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Remembering Kunan Poshpora And The Unchallenged "Collective Conscience"

By Devika Mittal

25 February, 2014

23 years ago, one of the most shocking and unforgettable memories was entrenched in the minds of Kashmiris. It was February 23, 23 years ago, when the Kunan Poshpora happened. About 53 women were allegedly raped by men of the Rajputana Rifles in the two villages of Kunan and Poshpora in the Kupwara district. Their inhumanity had not even spared minor girls, pregnant women and aged women. The detailed account cannot be written easily. The account is so brutal that it will refuse to leave one's mind for a long time. But that is only about reading so can one even imagine what the victims and their immediate kin must have gone through and still go through?

But what is also equally shocking is that for this incident, the "collective conscience of the society" was not challenged. This incident like almost all such incidents in Kashmir did not see any light of justice. It has been 23 years but none of the guilty persons have been prosecuted. The investigating committees that were appointed had also given a clean chit to the guilty. They are all free, free of these thoughts of their acts of inhumanity, free of any feeling of guilt and remorse.

While the Union External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid “apologized” for the incident saying that he feels “ashamed”, he did not talk about any justice. Infact, he appealed to people to forget about it and move on. I ask Mr. Khurshid if all crimes in the rest of the country also work on this same principle? Are people expected to forget about justice and move on? Why this hypocrisy?

The Kashmiris cannot forget it also because this was not the first and the last incident. Similar cases have happened before and after the incident. In the name of the search and cordon operations, the Indian soldiers sexually-assault women. How do they forget it? It was not the only incident, they are living it. Kashmir and the states of North-east India (except Sikkin) constitute the conflict zones of India. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act or AFSPA that gives unrestrained powers to the armed forces rules in these states. AFSPA gives the armed forces the rights to shoot at sight, kill, and torture on mere suspicion. It also protects the soldiers with legal impunity. Because of this, AFSPA has become a symbol of army arbitrariness and inhumanity. Every day is a struggle for life and honour in these states. Human Rights reports reveal that sexual assault during search and cordon operations is quite common. The Kunan Poshpora incident was only one of the most horrible incidents that have happened in AFSPA-states. Yet the law still continues to exist.

This apathy to this gruesome incident and to other such incidents is ironical also because this is supposed to be the country which claims to brag about women empowerment. In these AFSPA states, women suffer terribly. But where are all the women activists?

While the rape of a girl in Delhi had seen protests across the country and culminated into the death sentence of the guilty, there have not been any voices for justice for the Kunan Poshpora victims beyond Kashmir. While the rape of the girl had “shocked the society” so much that the Court “could not” grant anything less than death sentence to the guilty, the incident that involved about 100 women did not “shock the society” enough. Why this hypocrisy? Aren’t they human beings as well? How is it that their pain and suffering is not understandable? Why no sympathy for them? Is the “collective conscience” applicable only for a certain groups of people?

We must end this hypocrisy and inhumanity. Justice is a universal right of every individual. No law should be above the life and honour of an individual. But only punishing the guilty in this incident would be incomplete without the repeal of the draconian AFSPA which enables this inhumanity. It's been 23 years.. justice should be done. Justice for humanity.

Devika Mittal
Bio: Postgraduate student of Sociology(South Asian University), Core Member- Mission Bhartiyam, Core Member- Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign
Blog : http://devikamittal.blogspot.com, http://devikamittal.wordpress.com/
Follow on Twitter : www.twitter.com/devikasmittal



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