zahoorIn March this year, Kashmir commemorated 25th anniversary of 1991 Kunan- Poshpora mass rape. The tragedy dates back to the chilling night of February 23/24 when a battalion of the 4th Rajasthan Rif les 68th Brigade conducted a cordon-andsearch operation in the adjacent Kunan and Poshpora villages in Kupwara district. What followed next was gruesome. The army men allegedly committed rape of more than 40 women making it single biggest instance of sexual violence by the forces in any State. According to the villagers, the army cordoned off the villages and ordered the men to assemble at an identified place outside the villages.

           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”. All these years, the victims and their families have been fighting the long battle for justice. Some the victims who were elderly even breathed their last in their struggle to see the perpetrators of the gruesome crime behind the bars.

          The case which went from one court to another all these years didn’t make any headway till the High Court earlier this year ordered for the government to pay compensation to the victims and directed for reopening the case. The court, in a separate application, had also directed the survivors to approach the Chief Justice with an application for clubbing all the petitions related to the case, including the writ petition filed by the Army recently wherein it had obtained an interim stay on the investigations into the case. The fresh intervention by the Court had created hope among the victims about getting the justice despite the fact that the State Government has let them down at every step. The victims’ struggle depicts courage and willingness to take on the mighty to ensure that justice is not murdered. But in a fresh setback for the victims the army has now petitioned the Supreme Court, challenging the order of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court on investigations and compensation.

          The army has contended before the Supreme Court that the allegations of rape and torture are a “hoax orchestrated by militant groups”. The army petition before the Supreme Court is the latest attempt by the State to delay proceedings and block every attempt of the survivors for justice. To date, six of the victims of the rape and the torture have died. Any further delay in unraveling the truth in the case will be travesty of justice for the victims who have lived the past 25 years of their lives in constant struggle.

         According to J&K Coalition of Civil Society, the survivors will now 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. It has been a long wait for justice for these women. Only a fair investigation to know as to what exactly happened is the least that the government can do for them.

Editor in Chief