Years on: Kunan Poshpora incident still haunts the victims
By Irshad Saleeem
Decades have passed but still this village is waiting for justice and still can’t forget that brutal night of February 23 when the whole village was gang raped by 4th Rajputana rifles of Indian army.
The Kunan Poshpora incident occurred on February 23, 1991, when units of the Indian army launched a search and interrogation operation in the village of Kunan Poshpora, located in Kashmir’s remote Kupwara District. At least 53 women were allegedly gang raped by soldiers that night. However, Human Rights organizations including Human Rights Watch reported that the number of raped women could be as high as 100. Although the Indian government’s investigations into the incident rejected the allegations as baseless.
February 23, 1991 at approximately 11:00PM soldiers from the 4th Rajputana Rifles cordoned off the village of Kunan Poshpora to conduct a search operation. “The men were taken from their homes and assembled in an open field for interrogation overnight. Once the men had been taken away, soldiers allegedly gang raped a large number of village women overnight till 9:00 AM the next day.” Local villagers alleged. They added by saying that up to 100 women were gang-raped without any consideration of their age, married, unmarried, pregnancy etc. The victims ranged in age from 13 to 80. The village headman and other leaders reported the rapes to army officials but the officials denied the charges and refused to take any further action.
But the sadness in the eyes of the women of Kunan Poshpora is not the consequence of the eternal burden that women must carry, of fetching, carrying and caring, tasks that remain unalterable regardless of location. Their eyes tell a different story; even today they can barely hide the terror and shame of a day in 1991, when Indian Army personnel raped over 100 women from this village. These women were young then. Saeda who was then 30 and now in her fifties can’t still forget the day and says she can still clearly see that shameful day just before her eyes. “I was with my mother and my elder sister was also accompanying us when that brutal incident happened. All the three women were raped by almost ten soldiers and we couldn’t do anything” recalls Saeda who was also a victim that day.
Today, two decades later, some of them remain unmarried, others have come back to their maternal homes, and all of them are scarred for life.
Twenty years after the gory incident, no one seems willing to reopen the old wounds, this elderly survivor being the only exception. Halima, then 52, says in numb voice that she resisted them but they acted like animals. “I resisted them for nearly 15 minutes but they were in numbers and I could not do anything in front of 5 to 8 persons. According to her relatives, she isolated herself for a long time after the incident. She preferred to stay away from hordes of visiting journalists during her self-imposed confinement in a dingy room of her shabby house. She is now in her 70s but still eager to see “the rapists behind the bars”.
Mohamed salaam, a villager, recalling the memories of the fateful day said that the troops cordoned the whole village on February 23, 1991. “The entire male population of the village was herded away from the village. Many were subjected to questioning and beating by the troops while others became victim of interrogation,” he added.
“We were held and interrogated till the wee hours of the morning and when we came back to our homes what we saw was just barbaric. All of our women members were being gang raped” he added. Mohamed salaam said that the villagers made various complaints to the occupation authorities about the incident but of no avail. “The case is still pending and not a single trooper has been arrested so far after two decades have passed. The victim girls cannot get suitable match for marriage,”
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