Srinagar, February 23: justice continues to elude the victims of Kunanposhpora mass rape incident even after the passage of twenty-five years.
Indian troops of 4 Rajputana Rifles had raped around a hundred women during a siege and search operation in Kunanposhpora area of Kupwara district on the intervening night of February 22 and 23 in 1991.
A team of the Press Council of India, led by journalist B G Verghese, which had been asked to investigate the incident, had said in its report that no such thing had happened. The report evoked strong criticism from local and international human rights organisations. The villages are still fighting for justice in different courts of the occupied territory.
Five authors, Samreen Mushtaq, Ifrah Butt, Essar Batool, Natasha Rather and Munaza Rashid in a new book ‘Do You Remember Kunanposhpara’ have highlighted the reopening of the case and documents as well as the legal struggle of the survivors.
In 2013, a group of 50 women, consisting of teachers, students, journalists, human rights workers, lawyers and other professionals filed a public interest litigation (PIL) before the High Court of the territory, seeking to reopen the Kunanposhpora 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 Kunanposhpora are fighting,” co-author, Essar Batool, said in an interview.
Although the High Court rejected the petition after three hearings, the legal battle was restated with a series of fresh petitions.
Batool said that the cover-ups, distortions in the case by the authorities and the humiliation of the survivors were enough reasons to bring this case into the public domain to show how the Indian forces enjoyed complete freedom and were allowed to roam around freely. It is this freedom that we are challenging, she added.
The book was officially released at the Jaipur Literature Festival, last month. It focuses on the torture of the Kunanposhpora women.
Batool said that they had taken up the Kunanposhpora case because it was one of the biggest incidents in the history of sexual violence in probably the whole of South Asia. She said that though they had to travel long distances to Kunanposhpora and the Kupwara court, the hardest part was to include everything and not leave even an ounce of evidence out. “This is the documentation of the bravery of the women and men of Kunanposhpora,” she added.
Co-author Samreen Mushtaq said that it had been a struggle to document all of that “to change the stereotype of their being victims to telling the world that they are fighters”.
The writers argue that the book is not fiction, but based on truth and was written irrespective of people’s opinion. “Honestly we did not write the book for acceptance. Truth is spoken not keeping in mind whether or not people will accept it. Truth should be said especially when the other side has been propagating lies for years together. And when you are speaking the truth, confidence comes naturally,” Samreen Mushtaq said.
“As women, we know how the threat of rape feels, but it is a patriarchal notion that women should not talk about rape since we have attached honour to women. It is this patriarchal notion that has been taken advantage of by the armed forces to use rape as a tool of punishment and reprisal,” Batool said.