Won’t plead for justice anymore: Kashmir’s ‘Mass Rape’ survivors on 29th anniversary

Auqib Javeed , TwoCircles.net

Kupwara: “We were not heard then and we aren’t being heard now,” says 75-years old Mohammad Amin, whose wife(name withheld) was gang-raped along with over 100 women by Indian soldiers during a cordon-and-search operation during the night of February 23-24,1991.

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Amin says over three decades have passed there is no ray of hope for Justice as the Judiciary has failed to deliver justice so far.

He says they have stopped believing that the Army men who committed this heinous crime would be punished.

“We won’t plead the case now,” Amin told TwoCircles.net . It’s been 29 years since the horrific rape that shocked the entire valley, the victims are yet to get justice and the culprits are roaming free, thanks to Armed Force Special Power Act (AFSPA) that gives Army special powers to detain and barge anyone house at any time.

Over 3 decades have passed, the villagers are trying to forget it, they don’t want to remember it. This is how they are coping-up with it.

“We don’t want to leave any memory,” Amin says “We are tired now and we just want to be silent now”

The villagers have also stopped to speak to media as what they say they don’t want to “scratch their wounds”

On the night of February 23, 1991, personnel of the 4 Rajputana Rifles of the Indian Army cordoned off the two villages Kunan and Poshpora in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district during an anti-insurgency operation and allegedly gang-raped at least 100 women – with some estimates placing it at around 40.

According to reports the raid was carried by over 300 Army personnel in the twin villages. All the male members of the village were forced to come out of their houses and were confined to two houses in Kunan. The forces then barged into the houses and allegedly gang-raped women and children from the age of 14 to 70-yer-old grandmother. The male members were allegedly tortured brutal throughout the night by the soldiers.

The Army has consistently denied the accusation over the years and the Indian governments have refused to even acknowledge the horror. On June 28, 2016, Army even filed a petition petitioned in the Supreme Court challenging orders of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court on investigations and compensation.

The villagers initially struggled to get an FIR registered and finally on March 8, 1991, an FIR is registered at Trehgam police station, stating 23 women were gang-raped in Kunan and Poshpora. Probe begins.

The then Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Wajahat Habibullah, one of the interlocutors appointed by the Supreme Court to hold talks with protesters at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, visited the villages, he concluded that the mass rape allegation was highly doubtful and exaggerated in his confidential report and in a way gave a clean chit to Army.

However, Wajahat later asserted that the important portion of the report was deleted by the government, in which he had recommended a police probe, upgradation in the level of investigation, entrusting the case to a gazetted police officer and seeking an order from the 15 Corps Commander to ensure Army cooperation in the probe.

However, Habibullahs report wasn’t the only one to deal a blow to the women of Konan Poshpora. The Defence Ministry also sent a team headed by the chairman of Press Council of India BG Verghese on a fact-finding mission.

The committee termed the mass rape a massive hoax orchestrated by militant groups and their sympathizers and mentors in Kashmir and abroad and termed the women of Konan Poshpora shameless. The villagers claim Verghese never visited Kunan or Poshpora and prepared his report in an Army camp in Baramulla.

After no investigation for years, they approached the State Human Rights Commission for their intervention to get the investigation done.

After many years of SHRC carried it’s own investigation and asked the government to pay compensation to 40 rape survivors and carry out an investigation.

Litigants were asked to approach the local court in Kupwara. Villagers from Kunan Poshpora with the support of activists approached the Sessions Court Kupwara and after several hearings, the Court ordered for further investigations within 3 months.

After a long time when again no investigations took place, victims approached the High Court. The matter was being heard in the Division Bench of the J&K High Court & surreptitiously army approached another judge in the same High Court, who passed an ex-parte order favoring army for a stay order on investigations.

Noted Human rights activists Khurram Parvaiz say, Immediately after that army filed another case in Supreme Court, the victims also simultaneously went to Supreme Court in 2015.

“Since 2016 the case in Supreme Court has only been in the registry and never ever had any proper hearing,” Khurram says.

The survivors of Kunan Poshpora submit their response before the Supreme Court and seek for investigations and prosecution of the accused army personnel, in addition to all those involved in the cover-up including then Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Wajahat Habibullah and members of the then Press Council of India.

In wake of no hearing from the last six years at the Supreme Court (SC), the alleged rape and torture victims on the 29th anniversary of the incident didn’t commemorate the incident. The commemoration is usually held at a hotel in Srinagar.

“kis kay liye? For what purpose” says Amin “we are trying to forget it and by commemorating our wounds get fresh,” he adds.

Amin says they have surrendered as we don’t have any faith now. He said that the case was shifted from High Court Srinagar to Supreme Court back in 2014 but since then no hearing took place.

“Not even a single hearing took place in the SC since then and thus we decided to leave the case,” Amin says.

He says it’s difficult to even discuss it now as their children’s are growing

The victims have approached many so far including people at the help, media, women’s commission to seek their help, but all this failed to yield any result. “Our women folk feel ashamed when any unknown person visits the hamlet,” he says

He said that in past they would take out black flag marches and hold protests at different places but now they finally decided to give up all the ways and means of protest to demand justice for the victims of mass rape and torture on this day in 1991.