Twenty years. A sliver of time in the grand scheme of things, perhaps. But for some, twenty years can be formative. They can be definitive. They can be all the time you need to set yourself in ways that are hard to break.
So what do you do when you’ve tried so hard to dry yourself off the last drops of a turbulent storm from twenty years ago—and now, seemingly all of a sudden, that same storm threatens to burst open the floodgates of emotions you furiously tried to calm? What do you do when that recurring nightmare from twenty years ago crawls back into the last strands of your security blanketthat you hastily tied together?
The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has called for a fresh probe into the alleged mass rapes in the villages of Kunan by soldiers twenty years ago. The incident had sparked protests across Kashmir during the time, despite the Indian army’s repeated denial of its involvement. And now, after years of burying the past, a government commission essentially challenges the system to unearth the atrocities again for sound, judicial restitution.
While it remains to be seen how such a call will be responded to by higher authorities, the implications of this for the women of Kunan are painfully nuanced. On the one hand, if this call in any way leads to some sense of closure for them, does it come too late to even make a difference in their lives—lives that have already been scarred to the core? And if some progress does emerge, will it then change the stigma attached to these women, change the way they try to lead a normal life? On the other hand, if this call only leads to further debates, ambiguities and skepticism, will it take yet another lifetime for these women to silence the haunting sounds of the past that were awoken again?
Perhaps one should ask the women who have, in recent history, been victims of mass rapes in Bosnia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda or Darfur what it could possibly feel like in such a scenario.But then again, have these women ever been asked? And how does one decide who speaks for these women, who speaks with these women?
There is no end to the universe of questions and debates that are bound to arise in light of the SHRC’s call for a fresh probe into the Kunan mass rapes. But it is imperative to at least ask that group of women who, as they dry themselves off from a twenty year old storm—sense another storm brewing in the distance.