By Dar Wasim
The non-stop smear campaign against the events at JNU by the rightwing army has backfired and the accused Kanhaiya Kumar has emerged as a new voice in India. He is apparently the icon of the young and the liberals across the country and apparently stunned many political pundits by his stirring speech after his release. But the man has betrayed all those who had pinned hopes on him in Kashmir and his friends who were imprisoned for the same charges by disowning the Afzal Guru event. He could not even stand on what he was accused of. Instead he has attempted to profit from this and secure entry into mainstream left politics.
Political ambitions toppled his initial conviction and he bypassed the question of Afzal Guru’s hanging. The debate triggered over the judicial murder of Afzal Guru fell silent when Kumar efforlessly contradicted his earlier stand. He has tactically distanced himself from the Kashmir issue and those who have bravely taken an ethical position. Now he seems no different from the rightwing brigade who wouldn’t even entertain a discussion on the Kashmir issue.
It is no surprise that over the years many people across India have made their careers on the sufferings of Kashmiris. On the international women’s day Kanhaiya Kumar hit the headlines again resulting in a new case registered against him and Professor Nivedita Menon accusing him of making anti-national comments about Indian army. Kumar in his speech had said that Indian armed forces rape women in Kashmir and North-East.
The media and his critics pounced on this opportunity and lashed him over those remarks. The new thing that emerged was some of his sympathisers also lined up to criticise him. The issue generated a healthy discussion on social media. The veteran journalist Shekhar Gupta tweeted that Kanhaiya had lost it when he said army rapes women in Kashmir, calling it ‘plugging stereotypes of rough 90s’. He even went on to say that the incidents are of distant past and presently there was no report of such incidents, so invoking the incidents of past amounted to mere propaganda. By rough 90s he meant an era when India needed all its military might to retain an ‘integral part’ of its national body, an era when rapes, torture, arson, custodial killings and enforced disappearances were a norm. The statistics may have changed, but none of that has actually completely stopped, a fact Gupta may be wanting to hide.
The then Governor, Jagmohan was supervising the bloodbath on the streets of Kashmir. Indian army as an institution of Indian state was and continues to be culpable for war crimes committed by its soldiers and officers.
The Indian media, guided only by the so-called national interest rather than any standard and well-accepted ethics, has been mostly biased while reporting on or about Kashmir. It has always furthered an Indian narrative perpetuated by mainstream Indian politicians and behaved as a statist propaganda machine misleading common Indians about the Kashmir.
Kashmir’s real pain and cries for justice have never reached the general Indian public, rather the reality was never allowed to reach them. Apart from an honourable few, most of the Indian media practitioners are motivated and committed to blacking out the truth about Kashmir.
I would remind Shekhar Gupta – not that he doesn’t know actually – that after the massive outrage against rape in India in 2012, Verma committee concluded that violence against women in conflict areas is a regular, systematic affair not merely a few isolated instances as is being claimed by him now. The committee further said that such cases must be dealt with the civil criminal law procedure and not just by court martial, and that AFSPA must be reviewed to ensure it is not used as a shield to protect men in uniform accused of rape.
Gupta may be aware that under his supervision the Indian Express had reported the mass rape case in the twin villages of Kunan and Poshpora. It isn’t over at all, even after 25 years of that dreadful night the women of these two villages are struggling to be heard by a court of law. As the victims revealed on the intervening night of 23 and 24 Feb a group of Indian army soldiers belonging to 4 Rajputana Rifles conducted a cordon and search operation in the villages. They interrogated villagers and bundled the men away from their homes making the women free meat. The men were ruthlessly beaten and tortured.
What followed was horrifying and still spine-chilling.Time stopped for those hapless women that day and humanity died for them. The army entered the houses and gang raped the females of all age groups between 13 and 70 years, no one was spared. The village remained under siege for 3 days to foil attempts at reporting the horror perpetrated. Finally the elders of KunanPoshpora succeeded in breaking the cordon and managed to meet the deputy commissioner.
On March 5 that year the DC visited the village and three days later he directed the police authorities to register a case against the soldiers of Rajputana rifles. His report saying “the army men had behaved as violent beasts” sent shock waves all macros the world. The authorities however tried every trick to cover up the case. To avoid outrage, India arranged an inquiry by the Press Council of India led by B G Varghese. He was airlifted to the remote hamlet and stayed in the army camp where the accused soldiers belonged. Shamelessly, Verghese termed the horrifying incident a “massive hoax” orchestrated by the militants. The victims say that he never visited the village to record their statements, instead the case was closed and army was given a clean chit.
The victims lost all hopes of justice and their cries fell on deaf ears. They ran from pillar to post for justice, a struggle they still continue. Five women died due to continuous bleeding despite treatment and it is reported that after the victims of the mass rape 15 women had to undergo difficult medial procedures to survive.
There are other countless incidents of rapes blamed on the Indian army that continues to use the shield of AFSPA to get away. Nobody can forget the double rape and murder case on 2009 in Shopian. With draconian laws and biased media at its disposal these armed forces continue to enjoy legal impunity granted to them via AFSPA. The repeated denial by the largest sections of Indian media has turned the lies into truth and propaganda as national narrative. Mr Gupta may try in the future too to label it a stereotype of distant past but we will never forget the death and destruction gifted by the Indian army. We have gone through nightmares which don’t allow us to sleep. Remembrance is our weapon, remembrance is resistance and we live by it.
We believe in justice and women’s empowerment like you claim to, so let us see how long you can ignore the rights of Kashmiri women. Till then we will wait and watch the circus that goes for prime time news in your country.