Last month it marked the twentieth anniversary of Kunan-Poshpora mass rape case. Twenty years is huge period. Many regimes took power both at centre and state. They failed to deliver justice for the tragedy which befell to this village. No one remembers those mothers and sisters who were forced to stand in queue and were raped. Politicians are busy in warming their own hands. No one raises a question on behalf of this helpless village. The young woman folk of this village are caught between devil and deep sea. Their parents want to marry them off to some good men but no one is willing to accept them. They are living a trauma ridden life. Their marriage proposals are turned down. They don’t get the person of satisfaction. They have become the victims of their own conscience. A stain had been left on the village. They face questions on their children who were born in the following two years after the tragedy.
Clock hands were about to bid adieu to the day and welcome a new dawn of 24 February after an hour. Doom and gloom took the shelter in Kunan Poshpora, a village about five kilometers away from main town Kupwara. It is the village where the hapless women folk met the extremity of beastliness during the intervening night of 23-24 February. It was the night when a cold-hearted legion of troops of the 04 Raj Raffles of 68 Brigade C/o 56 APO went berserk into the village and broke up windows and doors of houses, entered abysmally and tore apart the chastity of women here irrespective of their age.
It wouldn’t be an amateurish act to call this tragedy a splotch of shame on the face of humanity. It has perforated vast the humanistic stance of us. As per official reports “about 23 women were raped allegedly by the troops of Rajputana Raffles.” The army had laid nocturnal siege across the length and breadth of this area. All Men were asked to gather at a place away from their houses and all women were asked to stay indoors. From a teenage girl to a 100 year old woman, no one was spared. A cluster of monsters in human shape entered the houses and raped the women mercilessly. Virgins, married, and old women as per authentic reports washed hands off their chastity. A woman who had a baby in womb was raped too.
Woman is regarded sacred only till her chastity is safe. Once she has met the air of unsacred and illegitimate atmosphere, none is ready to give her space in society not even the people who share blood relations with her. Same story can be witnessed here in Kunan-Poshpora. After being raped the women here had to enter into a sphere of trauma and morass. On one side they had lost the honour and on the other side they emerged as the victims of societal disdain. And those who catapulted them into a deluge of miseries are roaming free. They were given clean chit by the then government of India (GoI) that “they were innocents”. The allegations against them were discarded. But let’s ask a question to GoI that who was responsible for that mass rape? If they are ruling Kashmir, wasn’t it their responsibility to delve deep into the case and look for the culprits?
Instead of doing so they (Indian authorities) without any proper inquiry rejected the charges against troops and labelled the charges against them as an intelligently manufactured pack of lies. Despite the report from the then District Magistrate S M Yaseen after being complained by the villagers where it was written that “the soldiers behaved like beasts. They entered into the houses of villagers and gang-raped women at gunpoint without any consideration of their age, marital status and pregnancy.” Nothing was approved and whole enquiry report was labelled as concoctions by the Press Council of India which termed the rape allegations as baseless.
The team (PCI) finally concluded that the charges against army were “well-concocted bundle of fabricated lies” and “a massive hoax orchestrated by militant groups and their sympathizers and mentors in Kashmir and abroad for re-inscribing Kashmir on the international agenda as a human rights issue”.
Who would have believed this report; a mother whose daughter’s clothes was torn apart and was raped continuously for night? Would she? One by one army personnel’s raping the daughter and she (mother) witnessing as dumb spectator. Or an old ailing father who was struggling for survival in bed and his daughters were crying for help.
Different human rights organizations visited Kunan-Poshpora and termed the rape charges against troops true. The world media also highlighted the plight of these victims. But result was nothing except the mounting miseries on part of victims. On extreme pressure from public and different human rights watches the biggest justice which was done delivered that time was filing of FIR (First Investigation Report) against those army men. But ironically nothing moved further. The FIR emerged as “FAILED INQUERY REPORT”.
When a person steps into the village, exact place where this tragedy took place, the first thing which is heard there are wails of old frail mothers, who are still haunted by the memories of that fateful night. Their eyes are yet soaked with tears.
The big dream of parents is if they have a daughter, then she should get hitched to a good man. But here the parents do keep those dreams but never see them turning into reality. Hardly there is any girl in this village who braves questions of media. It is the old women here who with much embarrassment talk before media. The women who were raped on that day have become the victims of many psychosomatic disorders.
The rape victims have been longing since that tragic day for the justice but nothing has happened till date. For some time in the just years after this tragedy came about this case had the momentum and people were vibrant to make the efforts for the deliverance of justice. But with the unfolding of more and more tragedies here in valley this case lost the momentum and now is a faint memory in most of minds except the minds of victims. The non-deliverance of justice in this case may be attributed more or less to its political exploitation. Our political leaders don’t bother now to make efforts to reopen this case as probably they are afraid of consequence. Maybe it can cost them the chair which they are sitting upon with the vote of those who contain a part of victims. We often witnessed the Hala Bol in state assembly; Lok Sabha and Rajha Sabha, on the issues of price hike, corruption, sex scandals, murders et cetra but our leaders feel ashamed on debating this appalling issue. Where are those Members of Legislative Assembly of this district who would often visit before elections and produce long speeches and also used to claim themselves to be the representatives of aspirations and miseries of people? It would have been much better had these victims been aided in any way by those organizations who claim of taking this case overseas instead of beating drum in US and sipping coffee in Brussels under the name of this dreadful case.
Being humans it is our primary responsibility to dedicate ourselves towards the task of re-opening those closed files which have gathered inches of dust for years. Let’s not tolerate it anymore. Let’s join hand to drag the criminals to the court of justice. That time law was not strong. But now the situation is altogether different. We have some new laws this time which will surely aid us. Let media play a proactive role in bringing forth the truth. We failed to get justice for Shopian rape victims only because it was just the only Shopian people who were fighting for justice not the entire Kashmir. A joint effort will surely result in something worth justice. We have the best and fresh example of Egypt where union proved fruitful. There was no particular leader after whom people were following. The people were their own leaders. In Egypt Mubarki regime was overthrown only because the majority of it was against his rule and protested against him. The result was the fall of a 30 year old mountain. His position was iron-strong. But when the entire Egypt turned against him, he had to surrender the powers. This is the power of majority.
If we shut our mouths we will be shut for ever. We have to nail the criminals otherwise we will be forced to pay a huge cost. If we don’t fight at this juncture then we are backing the wrong horse.
Mudasir Majeed Peer is contributing writer for The Kashmir Walla.