Kashmir has seen an n number of conflicts throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, and the worst part of it remains confined to the fact that Kashmiri women have been victimised and sexually violated. We have read, in newspapers, of different incidents of rape across the country. However, if we seek reports of the incidents of rapes done to the women of Kashmir, one is bound to remain traumatised for days after learning the statistical data.
That’s not all, the irony is that most cases are not even reported as it is said that it is mostly perpetrated by the Indian Army, who also are subject to impunity under the repressive Armed Force (Special Action) Act (AFSPA) if found guilty of sexually violating women or children. It is by virtue of such an act that incidents of sexual violation of Kashmiri women have been used as a weapon of war. For the last two decades, Kashmiri women have been distressed because of this and the barbarous act of rape have psychologically left them devastated.
On this day, that is February 23, in the year 1991, Kunan Poshpora, two villages, located in Kupwara, perhaps experienced the worst kind of gang rape incidents in the pages of Indian history. The reason why I mentioned ‘perhaps‘ in the last sentence is because of my anxiety as a social being who has a weird interest in gathering information about the conflict in Kashmir, and parallelly, observing how Kashmir was under a blockade for approximately 200 days in the present-day situation since the abrogation of Article 370.
God forbid we do not have to read any report on sexual violence against Kashmiri women once the government decides to take the blockade away, and our silence towards the system hits back as a bullet of our own guilt in the near future.
On the intervening night of February 23-24, 1991, according to the statements from the villagers and newspaper reports, over 40 women and children were gang-raped in Kunan-Poshpora. Their scars are still raw and they continue to endure the burnt of the incident even after more than two decades.
The villagers mentioned that when the troops came, there were around 150 of them from the Panzgam camp. According to reports, the troops were all drunk, barged in, and raped the women while brutally torturing the men who tried resisting. One of the elderly men broke down in tears while describing how he saw his own wife being raped by four men first, and as the four went away, another four jumped onto her, but he was all helpless. All the men were helpless, or they would have been shot at.
The soldiers went berserk, many reports say. The villagers had to watch their own mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters being raped in front of them and were left out in torn clothes. After the troops left, they remarked that they failed to react out of trauma and the women were in pain but were all quiet.
People from nearby villages came in vehicles and nursed the womenfolk. The women were so brutally raped that most of them had to have their uterus operated on. Few died and the others who survived remarked they were breathing but not alive. The kids had to face massive ridicule after the incident. They were not granted admission in any schools because their mothers were raped by soldiers.
The innocent villagers of Kunan-Poshpora had to face such consequences under the accusation of allegedly hiding militants in their homes. What bothers me as a human being is that even if they did, how could such a cruel act justify the allegations? Some twenty-seven years passed by, however, the Indian Government is yet to provide proper investigative reports into what happened in Kunan Poshpora.
The victims, till date, are seeking justice. They expected the judiciary to punish the guilty. The Human Rights Commission called for each woman to receive ₹2 lakhs as compensation, which clearly wouldn’t bring back their dignity. However, the gesture still remains greeted, as the government did next-to-nothing, not even launch a proper investigation.
It is shameful, for every Indian citizen, to keep shut for decades after what happened in Kunan-Poshpora.
Kunan-Poshpora hasn’t healed yet, meanwhile, Modi’s government is taking pride in having abrogated Article 370 on August 5th, 2019, unconstitutionally, and we are again failing the Kashmiris by keeping shut and by not protesting.
I sincerely hope, the result of this defensive silence is not forcing many women to resort to operating their uterus and keeping the children away from living a normal life, that they are being spared the ridicule and misery, and the innocent men, whose mental health is least considered and talked about, and are by default taken for granted as terrorists simply because they were born as Kashmiris- I have not enough might in penning down their miseries. What psychological oppression they go through is beyond description.
I can go on editing this post and keep on writing for the rest of the night trying to make the reader understand how conflicted Kashmir is and how oppressed the women are there. However, I choose to stop tonight with the high hopes that Indians, and everyone who recognises themself a human being, will speak up for the atrocities that are caused in Kashmir as a result of political conflict, which is breaching the basic human rights of our Kashmiri fellow beings.
I hope there will be more rallies and petitions filed to take down the draconian and state-sponsored, absolutely repressive laws like AFSPA.
Finally, concluding this write-up, crossing my heart and hoping people will be kind to the Kashmiris they meet in their day-to-day lives in the first place.