People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 26

June 30, 2013




Army must Ensure Justice for Women


THROUGH a letter addressed to A K Antony, defence minister in the government of India, on June 27, 2013, several national level organisations of women have demanded justice for the victims of Kunan Poshpora rape case in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). The letter reminded the defence minister that the said rapes had much to do with the security forces of the central government.


As it happened, some of the security personnel of 4th Rajputana Rifles went in search of militants to the village of Kunan Poshpora on February 23-24, 1991. They ordered the menfolk of the village to come out of their houses and subjected them to torture, and then the security personnel entered the houses now inhabited only by women on the pretext of searching for militants. While doing so, they subjected the women of Kunan Poshpora to rape and sexual abuse. The age of the victims ranged from 13 to 80 years. Though the exact number of victims is not known, 53 married women later filed a first investigation report (FIR) and a police investigation was ordered after a public outcry. In their defence, the security personnel claimed that their action was undertaken in retaliation for the “protection” which the villagers were providing to the militants and that the women were telling cooked-up stories in order to protect the sheltered militants.


The women’s organisations have also underlined the fact that for 22 long years following this incident, the state authorities have been threatening the victims and trying to cover up the incident. A closure report was filed by the police in complete disregard of the facts or evidence of the crime. Despite all efforts to scuttle the investigation, however, the women of Kunan Poshpora did not give up their struggle for accountability and justice. After getting a positive response from the State Human Rights Commission, a protest petition was filed in the Jammu & Kashmir High Court. In response, the High Court dismissed the closure report and ordered a reopening of the case on June 18, 2013. This judgement came two days after a group of eminent people, coordinated by the Centre for Policy Analysis, New Delhi, visited Kunan Poshpora in order to talk to the victims and their families.


In the light of the above facts, the said national organisations of women have urged the defence minister to ensure the following.


1) The armed forces and the ministry of defence must initiate a thorough probe now that the High Court has ordered a reopening of the case.


2) A free and fair probe must be conducted when a re-investigation of the case takes place. A special investigation team (SIT) should be formed for the purpose.


3) The army must take strict action against the security personnel who were responsible for this ghastly act; the army must also cooperate with the civilian probe.


4) Action must be taken against all officials of the armed forces who attempted a cover-up or tried to influence the investigation in any manner.


5) There must be rehabilitation, compensation, medical and legal aid for all the victims and their families.


The organisations have categorically said that without the abovementioned steps, it would not be possible for the government of India to establish a relationship of trust with the people of Jammu and Kashmir or prevent further alienation of citizens in the Kashmir valley. They also said that they were hopeful of getting a positive response from the defence minister regarding their demand for accountability and for justice for all victims of the crime in Kunan Poshpora.


The letter to the defence minister was signed by Ms Vimal Thorat (All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch), Ms Sudha Sundararaman (All India Democratic Women’s Association), Dr Mohini Giri (Guild of Service), Ms Indu Agnihotri (Centre for Women’s Development Studies), Dr Jyotsna Chatterjee (Joint Women’s Programme), Ms Sughra Mehdi (Muslim Women’s Front), Ms Annie Raja (National Federation of Indian Women) and Ms Leila Passah (Young Women’s Christian Association).