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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Kathua gangrape and murder: Kunan Poshpora rape victims ask, ‘What is stopping Mufti from helping us?’

One of the victims said, “When I heard about what happened with the eight-year-old in Kathua, I felt the horror that I underwent repeat itself in my mind. No one can understand the pain that the little girl would have gone through better than us.”

Written by Naveed Iqbal | Srinagar | Updated: April 17, 2018 9:18:21 am
Why do we refuse to hear the 27-year-old story of Kunan Poshpora rape? Twenty years have passed since the mass rape in the twin hamlets of Kunan and Poshpora in Kupwara district. (file photo)

In the wake of the Kathua gangrape and murder, the victims of the Kunan Poshpora mass rapes have renewed the plea for justice and urged the state government to bring closure to their cases, “even if it is 27 years too late.”

Fighting for the accused to be punished for their crimes for almost three decades, the victims of the mass rapes in two Kupwara districts in 1991, said that if the perpetrators of these crimes had been punished, “it is possible that such incidents would not have been repeated, as an example could have been set by ordering the strictest punishment for the accused.”

Speaking to The Indian Express one of the victims said, “When I heard about what happened with the eight-year-old in Kathua, I felt the horror that I underwent repeat itself in my mind. No one can understand the pain that the little girl would have gone through better than us.”

While congratulating the state government for expediting the investigation into the gangrape and murder in Kathua, they questioned why the government’s attitude towards their cases is that of indifference. “We ask for no other compensation except that the accused be booked for their crimes. We have suffered long and hard and we deserve justice like all victims of sexual abuse in any part of the country. Culprits are emboldened when they go unpunished,” one of the victims said.

They also stated that in a meeting with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in 2016, “she had assured us that she will expedite the delivery of justice in our cases” and support them in their fight. “She has not done anything about that and we feel betrayed. She has shown that she can take charge and force the authorities of the state into action, like in the Kathua case, then what is stopping her from helping us?” They asked.

On October 19, 2011, the J&K State Human Rights Commission had said it had “found that personnel of the 4 Rajputana Rifles, 68 Mountain Brigade, had raped women in the villages of Kunan Poshpora on the intervening night of 23/24 February 1991” and recommended that the case be “re-opened” and “reinvestigated” by a Special Investigation Team. It also recommended that the victims be provided an interim relief or compensation of Rs 2 lakh each.

However, there was no action on the directive of the SHRC. Five of the 40 women who alleged rape that night have died seeking justice.

In 2013, a writ petition was filed in Jammu and Kashmir High Court alleging that army personnel had raided the villages of Kunan and Poshpora in Kupwara district in North Kashmir and had committed mass rapes and torture of villagers. The High Court in 2013 said the petition was premature as the case was still not closed by the Judicial Magistrate Kupwara. Subsequently, a petition was filed at Kupwara District Court. The Judicial Magistrate had ordered for further investigation into the case. However, the state government and the Indian army filed petitions in the Supreme Court challenging the J&K High Court orders on investigations and compensation to the Kunan Poshpora mass rape and torture victims. The case still awaits hearing in the apex court.

One of the men allegedly tortured that night said, “People politicising the Kathua case will not understand that pain of the families that have to wait for years to find closure. Even if we lose this case in the Supreme Court, I will find peace but at least there should be an attempt to find the truth and bring the accused to book.”

Stating that this was “not the time to be quiet,” the victims stated that they will not stop fighting for justice even if the institutions of the state do not support them.

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