Srinagar: Ahead of the 23rd anniversary of the infamous Kunan-Poshpora mass rape, the J&K Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), which is support group for ‘Justice for Kunan-Poshpora Survivors’, has decided to observe February 23 every year as ‘Kashmiri Women’s Resistance Day’.
In a statement here Friday, a JKCCS spokesperson said, “On the occasion of the 23rd anniversary of the mass rape and torture at Kunan-Poshpora, and recognizing the resilience and courage of all women in Jammu and Kashmir against state violence, we urge all sections of Kashmiri society to commemorate February 23 from this (year) as the Kashmiri Women’s Resistance Day.”
To commemorate ‘Kashmiri Women’s Resistance Day’ this year, a special programme organized by JKCCS and the Support Group for Justice for Kunan-Poshpora Survivors will be held on February 23 at 1:30 pm, [venue to be decided, and announced later], the spokesperson said. “We call on all members of civil society, political parties, women’s groups, student organizations and others to endorse, recognize and remember the struggle, resistance and sacrifices of the women of Jammu and Kashmir on this day. Public support and solidarity for the struggle of the survivors of mass rape and torture in Kunan-Poshpora, as part of a wider movement towards ending impunity for sexual crimes and violence against women in J&K, is vital, on this, the ‘Kashmiri Women’s Resistance Day’, 2014.”
Giving details about the alleged mass rape, the JKCCS spokesperson said: “On the intervening night of February 23/24, 1991, personnel of the Indian Army, 4th Rajputana Rifles, 68 Mountain Brigade, gang-raped many women of Kunan and Poshpora while the men from the villages were subject(ed) to mass torture. On October 21, 1991, the case was closed as untraced; however no formal closure report was submitted before a competent court.
“In April 2013, 50 Srinagar-based women from diverse age groups and backgrounds, filed a PIL before the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir demanding the reopening and reinvestigation of the case. This PIL prompted the police to file a closure report, which on being resisted by the survivors, led to an order for further investigations. To date, the police are in contempt of the court’s orders, as the time granted by the court has expired and they carried out no investigations in the villages.
“The Indian Army has now sought to shut down the investigations altogether, by filing a revision petition against the Magistrate’s order of further investigation, which the survivors are resisting at the Kupwara Sessions Court. The government, whether through the police or the Public Prosecutor, have repeatedly displayed their lack of seriousness in prosecuting the case or bringing the perpetrators to justice.”
The spokesperson added: “For 24 years the women of Jammu and Kashmir have been subject(ed) to widespread and systematic gendered human rights violations, including rapes, sexual assaults, abductions, disappearances, extra judicial executions, and torture perpetrated by the Indian state-paramilitary, army, Jammu and Kashmir Police and others. Through these years, women from Jammu and Kashmir have struggled for truth, justice, and to lead lives free of fear, threats, violence and stigma. They have refused to let their voices be silenced, against tremendous odds, whether it is by speaking out against their perpetrators, publicly exposing official attempts at cover ups, organizing as women’s groups, or approaching the State Human Rights Commission [SHRC], or legal forums for justice.”
The spokesperson said rapes and sexual assaults, which are internationally recognized as war crimes, and a form of torture, have been extensively and routinely used as a weapon of war in Jammu and Kashmir. “All the organs and agencies of the state have deliberately impeded processes of justice and truth for victims, and have colluded to ensure impunity to armed forces. They have specifically fostered and endorsed impunity for sexual crimes, within the wider culture of impunity that prevails in J&K.”
The Kunan-Poshpora case is emblematic of both this pervasive culture of impunity, and of the long-standing resistance against such atrocities, the spokesperson added.