Kashmir: Uteruses had to be removed after mass rape at Kunan Poshpora #Vaw

Posted: March 12, 2016 in Armed Forces Special Power Act, Conflict and Peace, Draconian Laws, Human Rights, Right to Dissent

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Ifrah Butt co-author of “Do you remember Kunan Poshpora?” calls for justice

Ifrah Butt is one of 5 remarkable female writers who set out to investigate a series of shocking human rights abuses that survivors have fought to highlight over a period of 25 years. On February 23, 1991 in the Kupwara District of Indian Occupied Kashmir, a group of soldiers belonging to the 4th Rajputana Rifles conducted a cordon-and-search operation in the twin villages of Kunan and Poshpora allegedly embarking on an orgy of rape and torture against the women and men who lived in these communities. Ifrah agreed to be interviewed regarding her journey to uncover their stories and document findings in the recently released book, “Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora?”

1)      Please introduce yourself and tell readers where you are based?

My name is Ifrah Butt. I am a student, 24 years old pursuing, MA in International Relations from Islamic University of Science and Technology. I live in Srinagar.

2)      When did you first hear about Kunan Poshpora, please explain what happened there?

I had a faint idea about a place named Kunan Poshpora where ‘something’ had happened. But I was not aware about the severity of the incident and came to know about it while working on a project on Sexual Violence in J&K State with a local Human Rights Group Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS).

Kunan and Poshpora are two hamlets located few meters away from each other in Kashmir Valley’s Kupwara District. In 1991 when armed rebellion was at its peak, troopers of 4 Rajputana Rifles of the Indian Army’s 68 Mountain Brigade raided Kunan and Poshpora villages on the interviewing night of 23/24 February. They forced the men out of their homes and locked them up in two houses and a local school in Kunan. Some of the troopers barged into houses and raped women and children. At least 50 women were reportedly raped that night by the Army men. However, minors and unmarried girls were reluctant to get their medical examination done due to social stigma.

The villages were under cordon for a week and no movement was allowed. When the cordon was lifted, the village men approached the Deputy Commissioner and an FIR was lodged on 8th March 1991. No steps had been taken so far. On 15 March 1991 first round of Medical Examinations was conducted on 18 women all of whom showed evidence of rape, healing abrasions etc. On 21 March 1991 second round of Medical examinations was conducted on 14 women, again showing evidence of rape, healing injuries etc.

In September 1991, Director, Prosecutions informed the Superintendent of Police, Kupwara that the case of Kunan and Poshpora is ‘un-fit for launching criminal prosecution’. Jammu and Kashmir Police closed the case as “untraced”, but did not file its closure report before the Magistrate as required.

The survivors however did not stop their struggle. Between 2004-2011 about 39 survivors of Kunan and Poshpora event approached State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), in several petitions, as groups and as individuals. 5 women had died so far, two of them due to continuous vaginal bleeding, after their rapes, which did not stop despite treatment. Reportedly, 15 of the rape survivors had to undergo hysterectomy-surgeries to remove their uteruses. SHRC issued a final decision on case recommending:

  1. Monetary relief,
  2. Criminal prosecutions of accused
  3. Criminal prosecution of officers responsible for the cover up.

3)      How did you and your 4 other co-authors first become involved in exploring this tragedy?

Samreen and I were working in JKCCS when we came to know about the details of this incident. We decided to file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the High Court and talked to our friends about joining the PIL. 50 women in the age group 21-60 signed the petition.

The 4 co-authors were a part of the 50 women group.

4)      How did you gain the trust of the victims?

After we filed the PIL in April 2013 we decided to meet the survivors of the mass rape and torture incident. On 7th May we went to the villages in a group of around 11 women. The villagers met us optimistically and said that for the first time people had come to meet them after doing something for them (we went there after we filed the PIL). They showed lack of enthusiasm because media has time and again used their narratives but at the same time were delighted that we had taken a big step on their behalf.

5)       What was your aim in writing the book?

We wanted to present a holistic picture of this incident. Not many people know that the survivors of Kunan Poshpora mass rape and torture incident have been fighting against the state since last 25 years.

People thought that the incident happened in 1991 and was buried under the cover ups by the State.

Also we want to pass the massage that our perpetrators and occupiers cannot go scot free. They are accountable to us and our memory is the biggest weapon we have against them.

6)      What practical issues did you face researching an incident that occurred 25 years ago?

The most clamant issue was the struggle people had to do with their memories. Our memories are remade by the passage of time. The trauma of some events also affects our ability to form memories. We met people who were afraid to confront the State, talk about the pain for shame or fear of repercussions, the consequences that follow when they speak. We had to motivate these people to speak up so that no such incident is repeated in future.

7)      What reaction have you had from Kashmiris?

Most of the people encouraged us and were happy with our work but there were some people who were trying to intimidate us by saying we cannot confront the Indian Army, our future will be lost to darkness.

8)      How have you been treated by Indian authorities?

When we visited the Kupwara Sessions Court the Army Counsel would try to look down on us and ask us why we were visiting the Court. But his remarks never had any effects on us.

9)      You recently launched your book, “Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora?” please describe this event and what you achieved?

The book was released at a jam packed hall and the participants were activists, students, media persons and local Kashmiris. By this book release we made sure that Indian Government envisions its future in Kashmir. We wanted them to know that the new generation of Kashmir is quite aware about the atrocities that India has committed here.

10)   How has the book helped the survivors of Kunan Poshpora?

The book gives every detail of the incident and within the ambit of law describes how the Indian Army used rape as a war weapon to humiliate the Kashmiri society.

11)   What do you hope readers will take-away from reading your book?

We hope that readers’ particularly Indian readers will realize that the event of Kunan Poshpora was not a hoax or orchestrated lies. The book also describes how the Indian State has provided impunity to armed forces for every wrongdoing in J&K.

12)   How will you continue your fight for truth and justice?

We will continue to fight for justice in the most authorized way.

Right from the time of filing the PIL we have set out the facts, identified the laws under which the court is being asked to intervene and suggested a course of action for the court to consider.

13)   What would be the best outcome for survivors of this tragedy?

We expect that the State will acknowledge this incident and order re-investigation of the case and punish not the perpetrators of this crime but also those who were involved in the cover up of this case.

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Thank-you for your time

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad.  She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.https://activist1.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/kashmir-ifrah-butt-interview-uteruses-had-to-be-removed-after-mass-rape-at-kunan-poshpora-author-calls-for-justice/

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