Rendezvous with ‘living martyrs’ from Kunan-Poshpora

Srinagar: I managed a seat besides noted columnist Abdul Majid Majid Zargar in a jam-packed hall where four rape survivors from Kunan-Poshpora were addressing a tearful press conference.  I missed a beat when one of them said that the society had treated the survivors as lepers. She said, “When a militant gets killed, thousands of people come out to mourn his death. He is remembered and glorified as a martyr.   Our sacrifice is bigger but we have been treated as lepers.  We are ridiculed and condemned.”

Zargar sahib sighed. I turned towards him only to see tears rolling down his cheeks.  I was not that prudent. However, the statement shook me.  One by one, the other survivors spoke.  I closed my eyes and recalled my first visit to the ‘haunted’ hamlet.  A survivor was scared of looking into the mirror. Another had confined herself to a room, yet another’s children were denied admission in a school in a neighbouring village and girls from the hamlet had difficulty in finding suitable matches.

How can anyone blame the women who were raped across Jammu Kashmir during the past 25 years? Had the survivors any role to play in what happened that ill-fated night at Kunan-Poshpora? How can we justify our struggle for getting justice to the survivors if we persecute, isolate and humiliate them?

I also recalled my conversation with renowned US-based anthropologist, Angana P Chatterjee. She made me use survivors instead of victims for the women who are raped. But the word she suggested seemed too hollow in the hall where I was trying to moisten my eyes in vain.

I shall call them ‘living martyrs’ from now on. The tears they have shed are holier than the blood of hundred thousand martyrs who laid down their lives ‘for our tomorrow’.

I pulled myself together as someone suggested that the Indian civil society must apologize for the Kunan-Poshpora tragedy in the same fashion as Pakistan civil society apologized to the people of Bangladesh for the crimes committed by their Army during the 1971 war.  Whether Indian civil society apologizes or not we have to apologize for our indifference and insensitivity and for causing psychological injury to the people of Kunan-Poshpora.