Kunan Rape Victims: ‘Ironic! Mehbooba Promised Us Justice But Banned Commemoration Event’

SRINAGAR: The survivors of mass rape incident of Kunan village in Kupwara district on Thursday slammed Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, for giving “false hopes” of justice during her 2014 assembly election campaign.

The victims of the mass rape said that during the time of election in 2014, the incumbent chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, “promised us that if she comes to power she will bring back the case from Delhi (read Supreme Court) to Srinagar (J&K High Court) and will ensure justice is delivered to them at any cost”.

“We pinned high hopes on Mehbooba after her poll promises,” said a rape victim during an interaction with media in Srinagar today. “We thought she is a woman and could feel our pain but she ended up banning an event to commemorate the anniversary of this gruesome incident. This is ironic.”

Notable to mention, J&K government on Wednesday disallowed holding of a public event in Lal Chowk which its organizers said was aimed at listening to the ordeal of the mass rape survivors.

The District Magistrate Srinagar in an order cited “apprehension of law and order due to the event” which was being organized by “Kunan-Poshpora Support Group”. However, the survivors managed to meet corps of press at the head office of Srinagar based rights group, JKCCS.

“Where is she (Mehbooba Mufti) now?” asked another survivor referring to promises of ruling PDP president and CM, Mehbooba Mufti. “Is not she a woman? Doesn’t she have two daughters?”

The victims and their family members narrated the story of pain, sufferings and the social stigma they face from past 26 years during today’s interaction.

It was during the intervening night of February 23 and 24 in 1991 that soldiers of Army’s 4 Rajputana Rifles of 68 Brigade cordoned Kunan village and allegedly committed the gruesome act.

The soldiers raided the village and assembled male folk in open before committing the incident. The villagers said that army personnel raped around 23 to 30 women of ages between 8 and 80 years through the night.

On 08 March 1991, an FIR – 10/1991 – was registered in Tregham Police station.

Lamenting the delay in pronouncing justice to the victims, the victims said, “government wants all of us (victims) to die so that the case (for justice) dies itself.” However, the victims said that they won’t let the perpetrators go scot free. “If we (victims) die, our children will fight till the justice is achieved,” said another victim.

Of all the victims, six have already died before justice could be delivered.

Expressing commitment to fight for justice, the survivors of the gruesome incident said that from 2018 onwards they will commemorate the incident in their own village.

“We will see who will stop us to commemorate the incident,” they said. “It is shame for the CM who is herself a woman but didn’t respect the sentiments of her counterparts,” said Mohammad Amin, husband of a victim.

“There is social stigma on us, our daughters are waiting (for marriage proposals),” said an emotional Amin.” Describing it as an issue linked to whole Kashmir, he added, “people should not forget our case, we are living a life robust of respect; our children repeatedly ask us questions about the incident.”

In 2012, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) had recommended re-investigation and payment of Rs two lakh as ex-gratia to each of the victim and action against then Director Prosecution for closing the case in 1991 as “untraced”.

Following the SHRC recommendations, the then State Government had informed the J&K High Court that it has decided to challenge its directions with regard to compensation to the victims of the mass rape in the Supreme Court. Since then, the survivors take their fight to New Delhi on every hearing.

In 2013, a group of 50 women, consisting of teachers, students, journalists, human rights workers, lawyers, and other professionals filed public interest litigation (PIL) before the J&K High Court seeking to reopen the Kunan case. However, it was rejected after three hearings.

In March 2015, Supreme Court stayed the J&K High Court order on compensation to victims and referred the case to registry for organising response of parties. The case is listed on March 02, 2017 for next hearing.

The victims further lamented the approach of resistance leadership viz-a-viz Kunan incident. “It was in 1991 when Syed Ali Geelani, Yasin Malik and Shabir shah came to Kunan to show their sympathies and since then none of the trio approached us for any kind of help,” said Ghulam Mohammad Dar, one of the torture victims.

Expressing their disappointment, they added, “they have forgotten us, and giving only statements doesn’t serve any purpose.”

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