‘Governor Saxena said no need to go to Kunan-Poshpora, let the Army report’

Srinagar: Kashmir’s former Divisional Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah has revealed that a critical portion of his report on the 1991 Kunan-Poshpora mass rape by Army soldiers was excised by the government and the then J&K Governor G C Saxena, who was “under a lot of pressure from the IG of the Border Security Force and others,” told him not to go to the twin hamlets, a media report said Thursday.
Habibullah, a former IAS officer and a well-known Kashmir hand who served the Valley in different capacities, has also advocated reinvestigating the case “if there is still an opportunity.”
“Though my report left a number of questions unanswered, inquiry by me was only a preliminary one. But nothing further was done and the case was closed. It is quite improbable that a crime of that magnitude took place as alleged,” Habibullah told The Indian Express in an interview.
Last week, on January 23, the Kunan-Poshpora mass rape case came back into limelight, after 23 years, following revelations by Syed Mohammad Yasin, who was Deputy Commissioner Kupwara at the time of the incident, that he was threatened and transferred from one place to another after he refused to give clean-chit to the guilty soldiers.
Calling Kunan-Poshpora as the “biggest blot on the face of Indian democracy,” Yasin had also revealed that the government had published Habibullah’s report “even when he had not submitted it.”
Habibullah, however, told the Indian Express, “I did not tell him (Yasin) I had not given the government my report yet they have ‘published it. It is true that I had submitted it but the government only published part of my report—a critical portion of it was excised.”
“A lot of Kashmiris have criticised me for not disclosing (the fact that the government had deleted parts of my report) earlier. I couldn’t embarrass the government,” Habibullah said.
He said he would “not go so far as to agree with Yasin when he says ‘it (the Kunan-Poshpora case) is the biggest blot on the face of democratic India’. Yasin was carried away by emotion, he is a Kashmiri himself.”
When asked why he thought the government excised a critical portion of his report, Habibullah said, “Well, obviously, the government wanted to use my name and standing as a defence against what it saw as an international outcry against the alleged incident.”
To a question that why would a village, comprising ‘simple folk’ as he says in his report, complain about a mass rape, at the risk of attracting stigma that has stayed on for decades, Habibullah said, “They were terrorised. That said, I agree such a complaint would not have been made unless there had been some incidents.”
He said the government “had to show the commissioner was a man who was looked up to by the public has rejected the allegation.”
What was the government’s attitude towards the investigative process? “When I first said was going there, Governor G C Saxena tried to discourage me. He said ‘no need to go (to Kunan-Poshpora), let the Army report’. Saxena was under a lot of pressure from the IG of the Border Security Force, (A K) Patel and others,” the former Divisional Commissioner said.
But you didn’t give them a clean chit? “The ‘ifs and buts’ in such circumstances never pay off. Kashmir and India were on trial in those days.”
When asked what did Saxena say when he raised the deletion of some portions of his report with him, Habibullah said, “He said ‘nahin, let the whole controversy settle down, then we will clarify the matter’.”
Did you get the impression that the investigation could be manipulated by the government? “It always was,” Habibullah replied. “But that was not my concern. I was a much younger man then.”
Where do we go next on Kunan-Poshpora? “If there is still an opportunity to re-probe this case effectively, it should be taken up,” Habibullah added.