At Zainab’s house, the ordeal was about to begin. Stoically, she said, “The army men were drunk; they beat us, tore our clothes and had their way with us.” Raising her voice, she admits, “To this day, we are taking medicines for aliments that started after that night.”

Out of the total of 36 women between the age group of 25 to 30, 23 were raped, while the others were molested, the village elders alleged. Doctors visited the village the day after the incident, and filed reports that supported the village’s allegations, but the certificates went missing shortly, said the elders. To make matters worse, administration officials who had taken up the fight for justice on behalf of the villages were soon transferred too.

A FIR was registered at Trehgam Police Station on March 7, 1991 (No: R-1/ 1387 – 88). Shabbir Meer, an angry local, said, “After the incident several officials from the state and the government officials, politicians, NGOs and journalists, both local and foreign visited us, took our statements, photographed us, filmed us. Some of the victims’ pictures were splashed in newspapers. Every one made money out of this incident. No one would marry our women. Rape is a stigma here. When our children who had finished primary school started going to the neighboring village for higher studies, they would be taunted by the locals who would say they were born out of rape. People from other villages refused to marry our women. Later, the elders of the village convinced our local boys to marry them. Now all of the women are married.”

Mufti Shah, a village elder who was tortured, said, “Politicians promised us justice. So far, nothing has happened. This case came up for hearing in the state Assembly in 2002, but no action was taken against the perpetrators. In fact, the case never even went to trail. Everybody let us down.”

Shazia Begam, another victim alleged, “All the top politicians turned up here – Syyed Ali Shah Geelani, Shabir Ahmed Shah, Yasin Malik, Abdul Gani Lone – all promising us justice. The Hurriyat even paid Rs 100 to each victim of rape. Others filmed our testimonies, and many months later we were told by militants who would pass through the village that our film was shown to them in Pakistan as war propaganda. They are all selling our misery to fuel bloodshed.”

A three-member committee was appointed by the government, headed by the chairman of the Press Council of India. Two months later Chairman B.G. Verghese filed his report, exonerating the Army and calling the incident a “hoax”. The matter was thus put to rest.

The common sentiment here is one of resignation and anger; Resignation by the women and anger by the men.

An old man from the crowd that had gathered outside the victim’s home, shouted, “People who have lost heir loved ones in the conflict are being compensated by the government. What about these women who die every day? We request people not to give money to any one in the name of this incident as were are no getting any please take all the money back you have given in our name as none of it has reached us. Please stop selling our suffering.”

Years have rolled past but justice is still not in sight. Expectations are non-existent. Still an angry voice asked me, “What can you do? What will you do for us?” I stay quiet, until another voice shouted, “We will not protest this year. We don’t want to talk about this any more. We want to be left alone. Our women have repeated their testimony many times. To ask them these questions again and again is insulting.” It was an old man, seething with rage.

Sixteen years later, 300 households in this village of 2,000, have decided not to protest this ghastly incident even as 200 youth took to the streets in Downtown, Srinagar, to violently oppose the excavations near Al-Aqsa mosque, which is a million miles away from the Valley.

(All the names have been changed to protect the victims’ identity.)

dilnaz_ht

 

From: Sudhir Sakhuja <proarmy@rediffmail.com>
Date: 22 February 2007 at 12:40
Subject: RESPONSE TO QUERY

Tele      : 2301 9659                                   Date of Public Relations       33051 (Ascon)                              Min of Defence
Fax     : 2301 9657                                   91 South Block
DHQ Post Office
New Delhi – 110011

7111/5/MQ/PR (Army)                                   Feb 07

Ms. Dilnaz.K. Boga

RESPONSE TO QUERY

1.     Please ref to your email dt 20 Feb 2007 regarding Kunan Poshpura incident

2.   All documents in the Army are retained for a specific period and thereafter destroyed, based on service regulations. Accordingly documents pertaining to the incident mentioned have since been destroyed, being 16 years old.

3.     In this connection your attention is ,however, drawn to the book ‘Crisis and Credibility’, report published by Press Council of India – Jan & Jul 1991 (pages 113 to 130, relevant extracts enclosed), wherein a detailed account of the investigations carried out by the team detailed by Press Council of India, into the Kunan Poshpura incident is given. The report states, inter alia’ after going through the matter as carefully as possible, the committee finds that the evidence offered, whether directly to us or through earlier news accounts, simply does not add up. It is riddled with contradictions of the most elementary kind. We concur with the Divisional Commissioner’s findings that the incident has at best been grossly exaggerated. Indeed, we should go further. In the absence of any credible evidence it would appear to be an invention, a hurriedly contrived piece of dissimulation which finally broke down under the weight of its own contradictions. The Committee’s own visit to Kunan Poshpora and its meeting with the dramatis personae gives the lie to the cassette which provides conclusive evidence that the video recording was a carefully rehearsed piece of disinformation that was made and marketed to arouse anger and hatred among viewers unacquainted with the facts, intensify alienation and win external sympathy’. It further concludes that ‘the Kunan rape story stands totally unproven and completely untrue, a dirty trick to frame the Army and get it to layoff Kunan Poshpora -which is precisely what it has done’.

4.     From the above it is clear that the entire incident was stage managed to malign the Indian Army and rekindling this incident after 16 years would tantamount to doing the same.

(Vijay Joshi)
Offg PRO (Army)

No Comments »

Leave a comment