23rd February 1991; the bleak winter night enveloping Kunan and Poshpora, the twin villages located in the subtle remote corners of Kashmir, had an uncomfortable aura adorning its soothing essence. The residents of the village lay comfortable in their beds, adjusting to the warmth of their quilts with little advertence that the dead of the night would unfold into a horrendous string of events that would change their lives forever. The obnoxious night brought with it, the miseries which would haunt the residents of the village in incomprehensible ways.
A group of personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force and the Border Security Forces invaded the village on the pretext of conducting a search for militants who had opened fire on the security forces. They were tipped off with the information that those militants belonged to the twin villages of Kunan and Poshpora. The catastrophic foray flared out to be anything but a search operation. It became a night adorned with blood and torture. The men of the village were forced out of their houses in the middle of the night and were excruciated in the morbid cold of February and the women were raped and humiliated in incredulous ways within the safe haven of their houses. The entire night witnessed horrors in its crudest being and engraved itself in the lives of the residents invariably.
The controversy hovering the mass rape massacre took little time to cover the headlines. Claims by the villagers were rejected by the government of India as a hoax and were labelled as an attempt to tarnish the reputation of the army and the government by militants and their sympathizers. The FIR filed at the local police station claimed that 23 women were gang raped but the Human Rights Watch Organisation estimated the number to be between 23 and 100. With the incident coming forward, numerous investigations into the matter commenced. The Press Council of India ruled out the allegations on the army based on the contradicting and hollow statements provided by the villagers.
However, in the light of the 2012 Delhi gang rape case, the case of Kunan Poshpara gained pace as the country altercated for justice. Few Kashmiri activists, inspired by the outrage caused due to the Nirbhaya gang rape case, decided to retell the horrors of Kunan Poshpora to the world. The matter was reinvestigated and more and more women came forward who had their own stories to share. The recalled events accounted for unbounded miseries of the people which were initially hoaxed out by the government. Owing to the undeterred efforts of these activists, the case of Kunan Poshpora is now being heard at the Supreme Court. The incident brought immense humiliation to the villagers as people around them ostracised the village as being the ‘village of the raped people’.
Kashmir has been the idea of conflict since time immemorial, and the people of Kashmir have fallen prey to the hunger of disaccord. The enactment of the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) has brought fathomless tribulation to the residents of Kashmir. According to the Amnesty International, the AFSPA is an inhumane law which ‘feeds a cycle of impunity for human rights violation’. It provides immunity to the security personnel from persecution of hampering the human rights of the people. Rapes, torture and encounters have long been used as weapons to tame the Kashmiris and suppress their freedom of expression in the name of militant hunt down. This law fueled the suppression and transgression of their rights.
The caliginous ghost of Kunan Poshpora lay buried deep within the viscosity of the snow that covered the grounds of the village on the fateful night. The arrant denial of the incident by the security forces couldn’t save them from being haunted by this ghost. After 26 years of the horrific occurrence, the residents of Kunan Poshpora still struggle to find their way out of the memories of the ghastliness, and their yearning for justice breathes a little less every day.
Hadiqua Jabeen is a student pursuing Biotechnology at Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited By: Shaireen Khan
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.