Shujana (name changed) was a newly-wed bride on the day of the incident. “I had returned from home to in-laws only that day and the night turned out to be a Karbala for us,” she says.
“Since then we wish we could forget that one night but it is very difficult. We just cannot wipe out our memory,” she adds.
Shujana says since the state also wants the victims to remain silent, it only spurs them not to give up and speak.
“We will not forget, we will not give up and nor will we forgive. We will fight,” she asserts.
Shujana was one of the victims who spoke at a function organized here by a women support group which has been observing February 23 as ‘Kashmiri Women’s Resistance Day’ since last year. The function was attended by lawyers, academicians, journalists and human rights activists.
Narrating the ordeal, they said the state has made them to cry every day and they are being kicked from one office to another like a football.
The emotionally charged victims said they are being victimized “as if the women of Kunan-Poshpora have committed a crime”.
“For Godsake tell us what we have done? Are we criminals or victims? Why we are being tortured every day. Why justice is being denied to us?” they said.
Kunan and Poshpora, the twin villages of north Kashmir’s Kupwara, witnessed one of the darkest chapters in the history of Kashmir’s political turmoil when during the intervening night of February 23 and 24 in 1991, the soldiers of 4 Rajputana Rifles of 68 Brigade raped at least 40 women.
After the incident, police had lodged an FIR under section 376, 452 and 342 against the Army at police station Trehgam. To get the case reopened has been a long pending demand of the local residents. In 2011, State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) asked the state government to re-open the Kunan-Poshpora case while Judicial Magistrate Kupwara ordered re-investigation with an officer not below the rank of SP as investigating officer.
SHRC had also recommended compensation after which the J&K High Court directed the authorities to give compensation of 2 lakh for each victim. However, the state has challenged it in Supreme Court.
SHRC had also asked the state government to prosecute the then Director Prosecution who had sought closure of the case, saying that the perpetrators were “untraceable”.
“The then Director Prosecution had overstepped his brief. Prosecution proceedings should be initiated against him and those officers who had approved his report,” the SHRC bench recommended.
A group of 50 girls formed a support group to file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the high court seeking reinvestigation of the case. Though the re-investigation was ordered but last month a single bench stayed the investigation. Police had submitted before the high court that Army is not cooperating with the investigating team.
At the end of the Sunday’s function, the participants passed a resolution wherein they expressed resolve to document and highlight all the crimes perpetrated against women. The participants resolved that they will contribute and support the “collective struggle for all rights, especially women’s rights and highlight and encourage women’s voices and stories and end the blackout of their voices”.