New Delhi, Feb 22: Two contiguous north Kashmir villages, Kun and Poshpora, became part of Jammu and Kashmir’s complex tale of misery on the night of February 23, 1991. But it also got caught in the vortice of allegations and counter-claims so common to many events in the state. On that night, troops of 4 Rajputa Rifles had cordoned off the twin villages for carrying out a search operation to locate militants there. The militants were never found, but the Valley raged the next morning with allegations that the army personnel had raped 32 women.
The Army and state authorities denied the allegations. A team of the Press Council of India, led by jourlist B.G. Verghese, which had been asked to investigate said in its report that the “Kun rape story on close examition turns out to be a massive hoax, orchestrated by militant groups and their sympathizers and mentors in Kashmir and abroad as part of a sustained and cleverly contrived strategy of psychological warfare.”
The report came under massive criticism from human rights organisations and others, both tiol and intertiol for having sought to whitewash the incident. The villages are still fighting for justice in different courts of the state.
Now, five Kashmiri women have taken up the incident to pen down a book titled “Do you Remember Kun-Poshpora?” (Zubaan Books; pp : 180; Rs.395)
The book talks about reopening the case and documents the legal struggle faced by the survivors. The five authors are Samreen Mushtaq, Ifrah Butt, Essar Batool, tasha Rather and Muza Rashid.
In 2013, a group of 50 women, consisting of teachers, students, jourlists, human rights workers, lawyers, and other professiols filed a public interest litigation (PIL) before the Jammu and Kashmir High Court seeking to reopen the Kun Poshpora case.
“The aim behind filing the PIL was to make the Indian Army answerable and to disclose their real identity in Kashmir. The book came later as part of the battle that the survivors of Kun Poshpora are fighting and so that we don’t forget the allegations of the rapes of Kashmiri women,” co-author Essar Batool told IANS in an email interview from Srigar.
Although the high court rejected the petition after three hearings, the legal battle was restated with a series of fresh petitions.
“The cover-ups, distortions in the case by the state and the humiliation of the survivors is enough reason to bring forth this case into the public domain to show how the armed forces enjoy complete freedom and are allowed to roam around freely. It is this freedom that we are challenging,” Batool added.
The book was officially released at the Jaipur Literature Festival last month. It focuses on the torture of the women from the villages, some 130 km northwest of Srigar city. The book has been divided into seven chapters: “Kashmiri Women and Resilience”, “Sexual Violence and Impunity in Kashmir”, “The Night in Kun Poshpora”, “Life in Kun Poshpora”, “Inquiries and Impunities”, “People Who Remember” and “The Legal Battle”.
Batool said they had taken up the Kun Poshpora case because “it is one of the biggest incidents in the history of sexual violence in probably the whole of south Asia,” adding she was inspired when a group of Manipuri women protested ked outside an army facility in Imphal more than a decade ago daring the soldiers to rape them too.
Asked, about the most difficult part to recount while writing the book, Batool said: “Having the survivors recount the horrors of that night has always been hard, because talking about it would send them back to that horrific night.” (IANS)