Posts Tagged ‘Kunanposhpora’

A court order has pulled the infamous Kunan-Poshpora rape case out of the cold storage.

Riyaz Wani meets the people who made it possible

Riyaz Wani Riyaz Wani 2013-07-20 , Issue 29 Volume 10

Cry for justice Kashmiri women protest against the delay in punishing the perpetrators of the 1991 Kunan-Poshpora rapes

 

Cry for justice Kashmiri women protest against the delay in punishing the perpetrators of the 1991 Kunan-Poshpora rapes Cry for justice Kashmiri women protest against the delay in punishing the perpetrators of the 1991 Kunan-Poshpora rapes. Photo: Faisal Khan When the armymen took my husband away that night, I was left alone in the house with my two toddlers. The soldiers snatched my younger son from my lap, tore off my clothes and pushed me onto the ground… while my son was watching and crying. I didn’t know where they had kept my other son. They didn’t let me go for the entire night despite my pleadings.” As Sara (name changed) broke down while recalling the horror from that night in 1991, the audience at the press conference in Srinagar on 22 June, was overwhelmed with emotion. Sara, who was 24 when the incident happened, had given up hope until 50 women from the Valley came together this May to revive the fight for justice in the alleged mass rape by the army at the twin villages of Kunan and Poshpora, located 100 km from Srinagar, in north Kashmir. It’s considered the largest case of mass sexual violence in India. In June, the women’s efforts prompted a local court to direct the government to reopen the case to “further investigate to unravel the identity of the perpetrators”.

It was on that night of 23 February 1991 when soldiers of the 4th Rajputana Rifles allegedly raped around 40 women during a search operation in Kunan-Poshpora. According to the villagers, the army cordoned off the village and ordered the men to assemble at an identified place outside the village. The women who were left inside the houses were then allegedly sexually assaulted. Two days later, the then District Magistrate SM Yasin visited Kunan-Poshpora. He commented later that the accused soldiers had “behaved like violent beasts”. The local police filed an fir on 18 March 1991, but the Director, Prosecutions, threw the case out a month later, saying it was “unfit for launching a criminal prosecution”.

Eight months later, the police closed the case without a trial. Following the incident, a Press Council of India committee led by senior journalist BG Verghese visited the Valley and gave a “clean chit to the soldiers”. Verghese didn’t even visit the village but the committee members stayed at the quarters of the army brigade alleged to have committed the crime. The committee report termed the allegations against the army “totally unproven and completely untrue… a dirty trick to frame the army and get it to lay off Kunan-Poshpora”. The then Divisional Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, who called for a fresh investigation in his report, recently said the government deleted his recommendation for an upgraded probe. His report also said that he “found the allegations of mass rape exaggerated because the women of the entire village were saying they were raped”. This is where the 50 women who call themselves the Support Group for the Victims of Kunan-Poshpora took over.

It is an assorted group of students, activists, doctors, government employees and housewives from all over the Valley. On 10 June this year, they signed a petition demanding a fresh probe into the case by a Special Investigation Team headed by an officer of the rank of Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP). On 18 June, Kupwara Chief Judicial Magistrate JA Jeelani issued an order to the government to conduct a probe led by an SSP rank officer within three months. Though this was an achievement, the women, whose cause was also boosted by Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid’s recent apology, have no illusions about the “drawn and uncertain” nature of their struggle. “This struggle is important not only because we demand justice but also for our future,” says Samreena, 25, an activist, who is part of the support group. “We can’t and shouldn’t forget this crime. If we forget, we will be sending a message to the armed forces that they can go scotfree, encouraging them to repeat the misdeed.

This incident may happen again if we don’t fight. The fear that it can happen with us is much more than the fear of being let down by the State agencies.” Adds Ifra Mushtaq, 20, a student and member of the support group, “The victims had lost hope and the urge to fight. We persuaded them to join the campaign and assured them of our unstinted support. At first, they were sceptical because they had been let down by the State agencies who had promised justice. But we were able to convince them of our group’s genuineness.” Ifra’s mother Parveena Akhter, 48, actively supports her endeavour. Akhter, a housewife, is not only a signatory to the petition but also a member of the support group. “I have two daughters and understand the agony of the women of Kunan-Poshpora,” she says. “I volunteered for this campaign and will stick with it till we achieve our goal.”

Meanwhile, some victims have questioned the irony of people terming the Kashmiri youth killed by security forces as ‘martyrs’ while the gangrape victims suffer stigma and neglect. “When someone is killed by soldiers in Kashmir, his parents feel proud of him and his ‘martyrdom’. People give the family respect,” says Aisha (name changed). “The army snatched our honour by raping us. We were attacked for the same reason they target the youth. But see the irony; we, the 40 women from Kunan-Poshpora, who were gangraped by the army, feel stigmatised. No one feels proud of us.” In Kunan-Poshpora, that fateful night has become etched in the collective memory. A new generation has grown up since, living with the stigma of the rape of their “mothers and sisters”. The people here talk of their daughters being looked down upon in the neighbouring villages and their sons dropping out of schools and colleges following taunts by their classmates and even teachers. The memory remains raw and painful even today. “Every year, on 23 February, our village plunges into mourning. We hardly cook that day,” Zeba, 55, told TEHELKA. Members of the support group plan to help the villagers deal with the psychological scars. Their road to justice is primarily legal: the group hopes the court order will force the government to set up a fresh investigation. Once the probe begins, they want to monitor it. “We will not allow any agency probing the case to get away with shoddy work or be compromised,” warns Samreena. Besides, the group plan to hold protests, media interactions and launch public awareness programmes.

What is more, their fight has a larger purpose too. Hope Floats After Two Decades A court order has pulled the infamous Kunan-Poshpora rape case out of the cold storage. Riyaz Wani meets the people who made it possible Riyaz Wani Riyaz Wani 2013-07-20 , Issue 29 Volume 10 Cry for justice Kashmiri women protest against the delay in punishing the perpetrators of the 1991 Kunan-Poshpora rapes Cry for justice Kashmiri women protest against the delay in punishing the perpetrators of the 1991 Kunan-Poshpora rapes. Photo: Faisal Khan When the armymen took my husband away that night, I was left alone in the house with my two toddlers. The soldiers snatched my younger son from my lap, tore off my clothes and pushed me onto the ground… while my son was watching and crying. I didn’t know where they had kept my other son. They didn’t let me go for the entire night despite my pleadings.” As Sara (name changed) broke down while recalling the horror from that night in 1991, the audience at the press conference in Srinagar on 22 June, was overwhelmed with emotion. Sara, who was 24 when the incident happened, had given up hope until 50 women from the Valley came together this May to revive the fight for justice in the alleged mass rape by the army at the twin villages of Kunan and Poshpora, located 100 km from Srinagar, in north Kashmir. It’s considered the largest case of mass sexual violence in India. In June, the women’s efforts prompted a local court to direct the government to reopen the case to “further investigate to unravel the identity of the perpetrators”. It was on that night of 23 February 1991 when soldiers of the 4th Rajputana Rifles allegedly raped around 40 women during a search operation in Kunan-Poshpora. According to the villagers, the army cordoned off the village and ordered the men to assemble at an identified place outside the village. The women who were left inside the houses were then allegedly sexually assaulted.

Two days later, the then District Magistrate SM Yasin visited Kunan-Poshpora. He commented later that the accused soldiers had “behaved like violent beasts”. The local police filed an fir on 18 March 1991, but the Director, Prosecutions, threw the case out a month later, saying it was “unfit for launching a criminal prosecution”. Eight months later, the police closed the case without a trial. Following the incident, a Press Council of India committee led by senior journalist BG Verghese visited the Valley and gave a “clean chit to the soldiers”. Verghese didn’t even visit the village but the committee members stayed at the quarters of the army brigade alleged to have committed the crime.

The committee report termed the allegations against the army “totally unproven and completely untrue… a dirty trick to frame the army and get it to lay off Kunan-Poshpora”. The then Divisional Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, who called for a fresh investigation in his report, recently said the government deleted his recommendation for an upgraded probe. His report also said that he “found the allegations of mass rape exaggerated because the women of the entire village were saying they were raped”. This is where the 50 women who call themselves the Support Group for the Victims of Kunan-Poshpora took over. It is an assorted group of students, activists, doctors, government employees and housewives from all over the Valley.

On 10 June this year, they signed a petition demanding a fresh probe into the case by a Special Investigation Team headed by an officer of the rank of Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP). On 18 June, Kupwara Chief Judicial Magistrate JA Jeelani issued an order to the government to conduct a probe led by an SSP rank officer within three months. Though this was an achievement, the women, whose cause was also boosted by Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid’s recent apology, have no illusions about the “drawn and uncertain” nature of their struggle. “This struggle is important not only because we demand justice but also for our future,” says Samreena, 25, an activist, who is part of the support group. “We can’t and shouldn’t forget this crime. If we forget, we will be sending a message to the armed forces that they can go scotfree, encouraging them to repeat the misdeed. This incident may happen again if we don’t fight. The fear that it can happen with us is much more than the fear of being let down by the State agencies.” Adds Ifra Mushtaq, 20, a student and member of the support group, “The victims had lost hope and the urge to fight. We persuaded them to join the campaign and assured them of our unstinted support. At first, they were sceptical because they had been let down by the State agencies who had promised justice. But we were able to convince them of our group’s genuineness.” Ifra’s mother Parveena Akhter, 48, actively supports her endeavour. Akhter, a housewife, is not only a signatory to the petition but also a member of the support group. “I have two daughters and understand the agony of the women of Kunan-Poshpora,” she says. “I volunteered for this campaign and will stick with it till we achieve our goal.” Meanwhile, some victims have questioned the irony of people terming the Kashmiri youth killed by security forces as ‘martyrs’ while the gangrape victims suffer stigma and neglect. “When someone is killed by soldiers in Kashmir, his parents feel proud of him and his ‘martyrdom’. People give the family respect,” says Aisha (name changed). “The army snatched our honour by raping us. We were attacked for the same reason they target the youth. But see the irony; we, the 40 women from Kunan-Poshpora, who were gangraped by the army, feel stigmatised. No one feels proud of us.” In Kunan-Poshpora, that fateful night has become etched in the collective memory. A new generation has grown up since, living with the stigma of the rape of their “mothers and sisters”. The people here talk of their daughters being looked down upon in the neighbouring villages and their sons dropping out of schools and colleges following taunts by their classmates and even teachers. The memory remains raw and painful even today. “Every year, on 23 February, our village plunges into mourning. We hardly cook that day,” Zeba, 55, told TEHELKA. Members of the support group plan to help the villagers deal with the psychological scars. Their road to justice is primarily legal: the group hopes the court order will force the government to set up a fresh investigation. Once the probe begins, they want to monitor it. “We will not allow any agency probing the case to get away with shoddy work or be compromised,” warns Samreena. Besides, the group plan to hold protests, media interactions and launch public awareness programmes.

What is more, their fight has a larger purpose too. “It is also about motivating our community to fight for justice. It is about developing a culture of resistance where impunity is not taken for granted,” says Samreena. “Our fight is less about outcomes and more about sending a message to the perpetrators of human rights abuse that we will perpetually pursue them.” riyaz@tehelka.com “It is also about motivating our community to fight for justice. It is about developing a culture of resistance where impunity is not taken for granted,” says Samreena. “Our fight is less about outcomes and more about sending a message to the perpetrators of human rights abuse that we will perpetually pursue them.”

riyaz@tehelka.com

 

This is a press release by the JKCS and the Kashmiri women fighting on behalf of Kunan Poshpora villagers

BOYCOTT B.G. VERGHESE

Press Statement
24 June 2013

On 22 June 2013, for the first time, the villagers of Kunan Poshpora spoke to the civil society and media of Srinagar. They spoke of rape, torture, suffering, pain and courage. More specifically, they spoke of the fight ahead. They vowed to continue the struggle for justice, and never to forget persons responsible for the cover up of the Kunan Poshpora case.

B.G. Verghese was called a liar by the villagers of Kunan Poshpora and several civil society members in the audience. He headed the Press Council of India fact finding team report on Kunan Poshpora, which was ‘appointed’ by Indian army. But, he never visited the villages of Kunan and Poshpora. He, through the report and subsequently, has sought to malign the men and women of Kunan Poshpora. He has called them shameless, as according to him the allegation was orchestrated on behalf of the militants.

In the recently held public meeting B.G. Verghese was accused of actively abetting the rape and torture of Kunan Poshpora. It is public knowledge that B.G. Verghese served as an “Information Consultant” for the Indian Defence Minister.

The re-opening of the Kunan Poshpora case also implies that those involved in cover ups and in maligning the women of Kunan Poshpora had lied. Therefore recognizing his criminal role in the Kunan Poshpora case, it was unanimously resolved that B.G. Verghese is to be socially and professionally boycotted. The civil society vowed to not engage with him. Further, anyone who does engage with B.G. Verghese will in turn be boycotted. B.G. Verghese presently occupies positions of importance in the Center for Policy Research, Delhi and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Delhi. The Support Group for Justice for Kunan Poshpora alongwith other civil society stakeholders will communicate directly with these institutions, and any other institution that may have ties with him, to immediately stop all engagement with him.

We urge civil society groups, conscientious citizens in India and Jammu and Kashmir that until B.G. Verghese is prosecuted for his role in the Kunan Poshpora case, there must be an absolute boycott: he must not be invited to speak at public functions, he must not be allowed to occupy any positions of responsibility, and he must constantly be reminded of his own criminality.

Finally, before and after the 22 June 2013 press conference, the State has continued its intimidation. The Jammu and Kashmir Police [Tregham Police Station], Indian army [specifically 24 Rashtriya Rifles, based at Trehgam] and other agencies, have sought to intimidate the villagers of Kunan Poshpora. They have gone to the villages, demanded answers to questions about the case and sought to intimidate them through repeated phone calls. This will not be accepted. Legal action will be taken against anyone who seeks to intimidate and threaten the villagers of Kunan Poshpora. They will, first, be named in public, and then dragged to court.

Representatives of the Support Group for Justice for Kunan Poshpora
1. Ifrah Mushtaq
2. Samreena Mushtaq
3. Uzafa Basu
4. Uzma Qureshi

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013, | Place: Srinagar | Agency: DNA

31 gangrape victims have now stepped out to drum up support.

Inside a jam-packed conference hall, a group of women with their faces covered, sobbed. Flashback of the horror of the 22-year-old mass rape of 31 women allegedly by army troops in Kunan Poshpora villages played in their minds.

“I dread that night when troopers entered my room and raped me,” said a woman with her face covered as tears rolled down from her eyes.  “I appeal for justice that has been delayed for so long.”

On the dais an emotionally charged old man broke down narrating the awfulness of the intervening night of February 23 and 24, 1991. A pin drop silence descended in the hall as people listened with rapt attention to their 22 year old ordeal.

Stigmatised and ostracised the villagers of the Kunan Poshpora had suffered it all. Some of the girls were rejected by their in-laws. Some of them suffered serious health ailments. Some of the children had to drop out after they were taunted by their fellow students.

“Five victims have died in the last 22 years. Justice is still a far cry. Every year we observe that day when we were subjected to inhuman treatment by the troops. Life has changed for us since then,” said Mohammad Amin, a village elder, while breaking down in the hall.

Amin and the masked women were part of the group who travelled from remote Kunan Poshpora village in border district of Kupwara to meet the media persons and civil society members seeking their support in their pursuit for justice.

This followed the order of the judicial magistrate Kupwara JA Geelani, who dismissed the conclusions of the police in the recently filed closure report and asked for “further investigation” conducted by an officer not below the rank of SSP within three months.

“Today we commit:  We will fight. We will not forget. We will not forgive. We will monitor the police investigations. We will extend absolute and complete support to the people of Kunan Poshpora when dealing with the further investigations,” said a spokesperson of Representatives of the Support Group for Justice for Kunan Poshpora.

Hundreds of students, women groups and civil society members had thronged to venue to hear the ordeal of the victims. Such was the charged atmosphere that people rose from their seats to give standing ovation to the face covered rape victims who stood ground for 22 years seeking justice from the mighty state.

Press Statement
 
18 June 2013
 
 
Today, on 18th June 2013, the Judicial Magistrate Kupwara J. A. Geelani, while dismissing the conclusions made by the police in the recently filed closure report in the case of Kunan Poshpora mass rape of 23-24 February 1991 returned the case file to the police, asking for “further investigation to unravel the identity of those who happen to be perpetrators”.
As the demand by us and the survivors was for the re-investigation by Special Investigation Team (SIT), headed by an officer of Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) rank, the court while mentioning the lack of authority in ordering SIT, asked the further investigation to be conducted by an officer not below the rank of SSP and within a time bound period of 3 months.
On 10 June 2013, a protest petition was filed by Adv. Parvez Imroz on behalf of the survivors of Kunan Poshpora mass rape against the closure report of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, before the Judicial Magistrate, Kupwara. On 13 June 2013, the Chief Prosecuting Officer [CPO] filed objections, and today, oral arguments were made before the Magistrate.
The protest petition argued that the police investigations were incomplete and clearly mala fide as despite having the information on file regarding the involvement of 125 personnel of 4th Rajputana Rifles, the police had not questioned them and neither was an identification parade conducted. The Judicial Magistrate Kupwara while acknowledging the submissions made by us has mentioned in the judgment 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 response of the State, through the CPO Aashiq Hussain was unsurprisingly bad in law, and deeply disrespectful of the victims of Kunan Poshpora. First, they argued that there was no right of filing a protest petition, a position unmindful of the law. Second, the State argued that the protest petition was being filed to allow other victims to get cash compensation, and that the victims appeared to have woken up after 22 years and the protest petition was barred by laches. While rejecting the submissions of the CPO, the Judicial Magistrate, Kupwara upheld the right to file the protest petition and further observed that, “The instant final report ought to have been forwarded to the Magistrate way back on 12thOctober 1991.”
After 22 years of cover-ups and delay, the State conveniently blocked the High Court PIL and now was shamelessly attempting to block the victims’ remedies before the Judicial Magistrate. Instead of taking the responsibility for delay and denial of justice, the State has chosen to malign the victims and choke any remedies for the survivors of Kunan Poshpora.
Today’s order is an achievement of the struggle of the Kunan Poshpora people along with those who supported their demand for justice. This will surely inspire many more victims of the recent past to wake up and fight for justice in their cases.
We reiterate our commitment that we will continue the struggle till justice is done. Now the Government should comply with the orders of the court and give up their reluctance of punishing the guilty.
Representatives of the support group for Justice for Kunan Poshpora
1.   Benish Ali
2.   Essar Batool
3.   Ifrah Mushtaq
4.   Samreena Mushtaq
5.   Usvah Rizvi
6.   Uzafa Basu
7.   Uzma Qureshi

8.   Rehanna Qadir

 

Maqbool Bhat

The clock had barely dragged itself to 9:30 through the drab winter evening. The heavy flakes of snow continued to fall into the darkness. Suddenly, the army men broke into Kunanposhpora, a small village in the north of Kashmir, some fifty kilometers away from the capital city Srinagar. They entered the houses smashing the wooden doors and windows, yelling and barking away, and dragged all the men out of their homes. They assembled them near the village bus stand. And all the women, who were left in the homes, were raped. The little children looked on.

Seventeen years have passed since that cold night of February 23, 1991. And justice is still not in sight for the rape victims of this village. Now no one in this village is willing to talk about that night. Silence as a collective gesture from the villagers greets you in Kunan Poshpora. Over the years denial of justice to the victims has built a wall of silence in this village, behind which lie stories of abused women. The elders have decided now—and the women have agreed, too—not to talk anymore about that night anymore. It takes a lot of convincing to make the villagers, and womenfolk, answer the most difficult –the most painful question for them: what happened that night?

After initial reluctance Saifuddin, a village elder, talks about that cold February night of 1991 in short bursts of sentences. “It was snowing outside that night. People were sleeping in their homes. The army came and entered every home. The men were taken out and interrogated near the village bus stand,” he says.

He pauses here, briefly.

“Then they locked the rooms and raped our mothers and sisters.”

Far from their homes, no man knew what was happening in his home.

As the dawn arrived, the men were let off by the army. They ran to their homes. “When we went to our homes we saw what they had done to our women,” says Saifuddin. “We would have gone to lodge an FIR against army but we couldn’t as the whole village was cordoned off.”

Heavy presence of troopers in the village prevented the villagers from lodging an FIR against army in the nearby Trehgam police station.

Four days after the incident the villagers lodged an FIR against the army in the nearby police station. Then the police came to the village, and filed a case against the army. Doctors and nurses arrived in the village to examine the women. They confirmed mass rape, and submitted their report. The reports of doctors, confirming rape, are still in police station Trehgam according to the villagers.

 

The villagers say after the incident Dilbar Singh, the DSP of Kupwara in 1991, was investigating the case. “He was promoted as SSP Kutwa, and the case was stopped,” they said.

The social stigma that has come to be associated with Kunan Poshpora over the years has forced the villagers to marry their daughters with family relations, and within the village.

The village elders have a genuine grudge: in the past 20 years their women have talked enough but of no avail. The village elders say all these years all they got was disrepute; a bad name for their village. And their daughters, having attained the marriageable age, are sitting at home. No one outside the village is willing to marry them. And till now justice has evaded them; the perpetrators are free, unpunished. Over the years the villagers say giving interviews to journalists, human rights activists and filmmakers from across the world has brought nothing but disrepute to the village, and its womenfolk. The rape victims, having recorded their statements on multiple occasions in the past 17 years, feel ostracized, and ignored by the government. No financial aid has been provided to the affected women. After the incident some women, unable to live with the shame and stigma associated with their condition, died in the subsequent years. Others continue to live with the stigma. Some women, the village elders say, are yet to talk about their abuse. Most of the women, who were raped that night in Kunan Poshpora, are on medication.

 

That night Rahte (name changed) was holding her daughter in her lap when the soldiers barged in her home. And after dragging out all the men, they reentered the home –this time to assault women. The baby started crying. “She fell from my arms near the window as I made noise,” recalls Rahte. Since that night, her daughter –in her twenties now – developed a problem in her left leg. Her mother, more than thinking about her past, is worried about her daughter’s future. Stepping gingerly inside the room, the limp in her daughter’s steps is visible. “She doesn’t want to marry now,” her mother says as her daughter looks down, sits by her side, fiddling with the edge of her scarf.

 

That winter of 1991 Sameena (name changed) was married only a few days ago. The troopers barged inside her room. They adopted the same procedure by dragging the men out of the homes, leaving behind the women. Then they reentered the house, and assaulted Sameena. Next morning, a gun was slung across her shoulder by the soldiers. And then she was paraded in the village. “They took pictures of me while I was paraded before the villagers,” she recounts.

 

A few blocks away, across a narrow street, Sakeena (name changed) looks down from the old wooden window of her two storied house. Her eyes are cold, expressionless. Her mother Shameema (name changed) was 35 year old when the soldiers barged inside their home on that February night of 1991. Somehow, she was able to hide her daughter from the soldiers. She couldn’t protect herself.

Six years back Sakeena was married outside her village (in Nowgam). But at the time of her marriage her in laws didn’t know the history of the place she belonged to. They eventually came to know about it from newspapers. Since then life became difficult for Sakeena. “She was harassed and taunted by her in laws,” her mother says. Three years ago she was sent back to her home in Kunan Poshpora. Her in-laws are seeking a divorce now. They don’t talk to Sakeena directly; neither do they approach her mother. They come to their neighbors – to ask for divorce. Her husband didn’t return to take her back. The couple had one stillborn child; he died immediately after birth.

 

At another two storey house in Kunan Poshpora, draped in an embroidered pheran and a white scarf, a bespectacled elderly woman remembers the exact time the troopers entered her home. She is the first women from the village to file a case against the army.

“There was darkness all around. At 9:30pm in the evening the army entered the village. They took the men and children out near the bus stand,” she recounts. She pauses after saying this: “And then they entered our home at around 11pm and assaulted women.”

 

She says around 10 to 15 army men entered every home. “They would gag women to prevent them from raising hue and cry. We were not able to make much noise,” she says. There must have been some 1000 soldiers, she recalls. “They left the very small girls untouched; rest no one was spared.”

 

The next day at 10 am, she says, the deputy commander of army came to the village. “He told the women that the army has not done anything wrong,” she recalls. On hearing this, this outspoken woman brought an 80 year old woman, who was abused that night, out of her home. Then she showed her condition to the army commander. “I told him that she is an 80 year old lady but even she was not spared by his men,” she recalls having told the commander. “He didn’t say a word. He stood speechless. He just looked down.”

 

The social stigma—as a result of mass rape—is making the lives of women of Kunan Poshpora difficult. Even today the daughters of this village find it difficult to get marriage proposals from outside the village. They are eventually married off in their own village. “People outside the village talk about our daughters, and say they are from ‘that’ village,” she says. “This label has made our lives difficult.”

 

After the mass rape of their women, the village elders say some 35 boys in the age group of 18-30 left their homes for training across the border. Among the group of boys, who left immediately after the mass rape incident, the villagers say twenty boys have been killed. Some have disappeared. All of them were unmarried.

A woman from the village says her only son left home immediately after the incident. “He couldn’t stand our condition. He was 18 when he left home. Later I came to know that he had crossed the border for arms training,” she says as tears begin to form in her sunken eyes. Her son returned to seek revenge. “He was later killed by army,” she says fighting back the tears.

At another home in Kunan, a bearded jobless young man says he gets very angry when journalists and human rights activists ask the same questions to his mother about that night. “Many people from across the world have come to this village in the past 17 years. They record the testimonies of our mothers and sisters, and then they never return,” he says.

He was an 18 year old boy in 1991 when he was forcibly taken out of his home that night by the troopers. “Our village has been made into a business place in the past 17 years”, he says. “People come, take the testimonies, and then they earn money from it.”

The tragedy of Kunan Poshpora is the clichéd story of Kashmir: justice delayed is justice denied.

 

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