1991: Mass Rape in Kunan-Poshpora

At around 11 p.m. on February 23, 1991, soldiers from the 4 Rajputana Rifles cordoned off the village of Kunan Poshpora to conduct a search operation, and proceeded to gang-rape a large number of women in a terror spree lasting till 9 o’clock the next morning. Local villagers alleged that up to 32 women “were gang-raped without any consideration of their age, marital status or pregnancy.”

The victims ranged in age from 13 to 60. The village headman and other leaders have claimed that they reported the rapes to army officers on February 27 but the latter denied the charges and refused to take any further action. The army, on the other hand, claims that no report was ever made.

On March 5, villagers complained to Kupwara District Magistrate S.M. Yasin, who visited the village on March 7 to investigate. In his final report, he stated that the soldiers “behaved like wild beasts” and described the attack as follows: “A large number of armed personnel entered into the houses of villagers and at gunpoint they gang-raped 23 ladies, without any consideration of their age, married, unmarried, pregnancy etc… there was a hue and cry in the whole village.”

Following the District Magistrate’s report, uproar over the incident led to strong denials from the Indian military. On March 17, Mufti Bahauddin Farooqi, a former Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, led a fact-finding mission to Kunan Poshpora. In the course of his investigation, he interviewed 53 women who claimed to have been raped by the soldiers, and tried to determine why a police investigation into the incident had never taken place. According to his report, villagers claimed that a police investigation into the event had never commenced because the officer assigned to the case, Assistant Superintendent of Police Dilbaugh Singh, was on leave. Farooqi later stated that in his 43 years on the bench he “had never seen a case in which normal investigative procedures were ignored as they were in this one.” Just a few months later, in July 1991, Dilbaugh Singh was transferred to another station without ever having started the investigation.

On March 18, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Wajahat Habibullah visited the village, and filed a confidential report, parts of which were later released to the public. He concluded: “While the veracity of the complaint is highly doubtful, it still needs to be determined why such complaint was made at all.”

A group of women have taken up the case to seek justice for the survivors.