24 September, 2014 / Ziqa'ad 28, 1435
One of the alleged rape victims, at the news conference. — Photos by author.
One of the alleged rape victims, at the news conference. — Photos by author.
Prominent human rights defender Advocate Parvez Imroz and one of the Kunan Poshpora villagers at the news conference. — Photos by author.
Prominent human rights defender Advocate Parvez Imroz and one of the Kunan Poshpora villagers at the news conference. — Photos by author.

Justice has eluded, for 22 long years and four months, the victims of the alleged mass rape by Indian army men in Kunan Poshpora village in Indian-administered Kashmir, in February, 1991. And they say they are still waiting for justice. They say they will fight. They will not forget. They will not forgive.

“When someone is martyred here in Kashmir, his father and mother feels proud of the sacrifice and martyrdom. Not only the parents but everyone feels proud. The family is given respect. The Indian army snatched our honour by molesting us. We were attacked for the same reason they martyr the Kashmiri youth. But see the irony, we, the 40 women from Kunan Poshpora, were gang raped by the Indian army men on 23-24 February, 1991 feel stigmatised. Our's was also a sacrifice. No one feels proud of us,” said Zara*, one alleged rape victim, during the first-ever press conference of this kind organised by the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) in Srinagar last week.

People from all walks of life attended the press conference ‘Kunan Poshpora Mass Rape And Torture: Case Re-opening And The Future Strategy For Justice” in a local hotel in Srinagar. There were emotional scenes inside the jam-packed hall. People gave a standing ovation to the women to express their solidarity.

After 22 years, the alleged victims had come all the way from Kunan Poshpora in North Kashmir’s frontier district Kupwara— some 60 miles from Srinagar— to meet and interact with journalists, members of civil society, and human rights defenders. This became possible only after a local court recently ordered a time bound re-investigation into the case of alleged mass rape.

A court order dated June 18, 2013 makes a reference to a letter quoting the written complaint lodged by the inhabitants of Kunan Poshpora village, stating that “during the intervening night of 23-24 February, 1991 the Indian army (Battalion of 4th Rajputana Rifle 63 Brigade) cordoned the village at 2300 Hours IST and intruded forcibly into the residential houses, took men into their custody, locked them inside two houses, continued interrogation and a few army male members made a forcible entry into the houses and on gun point committed gang rape upon 23 women indiscriminately, whether old, married, virgin or pregnant.” This horrible crime continued allegedly until the morning of 24 February.

The JKCCS had demanded that the re-investigation be done by the Special Investigation Team (SIT), headed by an officer of Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) rank. However, the court while mentioning the lack of authority in ordering SIT, asked further investigation to be conducted by an officer not below the rank of SSP and within a time bound period of 3 months.

Representatives of the Support Group for justice for Kunan Poshpora in a press release described the order of judicial magistrate, Kupwara for further investigation as an “achievement”.

“For 22 years, the villagers of Kunan Poshpora have lived with injustice. For 22 years, civil society and human rights activists, journalists, lawyers, social workers, and Indians, came, heard their story, clicked their pictures, and left,” their press release said.

For over two decades now, the women have had to explain their pain and agony to many investigators, fact-finding teams, police and journalists from Indian-administered Kashmir, India and abroad. They have revived their old battle with new spirit.

The women spoke about their ordeal with mixed emotions – some with tearful eyes, others with a sense of hope that someday “justice will be done”.

“We are not here to seek any monetary compensation; we are demanding justice and want the perpetrators to be punished for their crimes,” said Hadia*. Villagers and eyewitnesses (the women themselves themselves) say the number of women who were gang raped in Kunan Poshpora in 1991 was 40.

Zehra* gave a horrific account that among the possible 40 victims of mass rape, at least 18 women had their uterus removed through surgery. At least five have died since. “Help us seek justice. India should leave Kashmir.”

She added: “The Indian Army might have gang raped us two decades ago, but it is India which stands naked before the world even today. Our fight is on till justice is done.”

The Kunan Poshpora case was dead and buried. But on June 18, 2013 the judicial magistrate Kupwara, Mr. J A Geelani, dismissed the conclusions made by the police in the recently filed closure report in the case. He returned the case file to the police, asking for “further investigation to unravel the identity of those who happen to be the perpetrators.”

Case history

Soon after the complaints filed by the villagers of Kunan Poshpora in 1991, the authorities appointed Boobli George Verghese — a senior Indian journalist who is now associated with a New Delhi-based think tank Centre for Policy Research — as head of the Press Council of India team which was assigned with the task of undiscovering the truth. The B G Verghese-led investigation team gave a clean chit to the Indian army. His report became hugely controversial and raised many eyebrows.

Kashmir civil society members accuse Verghese of a cover up and demand that such individuals be declared persona non grata and socially boycotted in Kashmir until they are criminally prosecuted and handed out appropriate punishments.

Dr. Altaf Hussain, a noted pediatrician, civil society activist and member of the JKCCS fact finding mission, told Dawn.com that Mr. Verghese had not even gone beyond Baramullah town, where he sat inside the Indian army headquarters and wrote his report. “Mr. B G Verghese closed his eyes to the facts. Forget Kunan Poshpora, he does not even know where Kupwara is on the Kashmir map. He prepared a fabricated report and gave a clean chit to the perpetrators.”

Dr. Hussain also said that it was the moral duty of civil society to extend all possible support and help to the women from Kunan Poshpora . “They (rape survivors) have no reasons to feel stigmatised. They should not feel isolated. The perpetrators should feel ashamed. The victims are asserting their right to dignity, self-respect and honour.”

Ali Muhammad, a resident of Kunan Poshpora who accompanied the women, told the audience that they are fighting because they don’t want women and girls in other parts of Kashmir to meet the same fate. “We are not alone in this battle. Both men and women are fighting for justice. We want the Indian Army men accused of rape to be punished severely.” He also said that some victims had accepted government compensation worth INR 100,000 to get their cases registered. “Why would they be offering compensation if nothing had happened?”

Khurram Parvez, the programme coordinator JKCCS, assured the women that they were not alone in their battle for justice. “This is our collective fight. Together we will fight till justice is delivered.”

Prominent human rights defender Advocate Parvez Imroz had filed a protest petition on behalf of the survivors of the Kunan Poshpora alleged gang rape against the closure report of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, before the judicial magistrate, Kupwara. The petition, dated 10 June 2013, argued that the police investigations were incomplete and male fide as despite having the information on file regarding the alleged involvement of 125 personnel of the 4th Rajputana Rifles, the police had not questioned them and an identification parade was not conducted. The chief prosecuting officer had filed some strange objections, but the judicial magistrate acknowledged the submissions made by Mr. Imroz.

The court judgment ordering further investigations into the case also mentions that “Until date the investigating agency has not unveiled the identity of the culprits despite having a clear cut nominal role of 125 suspects”.

The state through its chief prosecuting officer had made some interesting arguments before the magistrate. It had argued that there was no right to file a protest petition. It surprised legal experts with the argument that the protest petition was being filed to allow other victims to get monetary compensation, and that the victims appeared to have woken up after a long gap of 22 years.

It still remains to be seen whether after 22 years, the truth will be uncovered.

*Names changed to protect the identity of the alleged rape victims.

Gowhar Geelani is a writer/journalist, who has served as Editor at Deutsche Welle (Voice of Germany) in Bonn, Germany. Previously, he has contributed features for the BBC. Feedback at (gowhargeelani@gmail.com).


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Comments (33) (Closed)


Sunil Sinha
Jun 27, 2013 07:11pm

The entire story is fishy and made up. As if the militants be in Kashmir, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, they are good in all walks of life, and the rest Indian Army, NATO, US army are evil. There is no dearth truth in the story.

Mustafa
Jun 27, 2013 09:16pm

World's largest democracy!!. The Indian Army personnel are immune to law according to the law itself. Wiki AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act).

Zimbo_Indian
Jun 27, 2013 09:35pm

Having spent my life serving in the armed forces, I find it extremely difficult to believe that such an incident could have occurred. Because the Indian Army is an extremely disciplined force with its officers coming from educated urban background. If, against all possibilities, it did happen then it is extremely unlikely that it could have remained hidden for so long. Because Human Rights activists and media and judiciary in India are too active to allow such acts go unnoticed. However, one has heard cases of soldiers going berserk as in Vietnam, Iraq, East Pakistan, etc and committing massive human rights violations. Even trying to shield such soldiers is nothing but a crime against humanity.

Truth
Jun 27, 2013 10:26pm

where are those pti fans who wouldnt comment on this horrific incident just because they love indian movies and celebrities.

John
Jun 27, 2013 11:00pm

Rapist should be punished strictly... whoever he is !!

Muhammad Faysal
Jun 27, 2013 11:23pm

These are all parts of a illegitimate occupation thrusted on the people of Kashmir. And nobody in the world gives a two hoots about it. Where's the humanity?

jeet
Jun 27, 2013 11:56pm

The same battalion is also involved in the rescue operations at Uttarakhand and also in the flash floods which hit Ladakh in the past.If any severe calamity/flood etc. hits Kashmir the same soldiers will again be involved.Chances are there might be miscreants among the soldiers but not on the scale that have been mentioned.And similiar charges have been leveled against the Pakistan army by the people in Bangladesh also.

Rahul
Jun 28, 2013 12:20am

How come this be headline news in Dawn.I don't deny injustice but if that is the case then please make the injustice done in AP,Bihar,Maharastra etc also ur headline.And if u cannot then please stop propagating fake love for kasmiris .

Vipin
Jun 28, 2013 12:43am

Fake story

Rocky
Jun 28, 2013 02:35am

It is very gutsy of the rape victims to come forward and present a united front. They should make sure that the justice is deli reed even though it s so late. If people stand united in peaceful protests and persist, they are bound to prevail. Gandhi showed the effectiveness of this Satyagrah. However, taking up guns and killing innocent people as various jihadi outfits have done leads to a cycle of perpetual violence and misery.

sfdr_ali@yahoo.com
Jun 28, 2013 04:38am

it is disgusting,culturally stigma,it suppose to be capital punishment and why so long because army , they are Taliban.I cannot take.Justice should be done in time frame,you can linger on but you cannot hide and close your eyes! This can be done both ways 1,army court and 2, civil court.

Riaz
Jun 28, 2013 04:46am

Shame on Indian Army for not providing justice to the rape victims. Kudos to the victims for continuing to fight for justice. Justice may prevail.

Rahmat
Jun 28, 2013 05:19am

Rape is most cruel and violent crime. Those found guilty beyond reasonable doubt must be punished without any leniency. Having said that, I must caution against any conclusions, because in my Kashmir anything is possible. Witnesses are often bribed and tutored to lie with impunity. Those claiming their uteruses were removed must undergo ultrasonography to verify the claims. If that test falls through entire case will crumble. Government of India must provide complete and total cooperation, and punish the troops if indeed it is proven they committed this most heinous crime and brutality.

Ram Hariharan
Jun 28, 2013 06:03am

Writer made up his mind with the title - "Survivors of alleged rape". There would not be any survivors if the rape is "alleged". Journalistic ethics 101 - unbiased reporting, no emotions, factual information please. Having said that, my sympathies go to these women. If a rape is committed, medical report is crucial information for the investigation. Internal and external injuries tell the tale very clearly. Presence of Rajputana rifles in the village can be proven very easily by verifying communication logs, vehicle GPS logs. Did they commit rape? This would be very hard to prove after 20+ years. What were TV channels, news reporters, human rights organizations doing in 1991? Witness testimony in ths case is heresay at best - "He said. She said." No concrete proof of rape. These women have better chance of success in a military court compared to local courts. Military runs on honor. Any scent of bad conduct gets the soldiers a court martial and dishonorable discharge from service.

javed
Jun 28, 2013 07:57am

what a waste and fake article those article make brain wash to pakistan young peoples and they become terorist

GhostRider
Jun 28, 2013 08:56am

Why pin drop silence from idle indian brigade who come here to bash Pakistan. What happened to see no evil, do no evil and speak no evil????

Vishnuprasanth V
Jun 28, 2013 09:14am

Does this incident deserve this much attention, to become a "Featured News" in a reputed News paper?. I often witness Dawn.com post defaming incidents happening in India, with some enthusiasm. Is this your propaganda to tell How Kashmir is suffering under India's rule?. You may as well remember your readership has more Indians than Pakistanis. I appreciate you report always True facts. But I request you not to be selective when you do it.

Syeda Jafri
Jun 28, 2013 09:54am

What a shame that men as strong as army personnels, show their bravery by raping weak women & then justice is delayed for so long. Justice delayed is justice denied. Our prayers for all these victims.

Q M Bhat
Jun 28, 2013 11:25am

My heart cries for you MY KASHMIR. Knowing whole truth, still we are being forced to write "alleged rape victims". I feel ashamed and pity on this system where people every now and then claim "satyameve jayate". God Bless Kashmir.

Bina
Jun 28, 2013 11:53am

Too dazed to read this all...its height of injustice.. I know still same brutality is facing by Kashmiries but here no one is bother to take any step.. its heartrending..

Bina
Jun 28, 2013 11:54am

Too dazed to read this all...its height of injustice.. I know still same brutality is facing by Kashmiries but here no one is bother to take any step.. its heartrending..

Bina
Jun 28, 2013 12:00pm

Too dazed to read this all...its height of injustice.. I know still same brutality is facing by Kashmiries but here no one is bother to take any step.. its heartrending..

Rashid Sultan
Jun 28, 2013 02:49pm

Surely there are more important issues we face today with violence, extremism, poverty and illiteracy to report on?

akram
Jun 28, 2013 03:05pm

truly a shocking case, this needs to be brought into the international limelight for the cases to be taken seriously in india. Its only when the modern parts of india come across such incidents that something may actually be done, the old india is only interested in brushing such issues under the carpet.

Jamal
Jun 28, 2013 04:52pm

I see a lot of Indians commenting on other - pakistan related news articles. No comment on this one?

aagey dekh
Jun 28, 2013 05:01pm

lol out of 125 indian amry men who raided village . only 5 men raped 40 women ? hmmm ..."compensation recieved" , uterus removed ... 22 years ... hmmm really ? stigmatised ? is it a coincidence that this si ben revealed by the socalled JnK civil society when rape cases in india are in news .... Mr Gaylani stop publishing fake stories to further ur agenda .... needless to say nothing will happen n nothing will be achieved ... stop the false canards n propaganda ...take a break ..

Shahid
Jun 28, 2013 06:32pm

Silence? Complete silence?? The whole world is silent???

shai
Jun 28, 2013 08:08pm

Don't try to make house with playing card.

william bogert
Jun 28, 2013 08:54pm

"There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supercedes all other courts."

Mahatma Gandhi

Sudheer
Jun 29, 2013 12:40am

@GhostRider, Your wrote, "Why pin drop silence from idle indian brigade who come here to bash Pakistan. What happened to see no evil, do no evil and speak no evil????" First, there is no "pin drop" silence from us Indians as many have already spoken & given their opinion. Second, the report says that, not one or two, but, entire womenfolk of the village(40) were gang raped. That is something difficult to digest. India is a democracy and has a vibrant civil society, such a huge alleged atrocity couldn't remain buried under the carpet for such a long time. Third, Zehra, the so called victim said " India should leave Kashmir.

M.S.
Jun 29, 2013 01:16am

@Shahid: Because this world is not so naive. They know the truth that this is one of the tools to disarm India so that their jehadis can take over.. two decades..

M.S.
Jun 29, 2013 01:25am

@GhostRider: There are many comments by Indians. This is all propaganda out of frustration. The investigations yielded nothing. Read the last paragraph. The problem with you is you dont accept the truth. You believe more in suggestive half truths.

Fatima
Jun 29, 2013 02:05am

This happens everyday in Baluchistan