For the Sake of Truth

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Last week, a book ‘Do you remember Kunan Poshpora’ was released at Jaipur Literary Festival. The book has been written by five intrepid Kashmiri women who took it upon themselves to document this forgotten atrocity.They often travelled to the villages, met the survivors, heard their stories and put it down in the form of a book. They also talked to the people and even the former government servants who knew first hand what had happened. Incidentally, the five women –  Samreena Mushtaq, Essar Batool, Ifrah Butt, Munaza Rashid, and Natasha Rather – were inspired by the rape and murder of the Delhi girl Jyoti in December 2012. Soon after around 50 women got together and formed Support Group for the Victims of Kunan-Poshpora. They filed a petition in the government  for the re-investigation of the mass rape which took place on  23 February 1991. They got a head start when court accepted the plea and directed the state government to reopen the case to “further investigate to unravel the identity of the 

Around 30 women were raped by 4th Rajputana Rifles during a search operation in Kunan-Poshpora. According to the villagers, the army cordoned off the village and ordered the men to assemble at an identified place outside the village. The women who were left inside the houses were then allegedly sexually assaulted. Two days later, the then District Magistrate SM Yasin visited Kunan-Poshpora. He commented later that the accused soldiers had “behaved like violent beasts”. The local police filed an FIR on 18 March 1991, but the Director, Prosecutions, threw the case out a month later, saying it was “unfit for launching a criminal prosecution”. Eight months later, the police closed the case without a 

But while the investigation into the atrocity may have made no headway and for obvious reasons, these women have brought it back into public discourse by documenting in gripping detail what happened. Though they are duly pursuing their legal course to bring to book the perpetrators, the women have made sure that the memory of this horrible night is 

“The PIL was the start of another parallel struggle of sorts: a legal struggle, a struggle to expose the continuing impunity and lies of the Indian state, a struggle against forgetting and criminal cover-ups, a struggle to bring back public memories, and a struggle of support for Kunan Poshpora,” the book  

The women tell the stories of the survivors still living with social stigma and unable to come to terms with the horrifying experience In fact, it is the February 1991 rape incident that has now sadly become the identity of this village. But their plight has been nobody’s concern. More than twenty five years after the mass rape, justice has eluded the victims and the perpetrators continue to roam scot free. The initial probes, as the book highlights, were a little veiled attempt to hush up the case. It is only to be hoped that after the court directions and the book by these women, the state government will  at least  be nudged to order a fair probe into the incident. It has been a long wait for justice for these women. And a fair investigation to know as to what exactly happened is the least that the government can do for them.

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