Kunan (Kupwara): Bashir Ahmad Dar (name changed) and many other fellow villagers on Wednesday watched silently how their native villagers cast their votes in Kunan village of this frontier district.
At least 30 women were “gang raped” by the soldiers on February 23, 1991, an event that changed Kashmir forever.
Majority of Kunan defied boycott and painful history to vote even as Dar and other men, belonging to the rape victims’ families, were left to fringes with ballot ruling the roost.
“It pains you and kills you at the same time when you see your fellow villagers and neighbors throng polling booths. But what can be done? They have made their choice. We can’t do much about it. For the people left with any conscience, voting is insult to the great injuries inflicted to whole Kashmir by the gory incident of 1991,” says Dar with eyes welled up in tears.
North Kashmir’s Baramulla Parliamentary seat went on polls on Wednesday and recorded the highest voter turnout in the Valley with around 40 percent.
“Certain things can’t be helped out. They (voters) think by casting their ballot, development or others things would come. I swear on God those things are just a hoax,” says Dar.
Dar’s family had also bore the brunt of the mass rape when one of his female family members became the victim of the “brutality.”
The village, according to the victims’ families, has a large number of school dropouts in entire Kupwara which they attribute to the rape incident.
“Our boys and girls also want to study, but they leave their studies half way because of taunts and social stigma that fateful incident has chalked out on our lives,” says Dar.
Ghulam Ahmad Mir, fondly addressed in Kunan as Amei Kak, speaks how he tried to persuade his fellow villagers to stay away from polls, but his words fell on deaf ears.
“I almost went door to door and requested them to boycott elections,” says Mir. “They cite millions of reasons to defy 40 families’ calls.”
The lone polling station in the village was housed in Boys High School with a total of 887 registered voters (465 males and 422 females) and till 1 pm 350 of them were cast and around 30 more women were waiting desperately in queue to add to the tally.
What ‘pained’ Mir was that women folk that “are subjected to the brutalities have came out in large numbers to vote.”
“I have no words to describe how I am feeling now. But these people are our part and we have to live with them and they too have to face us every day. Let them vote, what else I can say?” said Mir.
However, a large population of young boys reaffirmed their support to the “mothers and sisters of the village who were gang raped.”
“I and others will boycott these elections and will remain committed to our cause. Casting vote would be tantamount to rubbing salt on our innocent women’s wounds and selling their honour,” said Jamsheed.
Jamsheed and other boys of his age were not born when the mass rape incident happened. “I was not born then. But it’s shameful that many of those who witnessed the crime committed on our women seem to have forgotten everything,” he said.
“But we will not budge from pursuing the truth and justice, come what may,” he added.