The Kupwara court’s recent order to reopen the 1991 case in which 36 women were allegedly raped by personnel of the 4 Rajputana Rifles in Kunan-Poshpora, dismissing the closure report filed by the J&K police, has come too late - 22 years after that shameful act. But at least now, New Delhi should show the courage to put the accused on trial. If the Indian army was alleged to be responsible for the gang rape of 36 women in this twin village, it was the J&K police and some Delhi-based journos who are believed to have hushed it up. There may be far too many cases of rape in the rest of India on a daily basis with New Delhi being the ‘rape capital’ of the world, but what is different about Kunan-Poshpora is that this bears such uncanny similarity to how invading forces ravage occupied territories and rape the women there. You don’t hear of the women of an entire village being raped by policemen or security forces in the rest of India, but you do hear that in Kashmir, and that’s precisely why many Kashmiris call their land ‘Indian Occupied Kashmir’.
While a number of women have been raped, many Kashmiri men have been subjected to sexual violence/molestation during the custodial torture they are often subjected to. “Inshallah Kashmir: Living in Terror”, a recent documentary film by Indian film maker Ashvin Kumar, has managed to tell many untold stories about human rights violations in Kashmir.
Here’s why they hate us!
Most Indians are often stumped when they see graffitis in Kashmir that read “Indian dogs go back”. They fail to understand why Kashmiris have a problem with India. All they get to hear – if one is not an avid observer of Kashmiri politics – is the Prime Minister routinely announcing generous economic packages for Kashmir something that many parts of India can only dream of. They also hear about the Congress scion making occasional visits to Kashmir and promising employment for Kashmiri youth. So what then is the problem? Why do they still hate us, in spite of all that we are doing for the Kashmiris?
What most Indians do not get to hear are reports of atrocities committed by Indian army and security forces in Kashmir. Well, even if they heard about them, they would rationalize it in the name of terrorism and Pakistan. It has taken far too many years for the Indian public to wake up to see what is happening in Kashmir. The bold statements by Justice J. S. Verma committee on impunity by armed forces in places like Kashmir have helped the average Indian understand what is done to the Kashmiris.
The land of impunity
The Indian army hardly ever permits civilian authorities to try its soldiers accused of rape or such other crimes nor does it readily order internal inquires. One reason is that the army leadership fears that the morale of the soldiers would be adversely affected with the other reason being that any such inquiry would negate its moral high ground. Not only that this line of reasoning is ludicrous, but the civilian leadership often forgets that it is indeed the lack of exemplary punishment in the initial stages that spreads a culture of impunity among the forces. Indeed, punishment, in the form of deterrence, serves as a major social-control function without which human societies would decent to the law of nature.
The politics of impunity
The average Indian can be forgiven for not being aware of what happens in Kashmir. But the country’s civilian authority has no such excuses. The Congress government in New Delhi has a poor record of giving permission to prosecute army personnel involved in rights abuses. In 2010, defence minister A. K. Antony himself told the Indian parliament that while the government received 38 requests for permission to prosecute army personnel involved in rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir, no permission had been granted. That is some human rights record!
Politicking in Kashmir over the fate of AFSPA between the Congress and National Conference is even more shameful. While the NC keeps up the tempo for the removal of AFSPA, the local Congress leaders oppose it saying that the Chief Minister has not consulted them on the matter. While senior congress leader A. K. Antony, as the defence Minister of the country, fails to defend the rights of Kashmiris, his partymen in Kashmir make it a point to continue with the anti-people policies of the party.
Beware of the international opinion
India today, more than ever before, is concerned about what the international community thinks about it. It sees itself as a rising power with a good track record of upholding norms and values. If so, the country, and its defence minister, should be more serious about the human rights abuses in Kashmir. More importantly, India is party to a number of international treaties and conventions that prohibit human rights abuses. New Delhi is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which prohibits torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of people. It is also party to the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Article 3, which is common to all four Geneva conventions of 1949, applies to situations of “non-international armed conflicts” (meaning internal conflicts) which explicitly prohibits rights violations as well as outrage of personal dignity such as rape.
Before New Delhi preaches values and norms to the international community, it needs to clean up its act at home, starting with Kashmir.
(Source: Greater Kashmir, June 23, 2013. URL: http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/2013/Jun/23/the-shame-of-kunan-poshpora-38.asp )