Authors: Natasha | Ifrah | Munaza | Samreena | Essar
Print Length: xxviii + 228
Genre: Non Fiction / Resistance Literature / Investigative Journalism/ Case Study
Reviewer: Muhammad Nadeem
“Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.” (African Proverb)
This book is about a night that has refused to end for 24 long years. A story about a cold winter night, which never gave up its darkness. A story that continues to flow with the streams, falls with the rain, and sleeps on the restless earth like the snow. It is the story of Kunan Poshpora.
This book poses a question: Do you remember Kunan Poshpora? Between the night of 23rd and 24th of February, 1991, Kunun & Poshpora villages of Kupwara district witnessed something so drastic that a nation should have never forgotten. Women (from the age of 13 to 60 years and even one handicapped woman) were raped and men were tortured by Indian army, in an unthinkable way.
This book is documentation of events that happened on that night and of what followed. It is divided into 7 chapters along with annexure, detailed notes, photographs, confidential letters and reports on legal proceedings of the case. In its introduction, Sexual Violence and Impunity in South Asia, written by Urvashi Butalia, Laxmmi Murthy and Navsharan Singh, an insight about how impunity is provided to men in uniform in South Asia, is discussed. There are incidents from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Nepal where Government and State authorities have provided impunity to culprits of the worst crimes committed by men in uniform. Just because they were men in uniform, they are being protected and sheltered and their crimes go unnoticed.
After the introduction, there is a heart touching poem by Afreen Faridi ‘Boonyi Tal’. The preface of this book is written by Sabba Husain. She has given the background about how this book came into existence and also, how these five young Kashmiri girls (authors) got together to file a PIL (Public Interest Legislation). In the preface, it is also analysed how the story of Kunan Poshpora is about the denial of justice on one hand and courage and persistence on the other.
A portion of this book is about the resistance of women in Kashmir. It speaks about how horrible is this for women to live under occupation. Yet they live, protest, resist and fight for justice. This book, in itself, is an act of resistance. In Kashmir, rape has always been used as a weapon of war. With real life examples, it shows how even the word rape has hysteria and horror attached to it. The survivors’ struggle began the moment the sun rose after that fateful night of violence, the darkest night in the history of their villages. And even after 24 years of denial, they still fight for justice amid all horrible obstacles they face from State, Army, Police and others. What is more heartening is our own social behaviour with the survivors and their family.
WOMEN IN OCCUPATION
In occupation, women are treated as ‘the spoils of war’ who get violated in the line of fire. A study conducted by Medicine Sans Frontiers found that Kashmiri women are the worst suffers of sexual violence in the world. (pp. 52) The incident of mass rape in Kunan & Poshpora was certainly the biggest case of mass rape (in India). For Kashmiri women, even the sight of Indian armed forces, the men in those hideous green uniforms, makes them cringe.
Reading the firsthand account of rape from the survivors will leave you crippled and in tears of anguish. One learns how one night of horror can so deeply impact people’s lives. The courage of survivors for being steadfast and to continue to fight for justice for 23 long years proves time is not a healer nor is it a solution. But truth has a way of making itself known through memories and that’s what the authors have done. In war zones the memory is short lived and that’s what this book is about: to keep the memories alive.
Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora? claims there was nothing legally missing in this case. Every piece of evidence was available to prosecute the accused army personnel. What was missing was the commitment on the part of authorities to make the culprits accountable for their crime.
The authors have dug deep to unveil those who were involved in the cover ups, those who not only distorted the evidences but also termed the whole incident as a hoax and proved it was not just rape – it was a war.
Reading about the part played by people like Wajahat Habib Ullah, B G Varghese, Salman Khurshid, Karnail Singh, some of the J&K Police and Indian army personnel plus the lawyers who are still trying to protect the culprits, will keep you thinking how corrupt a person’s soul can be. While reading about them, it seems they are part of the injustice still happening to the victims.
Meanwhile, some proclaim their moon has blood clots, they live in a garden of solitude, have no home of their own and kvetch about exodus. I want to request such people to go through this book and be thankful as our moon has drowned in our own blood, our gardens have been burnt with acid and our homes destroyed beyond repair.
The price of this book makes it a little difficult for students and common readers like me to buy. I request the authors and publisher to lower the price of the next edition so that these memories will live with more and more people.
(The reviewer studies at Mass Communication and Research Centre, University of Kashmir besides he is ‘Books Editor’ with Kashmir Book Club.)