Day: April 10, 2015
By Farah Bashir
Exactly a year ago; I was invited by a student of journalism in Delhi to speak on the ‘significance’ of Kashmiri Women’s Resistance Day. The day was 23 February.
February 23 stands as a brutal reminder of the state violence against Kashmiri women. It has been marked since 2014 to commemorate the struggle and resistance against injustice heaped upon them for over two decades.
Twenty four years ago, on the night of 22-23 February, in 1991, Indian soldiers of the 68th Brigade of the Fourth Rajputana Rifles surrounded two villages Kunan and Poshpora, in district Kupwara, for a ‘cordon and search operation’ commonly known as ‘crackdown’. Men from the twin villages were gathered on the pretext of interrogation, and the women “were gang-raped without any consideration of their age or marital status,” according to the locals, and victims of this incident range in age from 13 to 80 years of age” according to the reports. Human Rights Watch have reported that the number of raped women could be as high as 100.
Indian soldiers shielded by ‘black’ law such as Armed Forces Special Powers Act commit human rights violations in Kashmir with impunity. The atrocities are not an aberration but a calculated and systematic strategy used by the Indian State so as to make the people of Kashmir subservient; in its counter-insurgency campaign aimed at forcing the local population to yield to the militarized notion of Kashmir being an “integral” part of India.
Rape as a form of punishment for the recalcitrant Kashmiri
As a part of the terror campaign to humiliate, subjugate and coerce Kashmiris, the state has an apparatus in place of which rape has been an essential part systematically deployed in Kashmir.
It forms a significant ‘lesson-teaching’ device under the macro strategy of counter-insurgency. Rapes and sexual assault, which are internationally recognized as war crimes have been extensively and routinely used as a weapon of war in Kashmir, and need to be looked at from the lens of an arrogant state operating within the context of an armed occupation with its so-called Subject; and meted out as a punishment for their basic demand and inalienable right to self-determination. “When Captain Ravinder Singh Tewatia of 12 Rashtriya Rifles and SPO Bharat Bhushan rape women inside their own home in Banihal or DSP Altaf Ahmad Khan rapes a schoolgirl who is the cousin of a surrendered militant inside the Zachaldara Police Post or Captain Gurtej Singh rapes a man’s wife in Qazigund they are doing their duty, they are teaching “them” a lesson, they are keeping Kashmir “integral” to India.” documents Abhijit Dutta in his empathetic tribute to the victims of sexualised violence in Kashmir pointing out it being a tactic of repression by the state.
As mentioned these instances don’t happen by chance, but are employed to instil fear amongst Kashmiris as a people.
On 18 May 1990, Mubina Gani, a young bride from Anantnag, on her way back from her wedding at night, was being escorted by her new family to their home. Beside her in the bus was her aunt, a woman who was seven months pregnant. Half a kilometer from their destination, the wedding party came upon a roadblock. As the driver pulled the bus to a halt, the paramilitary personnel at the checkpoint opened fire, killing groom’s brother. After the guests were beaten up and herded; the troopers took the ladies to a nearby field; raped the bride first and then her aunt.
Another case of such brutality and systematic strategy was carried out in May 2009, when bodies of two sisters-in-law Asiya Jan (22) and Nelofar (17) from Shopian were recovered from a stream that was barely “ankle-deep”. Both had been “gang-raped before their deaths.”
According to a report published in New York Times the gynaecologist who examined the bodies of two sisters-in-law raped and murdered had, as per the witnesses, told the crowd while weeping, “What was done to these women even animals could not have done.”
And the ordeal does not end there. The state ensures that there is doubt and ambiguity to derail the victims and their kin while shielding the perpetrators. From refusing to lodge an FIR for nearly a week to ruling out rape, before the forensics report established the same, the state tried to obfuscate the alleged rape and murder of the duo by the Indian troopers.
Their Rape Vs Our Rape
The difference between rapes that happen in India and the rapes committed by the Indian troopers in Kashmir is rather stark. On December 16, 2012- a paramedic student was brutally raped and murdered by five men in India’s capital in New Delhi. Rightfully so, it sparked an outrage from any thinking and feeling person, and eventually, a year later, the surviving accused, barring the minor rapist, were awarded capital punishment for their heinous crime.
But it’s different when the motives are calculated. Ayesha Pervez in her recent essay: Politics of Rape in Kashmir, aptly states, “The Kashmir Valley, which has recorded a high incidence of sexual violence in comparison to other conflict zones in the world, has never seen a single prosecution in reported cases that have dragged on for years between institutions of law and state.”
To discriminate one rape from another; one committed in the patriarchal context and another for political motives need to be seen for what they are: former to exert power; latter to humiliate and subjugate. The latter is best elaborated in a case study by Frantz Fanon (The Wretched of the Earth) in which he reveals the case of an Algerian man whose pregnant wife was raped by the French. The Algerian man developed a sense of disgust for his wife and daughter and considered them both “dirty and polluted…” It was only after counselling and psychiatric treatment at a rehabilitation camp could he distinguish between two kinds of rapes, which eventually led him to “accept” his wife and daughter back.
Justice substituted by Intimidation
The Jammu and Kashmir Coalition for Civil Society, a human rights organisation representing the rape victims of Kunan—Poshpora, in a press release (April, 2014) announced:
“Frustrated by the struggle of Kunan—Poshpora, army carries out explosion and fake recovery of weapons… The explosion and the threat of further searches is clearly an act of intimidation against the villagers of Kunan and Poshpora, and all those associated with the struggle against impunity of the Indian army.”
The state denies any form of assistance to rape victims, but on the contrary further tortures the victims in varied ways: by labelling some of them as militant sympathizers, deserving of such a punishment, while other accounts are dismissed as “fabrications” or “preposterous lies”.
Rapes and the Rate List
The state has also gone on to break the “rape shield law” and revealed a list of names and residential details of the rape victims as an attempt to stigmatise the victims apart from instilling fear and psychosis in them.
A few years ago, the previous state government had come out with a “compensation list” according to which rape in Jammu and Kashmir falls under three categories:
“Rape: Rs 2 lakh
Rape of minor: Rs 3 lakh
Rape in police custody: Rs 3 lakh”
Besides an acknowledgment of it being a tool of humiliation and subjugation, the state might as well have saved itself the trouble of cataloguing rapes because the military occupation that Kashmir is under, one wonders if any area falls outside the perimeter of the “custody” of Indian army.
Fear of Reprisal
A conspicuous absence of any women’s groups supporting the struggle of the rape victims explains the sense of fear which the state instils in form of threats and varied ways of intimidation. Therefore, not many amongst women in Kashmir have organised themselves for collective campaign against rape. “The other reasons for non-involvement of women in anti-rape campaign are fear of reprisals, social stigma and the belief that justice is impossible within the existing state mechanisms”, says Khurram Parvez, the coordinator of JKCCS.
A Desperate Fight
Through all these years of insurgency and counter-insurgency Kashmiri women have struggled for truth, justice, and to lead lives free of fear, threats, violence and stigma. While most Indian officials have termed these victims as “liars” and refuted the charges, the Indian army’s arrogant response to the PIL filed by the representatives of the victims of Kunan—Poshpora mass rape as an attempt to seek justice was akin to “flogging a dead horse.”
“In most of the rape cases women in Kashmir do not report the crime due to the fear of reprisals, besides having trust-deficit,” says Khurram, and further mentioned that in several cases where they were able to collect the information about the rape, they found it quite difficult to persuade the victims to file the cases as no victim showed any interest in the prevailing judiciary. “The victims asked us about any example where after filing a case, victim has succeeded in getting the guilty punished,” Khurram said.
One almost becomes hopeful as Ayesha concludes her essay that appeared in The Hindu, with optimistic undertones, “The brave and extraordinary women of Kashmir will come together to commemorate yet another year of struggle against injustice and retake a vow to challenge state-sanctioned impunity.”
But experience also leaves one wondering that in a zone where militarisation exists beyond borders and streets; enters the domestic territories of a people; their kitchens, their living rooms, their bedrooms exposing them to bone chilling tools of occupation and oppression; are we being too naive by expecting justice; retributive or restorative, from a state that perpetuates violence in the first place?
—The author, a former photojournalist with Reuters, is an independent researcher based in Delhi. Feedback:
Courtesy: Kashmir Reader
Several people were injured when police used brute force an employees’ protest in Srinagar.
According to media sources, police used brute force and detained scores of members of Urban Local Bodies Employees United Forum (ULBEUF) during protest against the anti-people policies of puppet regime at Press Enclave in Srinagar. Meanwhile, people staged protests in Tangmarg town against the arrest of two persons Tariq Ahmad Lone and Manzoor Ahmad Lone. Eyewitnesses said that as soon as the news of the incident spread, people of Qazipora came out and blocked Srinagar-Gulmarg road. On the other hand, scores of Rehbar-e-Taleem teachers were detained when they tried to march towards Directorate of Education after staging protest demonstration at Press Enclave in Srinagar, demanding release of their withheld salaries. Similar protest against puppet regime was held in Khanabal in Islamabad.
APHC Chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Faroqq has said that the authorities move to acquire land for setting up separate townships for Kashmiri Pandits will vitiate the atmosphere of traditional brotherhood and peaceful coexistence in the territory.
According to media sources, Mirwaiz Umar Faroqq at executive meeting held at his Nigeen residence in Srinagar urged people to stay away from their jobs and businesses to register their protest by observing complete shutdown on Saturday. The veteran Hurriyet leader, Syed Ali Gilani in a statement from New Delhi said that the PDP had completely surrendered before the RSS and BJP by agreeing to establish separate townships for Pandits. He said that all the claims which Mufti Sayeed had made before the election had proved to be hoax. He said that no one in Kashmir was against return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley but by creating separate townships Indian communal forces wanted to make another Palestine out of Kashmir. He appealed people to resist against the anti-Kashmir and anti-majority move, calling for protests on Friday and shutdown on Saturday.
Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Chairman, Mohammad Yasin Malik has said that any separate colony for Kashmiri Pandits in the territory will not be allowed.
According to media sources, Mohammad Yasin Malik in a press conference in Srinagar said that the RSS with the help of PDP wanted to turn Kashmir into another Palestine but the move would be resisted.
He said that India was trying to divide Kashmir on religious lines. “We don’t oppose return of Kashmiri Pandits. They are equal stakeholders of this land like others but creating a separate colony for them is not acceptable,” he added. He said that at present there were 10,000 Kashmiri Pandits living in peace with their Muslim brethren across the valley. Many Kashmiri Pandits are running their hotels, schools, colleges and business establishments in Kashmir and face absolutely no problem while living here,” he maintained.
Hurriyet leader, Shabbir Ahmad Shah in a statement in Srinagar called for protests after Friday prayers and complete shutdown on Saturday. He termed the authorities’ plan to allocate separate homeland to Kashmiri Pandits detrimental to the communal harmony of the territory. He said any such initiative tantamount to creating a state within a state and would be unacceptable to the people of Kashmir. “In the garb of settling Kashmiri Pandits, Mufti is planning to permanently settle non-state subjects here, thereby fulfilling agenda of Delhi to change the disputed status of Kashmir,” he added.
Hurriyet leader, Nayeem Ahmad Khan in his statement in Srinagar welcomed Pandits’ return to their homes and live amicably with Muslim neighbours but settling them in separate townships would not be allowed as it was detrimental to the interest of every community living in Kashmir.
“Nobody in Kashmir is against the return of Pandits to their homeland. Kashmiri Muslims are not communal but New Delhi and its local collaborators are trying everything to give their genuine movement a communal colour,” he added.
Dukhtaran-e-Milat Chairperson, Aasiya Andrabi in her statement in Srinagar, said: “We are not against the return of Kashmiri Pandits to Kashmir valley except the way they were being settled in the territory.
The Bar members in a meeting were unanimous in saying that creation of townships for Pandit community was a conspiracy to divide the Kashmiris on communal lines and also to create and wedge between them on grounds of religion, race and faith. They reiterates that Kashmiri Pandits are a part of Kashmiri society and in their capacity as such they have every right to return to the valley and live at their old places of residence where they were living before migration, with their Kashmiri brethren.
The Chairman of JKDF, Bhushan Bazad in his statement in Srinagar opposed the establishment of separate colonies for Kashmiri pundits in the territory.
Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Chairman, Mohammad Yasin Malik has said that the effective and multi dimensional personality of Maulana Showkat Ahmad Shah cannot be forgotten by any Kashmiri.
According to media sources, Mohammad Yasin Malik, speaking in a condolence meeting of JKLF to pay tributes to late Shah in Srinagar, said that Moulana Showkat worked continuously for the Kashmir cause and his efforts for the unity of Ummah would be remembers forever.
Speaking on the occasion other speakers also threw light of the multi-dimensional personality of Maulana Showkat Ahmad.
The puppet administration has admitted that around 13,000 kanals of forest land have been encroached by politicians, bureaucrats and officials of police adding that the former administration facilitated the grabbing of the forest land.
According to media sources, the puppet Minister for Forests and Environment Bali Bhagat in a media interview in Srinagar when asked about drastic shrinking in land forest area said, “We have identified some politicians, bureaucrats, forest and police officials who have encroached upon the forest land.” He said that the previous set-up had facilitated these encroachers in grabbing the land as they had been in nexus with each other.
Without naming anybody, he said some influential politicians were also land grabbers of the forest land and previous regimes had failed to act against them.
Official sources said, in 1947 the total forest area in J&K was 26,900 sq. KASHMIR VOICE which has now reduced to less than 18,000 sq KASHMIR VOICE.
In the past, names of some politicians and bureaucrats also came to the fore who had grabbed the forest land but no action was taken against them.
Various surveys have revealed that climate change and melting of glaciers was taking place due to shrinking of forests in the territory.
JKSM HOLDS PROTEST AGAINST SEPARATE COLONIES IN IOK RSS, SANGH WORKERS FROM INDIA WILL BE SETTLED THERE: ZAFAR
A protest demonstration against the settlement of Kashmiri Pandits in separate colonies was held at Press Enclave in Srinagar, today.
According to media sources, the protest was organized by Jammu and Kashmir Salvation Movement. A large number of party activists including JKSM Chairman, Zafar Akbar Butt attended the demonstration.
Zafar Akbar Butt addressing on the occasion, said that the settlement of Kashmiri Pandits in separate colonies was an Israeli idea and India was trying to repeat it in Kashmir.
“India is planning to settle RSS and Sangh Pariwar workers from different states of the country under the garb of Pandits in these colonies,” he said and added that the puppet administration was implementing the agenda of RSS and Mosad in the occupied territory.
Zafar said that Indian wants to divide Kashmiris on religious lines by constructing separate homeland for the Pandits. “Kashmiri Pandits are a part and parcel of our society and we welcome them, but we will not allow India to play with communal harmony of the territory,” he said, adding India wants to create a state within the state through these settlement colonies.
He said that India is hell bent upon to create another Palestine in South Asian region which will be resisted at any cost. “The so-called administration has already surrendered. They have failed to fulfill their promises which they had with Kashmiris. They have now forgotten the issues like Release of Political prisoners, return of power projects and revocation of draconian law, Armed forces special Act Act.”
He impressed upon Hurriyet leadership to forge unity for thwarting such anti-Kashmir policies aimed at dividing the people on religious lines. Zafar said that move is amid to change the demography of the territory besides tarnishing the Kashmiriyat, a centuries-old tradition of religious harmony.