BY: S.M. Yasin
Only police investigation and a judicial inquiry can bring answers on Konan Poshpora, not clean chits by journalists.
I was the first official witness of the “alleged” mass rape in Konan Poshpora by the Indian army in 1991 as I was the district magistrate of Kupwara then. And as such, I was recently invited to speak at a function organised by a group of women to show solidarity with the rape victims on the 23rd anniversary of Konan Poshpora.
There I repeated what I had written to the government 23 years ago, when I first visited the two villages.
My stating of the facts again has perhaps not gone well with the former chairman of the Press Council of India (PCI) B.G. Verghese, who was the first to give a clean chit to the soldiers after the crime. In his write-up ‘The many stories of Konan Poshpora’ (IE, March 14), Verghese has tried to create confusion by raising many questions about my conduct as Kupwara DM.
On March 3 that year, I was informed by the chowkidar of the village about the mass rape at Konan Poshpora by the soldiers during a cordon and search operation. It was winter and Kashmir was under a thick blanket of snow. The official machinery was defunct and the roads had not been cleared. Only next morning, I walked down almost 10 km to reach Konan Poshpora. The village was in shock and trauma and 23 women stated before me that they were raped by the soldiers.
I immediately informed my boss (then divisional commissioner Wajahat Habibullah) about it on telephone and submitted a confidential, written report a day later. In my report, I had suggested that a proper inquiry be conducted and action taken as per the law.
On March 18, Habibullah visited Konan Poshpora. I accompanied him as the local officer in charge of the district. He talked to villagers and more women came forward. In his article, Verghese has argued that since the numbers varied, the story is a concoction and propaganda at the behest of militants.
Had Verghese stayed for a little more time in Kashmir during his investigation, he would have surely learned a bit about Kashmiri culture and how difficult, culturally and socially, it was for these women to come forward and say to a group of men that they had been gangraped by the armymen. It is a disgrace to suggest that these women would concoct such stories. In fact, the fact-finding team of retired Jammu and Kashmir chief justice, Mufti Bahaudin, and his team of highly reputed ex-bureaucrats and lawyers too concluded that the mass rape was committed by the soldiers.
Verghese has questioned the delay in my visiting Kupwara and in the medical examination of continued…