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Conflict Rape Victims:
Abandoned And Forgotten

By Syed Junaid Hashmi

31 March, 2007

Deserted by their families, abandoned by society, forgotten by both separatists and mainstream political parties, rape victims during the last seventeen years of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir live an appalling life. Reports of Kashmir based social organizations put the figure of women raped, molested and abused above one thousand but data compiled by international agencies like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International put the figure around 900.

Interestingly, State home department has no specific data regarding the number of rapes and molestation cases that took place in the state during the last seventeen years. When contacted, officials in the home department say that media reports regarding the number of rape and molestation cases hardly predict the actual picture. Further, they maintain that families of allegedly raped women hardly take pain in going to the police and registering FIR against the accused, hence preventing the guilty from being convicted.

However, records suggest that during the last seventeen years state government did initiate judicial inquiry in two cases of rape from Kashmir province, reports of which have been submitted to the government but action is yet to be taken. All the five committees of department of crime and railways which were entrusted with the job of finding truth about five allegations of rape have submitted their report since long but action is yet to be taken over them.

According to data maintained by a media portal of United Kingdom (UK) on reported cases of rape and molestation in which security forces were allegedly involved, nearly 500 women were raped in various parts of Jammu and Kashmir between 1990-1994. Media portal maintains that it has compiled the reports from what was reported by state media. The portal maintains that non-governmental organizations (NGO) hardly took interest in documenting the plight of these silent sufferers of Jammu and Kashmir.

According to the newspaper reports, take the case of alleged gang-rape and molestation of seven ladies at Hyhama, Batapora in District Kupwara. As per a report, on June 17, 1994, troops of Rashtriya Rifles accompanied by two officers Major Ramesh and Raj Kumar entered into village Hyhama and allegedly raped and molested seven women.

Reports maintain that next day; people took to streets to protest against the incident. Even the insane were not spared. According to reports, security forces allegedly raped an old lady who was mentally ill in a house at Barbar Shah in Srinagar on January 5, 1991. Perturbed over the incident, locals lodged an FIR with concerned police station. Medical reports confirmed that she had been raped. She died in 1998 with her FIR awaiting action from the state government.

Media reports maintain that at Wanagam Kokernag in Anantnag, women who were collecting fire wood in nearby forest were allegedly molested by the forces during crackdown on May 9, 1994. In another case, reports say that at Manigah in Kupwara, three ladies were raped during crackdown in a house on May 14, 1994. An FIR stands registered in the concerned Police station concerned. Apart from this, Locals also protested and demonstrated against this incident.

There are many other such cases which have been reported by state media. But with victims reluctant to come forward; Documentation of these cases could never take place. Failure in documentation of these cases has worsened the situation. According to a 1994 United Nations publication from 1990 to 1996, 882 women were reportedly gang-raped by security forces in Jammu and Kashmir.

But social stigma associated with word Rape has made work of human rights and women NGOs cumbersome. They say that women are reluctant to come forward. They maintain that the sordid story of Konan-Poshpura in Kupwara has been repeated over and again. According to reports, in the year 1991, on the night of February 22-23 troops of 5th Rajputana rifles allegedly raped 30 women in Kunan-Poshpura in Kupwara aged between 18 to 85 years.

15 years have passed since the incident took place; no marriage has taken place in Kunan Poshpura. Reports indicate that a few have been psychologically affected. Awaiting justice, these unfortunate mothers and daughters get a mention every where no support. And in the recent times, in November 2004 the alleged rape of a mother-daughter duo by security forces in Badar payein, Handwara sparked protests across Kashmir. The incident was preceded by another one in Mattan Anantnag where a woman was allegedly gang raped by troops of Rashtriya Rifles.

While separatists address their plight by stating that they have lost their honour for a greater cause, state government orders an inquiry which remains inconclusive and guilty get rewards for having fought militancy tooth and nail. "I know by merely giving statements honour lost by our daughters, sisters and mothers cannot be restored. They expected a lot more from the separatist leadership than what it has been doing, unfortunately we failed in pursuing the cause of our women vigorously," said a separatist leader Shahid-ul-islam of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (Mirwaiz Group).

He added that cases of rape and molestation deserved more attention than custodial murders and disappearances but it never happened. "Had all the incidents been reported, the number would have been somewhere around 3000, Social stigma associated with rape in Kashmir valley prevented a number of families from coming forward," added the separatist leader. However, he said that they have been helping those who came forward and reported the incident.

Ironically enough, even human rights organizations have started forgetting women of Jammu and Kashmir who have been the worst losers. In an era when focus is on women empowerment, the report recently released by Human Rights Watch has details of instances of custodial killings, disappearances, shootings and arbitrary detentions, in the region, but the words 'rape' or molestation' do not appear anywhere in the report.

Various female social workers say that state media and human rights groups have not reported the incidents of rape and molestation with greater interest, hence expecting the same from international groups becomes a little harsh.

A four members fact finding team led by a Mumbai based journalist Ritu Dewan visited Jammu-Kashmir in May 1994 and later wrote that incidence of rape is higher than what is reported because of the associated stigma associated with it. Human rights groups like Amnesty International, Asia Watch a division of Human Rights Watch have however acknowledged the occurrence of rapes in Indian administered Kashmir in their reports earlier, blaming both Indian troops and militants.

When officials of the state government are rung up, they plainly refuse to talk outside the official files which have been gathering dust since long. "A case cannot be framed against anyone on the basis of media reports, Victim must file an FIR on which an inquiry could be conducted. Once the inquiry report comes, state believes in giving exemplary punishments to those involved," said a senior officer of the home department on the condition of anonymity.


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