Posts Tagged ‘Press Council of India’

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

 

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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

By Saima Bhat, The Kashmirwalla, Magazine

Indian-held-Kashmir is a highly militarized zone where for every citizen- the armed forces are in ratio of 1:20, the highest soldier-to-civilian ratio in the world. Women are generally targeted, they are overpowered by the perpetrators in every society and same is the case here where women have been targeted socially, mentally as well as physically.

Indian forces are believed to be hyper masculine who just know how to abuse. They have always tried to attack psyche of the Kashmiri people and with the result they used Rape as a weapon of war to give a signal that ‘you can’t even protect your women and you are seeking Aazadi’! These things usually demoralize and incite a society in unnatural way. If society reacts, army further legitimizes the violence on people and same happened when ever Kashmiris came out on streets like in various rape and molestation cases- Kunan Poshpora mass rape, Bandipora, Wawoosa, Saidapora, Tangmarg, Badrapai, Banihal, Kulgam and the infamous Shopian case.

Women have been the worst victims of any conflict. In a study conducted by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), “Kashmir: Violence and Health”, the findings were, “11.6 percent of interviewees said they had been victims of sexual violence since 1989”. The study revealed that Kashmiri women were among the worst sufferers of sexual violence in the world. The figure is much higher than that of Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Chechnya and Ingushetia.

Most of the rape cases go unreported in the Valley. “Only 2-3 percent rape victims like to share their plight, otherwise many compromise with the situation and due to social stigma do not come forward,” says a human rights defender. But another study of an international NGO and local Human rights group revealed there are more than 7,000 cases of rapes and molestation cases in the valley among which only 300 have been reported so far.

Initially the reported rape victims were further victimized by threatening and by targeting their families to withdraw cases besides facing the social stigma. Khurram Parvez, Human Rights Activist and Programme coordinator Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) says that no women had dared to report it in the local Police Stations which had proved to be ‘hostile’ places. In those days police used to say they ‘can’t report against army’ and it has been like an unannounced order of not reporting against army. So in early 90’s there would have been rarely an FIR logged against rape. All these things ultimately contributed in not reporting the rape cases as they along with their families did not want to suffer further.

In the Kulgam area of Islamabad district, victim Ruqaiya reported rape by two army men on 21 July 2011. As the news came out the situation was tense for the family. Their house was under police custody; around 40 cops were on duty to make sure nobody could enter the house of the victim. Earlier Ruqaiya had filed a first investigation report with the concerned police station, which was put online on YouTube also. And she had stated the same to the politicians visiting her house but what happened after that nobody knows. Later police came with the statement that Ruqaiya is ‘mentally unfit’ and the case got buried.

“It was to demonize women and women themselves were also reluctant to report due to fear, social stigma as their photographs were published along with their names and overall reporting did not reveal any justice,” says Khurram. He also adds that primary reason behind not reporting rape cases was fear and secondary has been social stigma.

Rape cases can be found from every corner of the Valley but the victims do not share their information saying “we know we can’t get justice. Has Kunan poshpora women got any justice then how can we expect we will be given justice” shares a rape victim. Women have been raped in the age group of 60 and as small as 10-year-girl has also not been spared. Some among them are alive and some are dead but over all almost every rape allegation has met the same fate, justice delayed as well as denied also.

According to a report of Police, “Troops raped 51 women in last 6 years”, published in Rising Kashmir (April, 2, 2010). The report says, “A police statement said 38 rape cases allegedly by troops were reported from November 2002 to October 2005. From November 2005 to July 2008, 13 rape cases allegedly by troops were reported”.

The rural woman has been the worst sufferer. In the era of 90’s the rate of female dropouts in rural schools was higher as the schools had been at distance for which the girls had to pass through woods and in those isolated places they could have been targeted. Experts believe there were many cases when girls had faced eve teasing in front of their parents that was same in rural as well as in urban areas. In a similar case which happened in Qazigund where a girl of class 12 was regularly harassed verbally by the Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF) men. One day she had took her brother along to her school where on way she was molested by the CRPF in front of her brother who was beaten to death by them. Later due to the intervention of locals those siblings were saved from the clenches of those uniformed law breakers.

Such attempts have not been done on road sides only but some women were even raped in front of their family members. In one unreported case, a woman was raped in local police station in front of her husband but the woman was second wife of her husband who then tried to dug up the issue due to other family problems but in the whole run a woman is the sufferer. Syed Adfar Shah, a sociology scholar in Jamia University says, “Militia has its frustrations while being far from home so their wrath falls on the target society”.

On the other hand when such incidents of rape and molestation cases come up, a woman is again targeted by raising fingers on her character. There have been a number of times when armed forces had blamed that ‘women themselves come in the camps’ but to this Khurram says, “Armed forces create such conditions like they arrest a male member of a family and then tell his mother or wife or sister to come in the camp where she is forced to do what ever they want and in return they release that male”. He also says that this is rape by all classification; they have been exploited because of vulnerability that their family member has been arrested or threatened. “Whenever Indian government wants to attack they do it by character assassination.”

Syed Adfar shares that rapes and murders of Women under mysterious circumstances reveal state government’s inability to protect the women folk. “State should take stringent measures to check armed forces from any such aberrations and army top brass must have known their areas of operation well; see people not as subjects but as citizens of a democratic system”.

Khurram adds, “Rape, exploitation and such cases where woman has been forcibly pressurized to do what ‘they’ (armed forces) want to do with them happen in power, when they keep and treat us like slaves”.

Other human rights activists say that Army is defeating their own discipline and credibility by saying women come to camps but “why don’t they say why they allow them to enter into their camps?” In Kunan Poshpora case, The Press Council of India, which was investigating the case said in its report the rape victims were lying and there have been no rapes. The women are doing so for money and to malign army. But then the same case was handled by the then Divisional Commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah who reported there have been gang rapes but till now no justice had been done with those at least 23 victims.

Till now if government of India has asked for conducting any sort of probe in rape cases by paramilitary forces they have just done it to bail out their men. In most of the rape allegations in Indian-held-Kashmir where Indian troops are allegedly involved none except one of the accused has been convicted so far. The civil society and legal experts in Indian-held-Kashmir call this lone conviction, “a shady trail”.

“There was no transparency in the case, we are not sure has it really happened or not, as the Court martial trials are not made public,” says Parvez Imroz, a human rights lawyer and a civil rights activist. “Still if we trust it has happened, the punishment was disproportionate to his crime. Dismissal from service is too little for raping a woman.”