Here, in the Western world, few people know about Kashmir, except for its famous cashmere wool. But, back in Southern Asia, it’s known as “Paradise on Earth.” Kashmir is located in the Himalayan Mountains, and one look at its beauty is enough to amaze the onlooker.
But, below the surface, this beautiful land is engulfed in endless agony. Years of subjugation have seen it divided into three parts, split between China, India and Pakistan. Together, these countries have choked the voices of the Kashmiri people, leading to an unprecedented loss of human life and an endless struggle for freedom by the Kashmiri people.
Out of the many countless horror stories that Kashmir has had to live with, I share with you the story of Kunan Poshpora.
On the night of Feb. 23, 1991, from 11 p.m. to 9 a.m., at least 53 women, from a 13-year-old girl to an 80-year-old woman, were allegedly raped by the battalion of 4th Rajputana Rifles of 68 Mountain Division Brigade C/o 56 APO of the Indian Army in Kunan Poshpora village, part of Kashmir’s remote district Kupwara.
Human Rights Watch has reported that the number of victims could have been as high as 100.
What happened that day? Victims say that the Army cordoned off the village and broke into the houses of its citizens. By victims’ accounts, the male population was assembled and beaten at gunpoint. The women were reportedly gang raped.
Such was the inhuman nature of this act that a pregnant woman appeared unspared. She claimed that they raped her and kicked her stomach, too, as the vile act ensued. Three days after the incident, she gave birth to a baby with a fractured arm. Doctors confirmed that the infant had suffered severe blows.
Such were the horrors of the night that when a mother reportedly tried to escape the clutches of the soldiers, her pregnant daughter screamed, “Mouji mai kamis travakh,” which translates to “Mother, will you leave me behind with them.” and, hearing her daughter plead, the mother let herself be dragged away by the army too, just so that she could be with her daughter to share her pain.
The Indian government and the Press Council of India have disregarded that the charges against the Army as a “well-concocted bundle of fabricated lies.”
Justice Bahauddin Farooqi, former Chief Justice of the State’s High Court, said that in his 43 years on the bench, he had never seen a case in which normal investigative procedures were ignored so blatantly as they were in this one.
Even after 24 years, no action has been taken against the Army, mainly because of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act of Sept. 11, 1958, an Indian law, which states that in an area deemed as “disturbed,” an officer of the armed forces has the power to fire upon or use other kinds of force, regardless of deadliness, against those disobeying the law. The power to declare an area as “disturbed” lies in the hands of the central government.
Twenty-four years have passed, but justice has still been denied to the victims of Kunan Poshpora. At this point, many have died, their last days spent yearning for justice. The rest have lost hope, and the horrors of that night continue to haunt their dreams.
Bashir is a member of the class of 2019.