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'Mass rape' victims speak up after Kashmir court re-opens 23-yr-old case
Four days after a Kashmir court ordered the re-opening of 23-year-old Kunan Poshpora mass rape case in which over 30 women were allegedly raped by Army during a search operation, the victims have, for the first time, spoken of the horrendous night in a public forum.

On the night of 23 February 1991, soldiers of Army’s 4th Rajputanan Rifles cordoned the two adjacent villages of Kunan and Poshpora in north Kashmir’s frontier district of Kupwara. During the search operation, the troopers, after ordering the menfolk out of their homes, allegedly gang raped over 30 women throughout the night.

The victims Saturday spoke their heart out before journalists and civil society members in a programme ‘Kunan-Poshpora mass rape and torture: Case reopening and future struggle for justice’, organized by Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a Kashmir-based advocacy group.

“The women were taken into separate rooms and gang raped by the soldiers. I was raped multiple times, with my three-year-old child weeping besides me,” a woman (name withheld) was quoted as saying by local English daily 'Kashmir Reader.'

“During these 23 years, no one came forward to help us. Even our own people taunted us. No one married with (sic) our daughters, and those who got married were divorced later. Our children dropped out of schools as they were looked down upon by neighboring villagers,” she recounted.

Dismissing closure report of Jammu and Kashmir police, the Chief Judicial Magistrate Kupwara, J. A. Geelani Tuesday, 19 July 2013, asked police to "further investigate to unravel the identity of those who happen to be perpetrators." Earlier, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) had also recommended to the State Government to re-open the case.

Alleging that soldiers “behaved like beasts” that night, Kupwara district magistrate S.M. Yasin, who visited the villages on March 7 to investigate the allegations, described the attack in his final report: A large number of armed personnel entered into the houses of villagers and at gunpoint they gang-raped 23 ladies, without any consideration of their age, married, unmarried, pregnancy etc… there was a hue and cry in the whole village.”

A team of Press Council of India (PCI) that visited the place three months after the ‘attack’, however, gave a clean chit to the troopers while claiming that there were inconsistencies in testimonies of women.

But the report has been rejected by local human rights organisations as ‘cover up’ while the international human rights organisations expressed serious doubts about the integrity of these investigations.

Human Rights Watch alleged that the Indian government launched the "campaign to acquit the army of charges of human rights violations and discredit those who brought the charges.”

While calling the opening of the case an “achievement”, JKCCS convener and a renowned rights activist, Khurram Pervez doubts that the justice would be done to the rape victims. “Yes, it is the same police that will carry out further investigations. Yes, it is the same Indian army from whom ‘cooperation’ for the investigations will be sought. All this is known and understood,” he said, as quoted by Freepress. “But, struggle and resist, one still must,” he emphasized.

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