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What happened in Kunan Poshpora?

sexta-feira 17 de fevereiro de 2017, por _WSS_,

On a cold February night in 1991, a group of soldiers and officers of the 4 th Rajputana Rifles regiment of the Indian army entered two villages of Kunan and Poshpora in the remote district of Kupwara in Kashmir.

The army claimed it was conducting ‘search and interrogation’ operations seeking out armed militants presumed to be hiding there. Instead, they pulled the men in the village out of their homes, subjected them to severe torture, including sexual assault
and humiliation, and detained them all night. The women of the two villages were brutally gang-raped at gun-point; several women were sexually assaulted and stripped, and then left for dead in their own homes.

The men were released in the morning and returned home to find the women raped and brutalized by the Indian army. Twenty-six years later, the memory of this mass rape, torture and humiliation by the men in uniform lingers in the valley. “Kunan Poshpora” and the day of the 23 rd February has since become a symbol across Kashmir and beyond of women’s resistance to the militarization of this region by the State.

Moreover, Kashmir was brought under the purview of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in 1990, after it had been in operation in several North Eastern States since 1958. Under this law, armed forces and other security forces in “disturbed areas” have the license to shoot to kill anyone on suspicion; make
arrests without warrants; enter and search any home or establishment; detain and question anyone. Armed forces personnel and security forces have complete immunity for actions taken under this law, and their prosecution requires prior sanction of the government. RTI information has disclosed that Sanction for prosecution of armed forces even for egregious human rights violation has never been granted.

Over the last two decades, the Indian army, its personnel, its courts, and agencies have fought hard to dismiss, distort and deny the allegations made by the villagers of Kunan and Poshpora. On the insistence of the villagers, FIRs were filed after the incident. The investigation was stalled several times citing administrative reasons. When it did take place, it was reluctantly done. Despite the testimonies of at least 80
women, evidence of sexual violence, and the immediate reporting of the local and international media, the investigations declared these complaints of assaults as “baseless” and false. A journalist of the Press Council of India, BG Verghese, declared the charges “a massive hoax”. However, he admitted that “security personnel were prone to regard themselves as part of an occupation force under siege and the entire populace as ‘enemies’.” Yet, it appears as a “matter of honour” for the Indian army to remain in Kashmir.

Incidentally, the villagers of Kunan and Poshpora maintain that Verghese never visited the area. This, as the narrative of State violence repeatedly shows, is the pattern of investigations embedded with the logic of impunity. Rape as a tool of repression, sexual violence as a weapon of war, and humiliation of a population as the policy of domination are all visible here. The subsequent erasure of collective memory is the final means of completing the cycle of impunity that emboldens military forces to commit crimes on civilians all over the world.

But an incident such as this cannot be buried. The memory of the brutality for the people of Kunan Poshpora cannot be wiped clean, more so, when it affects them to this day. The social ostracism, the humiliation and the inability of the women to marry outside the village according to convention due to the stigma attached to sexual violence have taken a toll on the people. The sheer violence of the incident blends with the bitterness of an unjust patriarchal society. Yet, the villagers have testified, again and again, to investigating agencies, fact-finding teams, and the media and continue to fight for justice. This collective resolve born out of humiliation but sustained by resilience is the story we need to understand.

This story repeats itself in other districts and villages of Kashmir. In 2009, Asiya and Nilofer Jan were raped and brutally murdered by the Indian army in Shopian. Every Kashmiri living with the fear of being pumped with bullets has stories to tell about the daily incidents of violence and torture at the hands of the security Jab Toot Girengi Zanjeerein Commemorating Kashmiri Women’s Day of Resistance forces. The last few decades have seen several thousand Kashmiris “disappeared” never to be found again alongside thousands of unmarked graves near military cantonments. The history of violence in a land contested for generations, this resistance against the erasure of memory and the struggle to be remembered as resilient voices fighting against state militarism needs more discussion. Each time we revisit the struggle for justice, we understand the spirit of the people of Kunan Poshpora and all of Kashmir. Today, there is an urgent need for serious reflection and understanding, and to learn from the work of a new generation.

To this end, students in AUD and Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression invite you for a conversation with scholars, writers and filmmakers from Kashmir.

Speakers:

Gowhar Fazili, Delhi University: Familial Grief, Resistance and the Political Imaginary in Kashmir

Bhavneet Kaur, Delhi University, The Politics of Emotion: Women;s Narratives of Memory, Resistance and the Everyday in Kashmir

Vanessa Chishti, O.P. Jindal University: The Woman’s Question in Kashmir

Iffat Fatima, director of documentary Khoon Div Baarav (Blood Leaves its Trails)

Essar Batool, co-author of Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora

WSS

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) is a non funded grassroots effort started in November 2009, to put an end to the violence being perpetrated upon our bodies and societies. We are a nationwide network of women from diverse political and social movements comprising of women’s organizations, mass organizations, civil liberty organizations, student and youth organizations, mass movements and individuals. We unequivocally condemn state repression and sexual violence on women and girls by any perpetrator(s). Among other activities, the Delhi group of WSS has brought out a fact finding report on sexual violence in Haryana, a report on a national seminar on Caste and Patriarchy, and recently
undertook a fact finding investigation into the rape and murder of members of a Muslim family in Mewat, Haryana. Please visit our website at wss.net for more information.

23 rd of February, 2017 (twenty-six years after the incident) at 2:30 PM,

NL 2, Ambedkar University, Delhi


On a cold February night in 1991, a group of soldiers and officers of the 4 th Rajputana Rifles regiment of the Indian army entered two villages of Kunan and Poshpora in the remote district of Kupwara in Kashmir.