Joint Statement: Congress must sack Kashmir MLA accused of sexual harassment. Support Kashmiri Women’s Resistance Day
We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the lenient attitude of Kashmir police and the Jammu Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee on the extremely serious case of sexual harassment against former health minister and Congress MLA, ShabirKhan. The Congress party has asked Shabir Khan to resign but hecontinues to be an MLA, attends assembly sessions and has been granted bail, thus putting the entire investigation in jeopardy. In arecent development, the SHO who was investigating the case has beentransferred.
Shabir Khan, was accused ofmolesting a female doctor and was booked under Sections 354 and 509of the Ranbir Penal Code. Following outrage over the incident, he wasforced to resign as minister on the 7th of Feb but he continues to bea Congress MLA. After warrants were issued against him, he wentabsconding and applied for bail. In his bail application, hereportedly made a case for himself on the basis of his “nationalistcredentials”. After being granted bail, he attended the assemblysession while all the mainstream parties maintained silence over hispresence in the house.
The Minister called the complainantto his office repeatedly on the pretext of discussing funding for thehealth centre where she works. After she refused to turn up, she wasforced to report to him! His office was full of people but he madeher wait in a small cabin. She initially refused to go there but heconvinced her to sit in the cabin. Inside the cabin, Khan, who hadcalled her to discuss funding, started talking about a lot ofirrelevant topics and then offered her several favors including aplum posting on the condition that she serves him Kehwa in thecircuit house- a statement clearly loaded with suggestive phrases.When she tried to leave the room, “the minister made physicaladvances amounting to molestation”.
It is shocking to see thecomplacency of the National Conference and Congress coalitiongovernment in Jammu & Kashmir on the issue, the reluctance tosack the accused coupled with the decision to transfer theinvestigating officer in the case. We are strongly concerned aboutthe fairness of any trial that will be conducted in such a situation.We demand that the Congress party should expel Shabir Khan at theearliest and that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah should personallyensure a fair trial. It may be recalled that, in the aftermath of the16th December Delhi gang rape case, Mr. Abdullah had affirmed hiscommitment to gender justice and he had promised that there would beno leniency in cases of sexual violence, acid attack, etc. It is timeto live up to those promises.
The culture of impunity prevailingin Kashmir, with or without the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, is amatter of grave concern for progressive forces. The invocation ofnationalist credentials in the bail application strikes us asproblematic. Human rights abuse, sexual harassment and rape all gounpunished in the absence of any accountability. On the 23rd of Feb,2014 civil rights groups in Kashmir are observing the KashmiriWomen’s Resistance Day in commemoration of the extremely shamefulKunan Poshpora mass rape that took place on 23rd Feb, 1991. Not asingle army man has been punished in the case. While extendingsupport to the observance of this day, we condemn the continuedoccupation of Kashmir through weapons of rape, torture and fakeencounter and denial of the right to self-determination to the peopleof Kashmir.
- Kavita Krishnan, Secretary, AIPWA
- Akbar Chawdhary, President, JNUSU
- Sucheta De, National President, AISA
- Shehla Rashid, AISA
- Aslam Khan, National Vice President, RYA
- Vrinda Grover – Advocate – New Delhi
- Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal, Executive Editor Kashmir Times
- Basharat Peer, Journalist
- Arundhati Dhuru, NAPM
- Amitabh Kumar, Head of Media and Communications, Centre for Social Research
- Bishakha Datta, Executive Director, Point of View
- Lata Pratibha Madhukar, Research Scholar at TISS and CSD, Hyderabad
- Akhil Kumar, Sub-Editor, Youth Ki Awaaz
- Ravi Nitesh, Core Member- Save Sharmila Solidairty Campaign
- Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Feminist and human rights activits, Mumbai
- Chinmayee Subash, Free lance development professional.
- Mithilesh Pande, Mission Bhartiyam
- Chhaya Datar, Ex-Professor at TISS Mumbai
- Sabha Husain, Researcher/Women’s Rights Activist
- Rohit Kumar Social Activist (FB)
- Shahid Ayoub from P G college Rajouri (FB)
- Ms. Virginia Saldanha, Woman Activist
- Devika Mittal, Mission Bhartiyam
- Saheli and Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression
- Juhi Jain, Feminist activist and writer, New Delhi
- Dr Fayaz Ganaie, Senior Manager (Cargill group)
- Dr. Showkat Bashir, Kashmir
- Jitender Singh, Post Doctoral fellow, JNU SLS
- Rajesh Umadevi, Activist
- Roopashri Sinha, Mumbai