On the Kanun- Poshpora Incident – Why Cry Now?

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Never do anything against conscience even if the State demands it-Albert Einstein

The tragedy of the Kanun- Poshpura incident is not the government apathy alone, but also the fact that some of those who occupied the seats of authority and power when this incident occurred and were privy to what really happened, chose to remain silent all these years but have now started making belated revelations. First it was Wajahat Habibullah, who claimed that the government had “deleted important portions of his confidential report,” which he as Deputy Commissioner Kupwara had prepared after conducting an inquiry into the Kunan –Poshpora incident. If one believes what Habibullah has to say, then one cannot fathom as to why a person of his integrity chose to keep silent all these years on the reprehensible attempt on the part of the government to shield rapists by deleting “important portions” of this report. 

Being an administrator himself, surely Habibullah would have all along known that while the government has the right to concur with or disagree with the opinion of an official inquiry, it has no authority whatsoever to delete any portion of the same. Thus, is Habibullah’s belated revelation due to the sudden awakening of his conscience, or is the joint statement issued by the Support Group for Justice for Kunan Poshpora and Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) that, “Rather than protest publicly, resign, and struggle for justice, he (Habibullah) chose to safeguard his career and continue in the service of the Indian state,” the real reason? Habibullah’s own recent admission during an interview given to Indian Express that he did not disclose the fact regarding deletions made by the government in his report as, “I couldn’t embarrass the government,’ reinforces the view expressed by the Support Group for Justice for Kunan Poshpora and JKCCSS. 

However, this is not all. On being criticised for concluding that the allegations of mass rape were “exaggerated,” Habibullah gave a rather strange reason by saying that, “I found the allegations of mass rape exaggerated because the women of the entire village were saying they were raped. But I did not say nothing has happened. I thought perhaps the entire village had decided to say they were raped so that the victims do not have to live alone with this blot.” Probably, Habibullah does not realise that in an attempt to absolve himself of any wrongdoing by making such an absurd statement, he is only admitting that even without being under any external influence or pressure, he had committed a cardinal sin by conducting the inquiry with a prejudiced mind. And by now saying that, “If there is still an opportunity to re-probe this case effectively, it should be taken up,” he is only rubbing salt to the wounds of the Kunan- Poshpora victims.

By treating their statements with unwarranted suspicion and basing his opinions on personal assumptions, Habibullah has failed the victims of Kunan- Poshpora. Thus, even if the government had “deleted important portions of his confidential report,” the fact that when he himself has concluded that the allegations of mass rape were “exaggerated,” what else remains to be said? Therefore, while Habibullah may think that clarifications like, “But I did not say nothing has happened,” would help him redeem his image, he is sadly mistaken. And even if it does, will his unconvincing reasoning and warped logic ever succeed in clearing his own conscience?

Now joining the ranks of Habibullah, is Syed Mohammad Yasin, who being Deputy Commissioner Kupwara at that time had also visited Kunan- Poshpora after the incident and carried out another inquiry. Addressing the recently held seminar on ‘Kashmiri Women’s Resistance Day’, Yasin said that he “was shocked to see the plight of the women” and went on to add that “The victims, including old and young, were weeping and crying. They narrated their ordeal. I must say I felt ashamed while recording their statements….” Luckily, unlike Habibullah who felt that the allegations were ‘exaggerated’, Yasin claims that he went about his investigation dispassionately and prepared his report on the incident going strictly by the statement of the victims and the evidence collected. As per Yasin, his report was so damning that he was summoned by the Governer of J&K. Yasin also claims that while senior journalist BG Varghese who led the Press Council of India (PCI) team inquiring into this incident had asked him to “save soldiers in national interest,” the Special Secretary tried to persuade him to close the case. However, despite being initially coaxed and subsequently threatened, Yasin stood his ground and he proudly states that though he was “transferred from one place to another but I never compromised over my report.”

Yasin’s decision to firmly stand by the truth even being threatened that he and his family would have to face dire consequences if he did not close the case deserves appreciation. However, Yasin needs to explain the reasons for his inexplicable 23 year long stoic silence. He has himself admitted that he was “shocked” and “ashamed” when he heard the victims describe the gross indignities they had been subjected to by army men, who according to Yasin “were worse than beasts.” So, how could his conscience ever allow him to keep silent for over two decades even when the victims were being accused of making false allegations and being denied justice on the grounds that here was no evidence against the army men? Could it be the fear of retribution? Unlikely, for two reasons- the first, Yasin has himself claimed that he “never compromised” over his report and secondly, since the threat came not from the army, intelligence agencies, police or any other government department but from senior journalist Varghese, it was obviously not a serious one. 

Though Varghese has outrightly rubbished Yasin’s claim and reaffirmed that he stood by his report, he has strangely endorsed Habibullah’s apprehension by saying that “The accusation of mass rape is nothing but an exaggeration.” While it is quite possible that Varghese is being economical with the truth for his own self serving interests, his assertion that no proper enquiry of the incident was carried out needs to be investigated. In case his allegations that basic actions like, timely medical examination of the victims and preparation of medico- legal cases were not undertaken, or that the two local policemen who visited the villages never submitted their report are true, then both Wajat Habibullah and Syed Mohammad Yasin have a lot to explain and answer for. Thus instead of crying ‘foul’ this duo needs to come out with facts so that we can finally stop crying over the Kunan Poshpora incident and instead get going in bringing the guilty to book!  

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