On the occasion of the twenty third anniversary of the mass rape and torture at Kunan Poshpora, and recognizing the resilience and courage of all women in Jammu and Kashmir against State violence, the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and Support Group for Justice (SGJ) for Kunan Poshpora Survivors urged all sections of Kashmiri society to commemorate 23 February from this year as the Kashmiri Womens Resistance Day.
According to them, for twenty four years the women of Jammu and Kashmir have been subject to widespread and systematic gendered human rights violations, including rapes, sexual assaults, abductions, disappearances, extra judicial executions, and torture perpetrated by the Indian state- paramilitary, army, Jammu and Kashmir Police and others.
Through these years, they deplored, women from Jammu and Kashmir have struggled for truth, justice, and to lead lives free of fear, threats, violence and stigma. They have refused to let their voices be silenced, against tremendous odds, whether it is by speaking out against their perpetrators, publicly exposing official attempts at cover ups, organizing as womens groups, or approaching the State Human Rights Commission [SHRC], or legal forums for justice.
They accused that rapes and sexual assaults, which are internationally recognized as a war crime, and a form of torture, have been extensively and routinely used as a weapon of war in Jammu and Kashmir. All the organs and agencies of the State have deliberately impeded processes of justice and truth for victims, and have colluded to ensure impunity to armed forces. They have specifically fostered and endorsed impunity for sexual crimes, within the wider culture of impunity that prevails in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Kunan Poshpora case is emblematic of both this pervasive culture of impunity, and of the long-standing resistance against such atrocities. On the intervening night of 23/24 February 1991, personnel of the Indian Army, 4th Rajputana Rifles, 68 Mountain Brigade, gang raped many women of Kunan and Poshpora while the men from the villages were subject to mass torture.
On 21 October 1991, the case was closed as untraced; however no formal closure report was submitted before a competent court. In April 2013, 50 Srinagar based women from diverse age groups and backgrounds, filed a PIL before the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir demanding the re-opening and re-investigation of the case. This PIL prompted the police to file a closure report, which on being resisted by the survivors, led to an order for further investigations.
To date, the police are in contempt of the Courts orders, as the time granted by the Court has expired and they carried out no investigations in the villages. The Indian army has now sought to shut down the investigations altogether, by filing a revision petition against the Magistrates order of further investigation, which the survivors are resisting at the Kupwara Sessions Court. The government of Jammu and Kashmir, whether through the police or the Public Prosecutor, have repeatedly displayed their lack of seriousness in prosecuting the case or bringing the perpetrators to justice.
To commemorate Kashmiri Womens Resistance Day this year, a special programme organized by Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society and the Support Group for Justice for Kunan Poshpora Survivors will be held on 23 February at 1:30 p.m, [exact venue to be decided, and announced]. They called on all members of civil society, political parties, womens groups, student organizations and others to endorse, recognize and remember the struggle, resistance and sacrifices of the women of Jammu and Kashmir on this day. Public support and solidarity for the struggle of the survivors of mass rape and torture in Kunan Poshpora, as part of a wider movement towards ending impunity for sexual crimes and violence against women in Jammu and Kashmir, is vital, on this, the Kashmiri Womens Resistance Day, 2014 .