Justice Delayed is Justice Denied: Six Victims of the Kunan Poshpora mass rape and torture case of 1991 have died
A quarter of a century — 25 years– after the alleged mass rape and torture at Kunan Poshpora on 23/24 February 1991, the Indian Army, through the Ministry of Defence, Union of India, has petitioned the Indian Supreme Court challenging orders of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court on investigations and compensation.
In December 2014, Government of Jammu and Kashmir had challenged the same High Court orders before the Supreme Court on the issue of compensation, and got a stay on the orders. The central government chose not to respond to this petition despite being given time and opportunity to do so and wasted one year of both the courts and survivors time.
The Supreme Court heard afresh, another petition on behalf of the Indian army on May 13, 2016, issued notice and tagged both petitions to be now heard before the court together. Besides the above two petitions in the Supreme Court, there are three petitions pending before the Jammu Kashmir High Court: one by the survivors seeking investigations and prosecution, and two by the army, against the implementation of the State Human Rights Commission recommendations in this case, and, against the police investigations ordered by the Judicial Magistrate, Kupwara on June 18, 2013.
Now, the Indian army has contended before the Supreme Court that the allegations of rape and torture are “a hoax orchestrated by militant groups”, “part of cleverly contrived strategy of psychological warfare”, to “discredit the security forces by indulging in false propaganda”, “with a view to jeopardize the conduct of counter insurgency operations…in the valley”, and that the numbers of men and women alleged to have been tortured and raped are against “natural human conduct”.
On March 3, 2016, Sabrangindia had published an account by journalist Dilnaz Boga written on the 25 year mark of the tragic events. She recalled her journey to report the incident around 2006, a decade earlier.
In this, the journalist, Boga, quotes a PRO of the Ministry of Defence in Delhi telling her around 2006 when she was exploring the story, who says “Puraney zakhm kyu khured rahey ho? (why are you bringing up old wounds?)” Shereplied that justice had not been done and the guilty were not booked. Dilnaz boga further writes, “Pushing my luck, I asked to see the files of the incident and he told me that the files were destroyed, as it had been 17 years. In the end, I explained that I was doing my job and that he should do his and hung up as his tone changed.” Finally the editor of the publication she was working for never carried the story saying it was anti-national and pro-Pakistan. The happenings in the valley, from Handwara to others, to date reveal how any effort to bring about rational discourse on the issue of human rights abuses by the Indian armed forces in Kashmit or the north east, risk being labelled as anti-national.
According to a press release issued by the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), the army petition before the Supreme Court is the latest attempt by the State to delay proceedings and frustrate every attempt of the survivors for justice. To date, six victims of the brutal rape and torture have died.
In their continuing struggle for justice, the survivors of Kunan Poshpora will now submit their response before the Supreme Court and seek for investigations and prosecution of the accused army personnel.