While the civil society in India is mourning, and rightly so, the horrible rape and murder of a girl in Delhi, it has conveniently forgotten the victims of rapes carried out by government forces in Kashmir. Bilal Handoo narrates the ordeal of some victims.
At a time when India is mourning the loss of a girl who was gang raped in a moving bus in Delhi, Kashmir is still awaiting justice to many such heinous crimes allegedly committed by government forces over the last 23 years of conflict. The victims of such crimes have repeatedly knocked at the doors of officials to punish their perpetrators but these cases have been quietly buried and forgotten by the state for a larger ‘national interest’.
One such outrageous act happened on the intervening night of August 3-4, 1998 when 19 persons – six males and 13 females, were killed at the house of Hassan Mohammad Sheikh in Sailan, Surankote, Poonch. The cause of the massacre was alleged to be an act of revenge.
Zakir Hussain, a police informer and an associate of the alleged killers, was killed by a person named Imtiyaz, one of victims of Sailan massacre. The armed forces and the associates of Zakir Hussain had publicly threatened the villagers of Sailan that they would be made to pay for killing of Zakir Hussain.
When bodies of the slain victims were sent for postmortem, it was discovered by Dr Mumtaz Hussain, one of the doctors who conducted the examination, that some women were raped before being killed. But for reasons unknown, the findings were not included in the final report.
A similar incident was reported from Nowgam village, Banihal on Feb 14, 2000 when the government forces came to a residence at about 8:00 pm. The forces asked the victims, a woman and her daughter, to prepare tea while other family members were asked to come out of the house to record their statements. The two were taken in separate rooms where they were allegedly raped by Captain Ravinder Singh Tewatia, Commander, C-company, 12 Rashtriya Rifles, Banihal and Bharat Bhushan, SPO, J&K Police. The other two accused remained outside the house at a local inn to keep a watch while the crime was being committed. After about three hours, the accused left the house.
When the incident came to light, the state swung into action and carried out an investigation which found the two men guilty. A subsequent court martial of Captain Tewatia led to his acquittal, and the case was buried.
Perhaps one of the barbaric incidents of rape in Kashmir is that of a 16-year-old girl of Zachaldara, Kupwara. She was allegedly picked up on July 3, 2004 from her school by the accused government forces and taken to Zachaldara police post. Her cousin and a surrendered militant, Abdul Qayoom Bhat was arrested in connection with the killing of one Mushtaq Ahmad Wani on June 4, 2004.
The teenage girl was kept at the police post for three hours. Lady Constables Parveena and Haleema allegedly thrashed her with wooden sticks in presence of DSP, Altaf Ahmad Khan who then asked the lady constables to leave the room and vowed to extract ‘truth’ from the victim himself.
“Once the lady constables vacated the room, DSP beat me and also tore my clothes. He threw me on the floor. When I asked for water, I was given water with salt and chilli. A heavy roller was rolled over my legs. During the assault, I spat on his face to protest his sexual advances. He kicked me in my abdomen which left me unconscious,” the girl disclosed in her statement.
Subsequently, the girl realized that she had been raped while she unconscious as she was bleeding profusely from her private parts. Following the events, the girl was hospitalized for close to 50 days where she was operated upon and her uterus was removed.
The girl approached the State Human Rights commission (SHRC) and on November 19, 2008, when final decision came, it was stated that the victim had been subject to ‘the worst type of human rights violations at the hands of two lady constables and the DSP Altaf Ahmad Khan’. But, despite the SHRC recommendation for an inquiry, no investigations were carried out. Further, DSP Altaf Ahmad Khan was promoted as a SP, awarded the Director General of Police’s Commendation Medal for 2010, Gallantry award on January 26, 2012 and a Presidents Police Award for Gallantry on August 15, 2012.
On May 15, 1994 at about 9:00 pm, corporal Harbhajan Singh and rifleman Gurtej Singh of 1 Rashtriya Rifles, Qazigund entered the house of a woman, took her husband to Qazigund Hospital and directed him to call a staff nurse. As he refused, he was beaten and asked to stay near a shop. On the next morning, when he reached home, his wife informed him that she was gangraped by the duo.
The couple filed an FIR at Qazigund police station and the communication of March 1, 2012 reveals that the case was sent for sanction for prosecution under AFSPA. The police took at least 11 years, from 1994 to 2005, to complete investigations and submit the documents for seeking sanction for prosecution under AFSPA.
Another sad fact in the case was that after applying for the prosecution sanction, the J&K government lost track of the case and until July 9, 2012 had no knowledge of the court-martial verdict in the case or that sanction for prosecution had been declined.
That is not all. On January 2, 1997 at about 8:00 pm, one Major Arora and other personnel of 5 RR entered the residence of a local of Resipora, Anantnag and told them that they had met their son-in-law, Khursheed Ahmad Reshi, a Hizbul Mujahideen militant. As the family denied allegations, Major slapped the elder daughter of the family and shut the lights. The family was assaulted and their father was abducted. While the elder daughter was raped by Major Arora, his younger daughter was raped by the other personnel of 5 RR in a separate room.
After about 90 minutes, the personnel of 5 RR left the house along with 50 sheep belonging to the victims and burnt the house to the ground. While the two sisters were raped and spent the night in a bathroom on the banks of a stream, their father is missing since. As usual, an FIR was filed in the case that was followed by series of inquiries. The available documents do not suggest that even a court-martial was conducted in this case by the Army.
On Sept 12, 1997, Major Nayar of 20 Grenadiers Army, Budgam barged into the house in Razwen village, Budgam along with his personnel and beat the inmates. The lady of the house later alleged that she was raped. An FIR was lodged in this case. However, the Ministry of Defence’s document in this case does not have any reference to rape. Major Nayar was referred as an accused but no sanction has been granted for prosecution of accused under AFSPA so far.
Perhaps one of the most horrific rape cases in Kashmir took place on March 15, 1999 in Daree village, Doda. Four women of the same house were informed by one Madhu Lal that in-charge Army camp Mangeta, Chiranjeet Sharma had called them to meet him at Lal’s house. They preferred not to as the men of the family were not present. After promises and threats, they went ahead.
On reaching Madhu Lal’s house, they found no family members but a contingent of Army officers with soldiers, including Chiranjeet Sharma, an Army captain who was In-charge of Goha Camp, an intelligence officer, Rana and JCO Milkha Singh.
They were taken inside and allegedly raped at gunpoint by the Army captain, Rana and Singh. The Commanding officer, 322 ADA, then came, tortured the victims and then raped one of them again. In the evening, they were taken to the Goha Camp and held there till March 19, 1999 when they were raped and tortured again. On the same day, two of the four ladies were released while other two were taken by Rana and the Commanding officer to Doda where a fake certificate that no rape had taken place was issued by one Dr Pushpa. They were then handed over to Doda police station.
Although no information exists on the status of this case and whether any investigations were conducted, but the nature of allegations demanded that the perpetrators be booked and brought to justice which hasn’t happened.
At around same time, a mother of two was allegedly raped in Baramulla when her husband was outside the state to procure goods for his work. When her husband returned, he found that one Major Yadav and personnel of 28 RR Camped at Shalkote village, Rafiabad had forcibly entered into his residence on December 5, 1999. They had searched the house and stolen gold and other goods worth lakhs of rupees.
When the lady victims and others in the house raised an alarm, she was physically assaulted, stripped naked and raped. The RR personnel and Major Yadav sternly warned the victim and her domestic help of dire consequences in case the theft was reported.
Following this incident and due to fear, the victim and her family were forced to abandon the house and seek shelter elsewhere. While an FIR was filed at Panzala police station on Jan 4, 2000 a noting on the FIR reveals that the case was closed as untraced on August 19, 2011.
A teenage girl was gangraped on April 18, 2002 at about 11 am by Havaldar Nathula, Havaldar Krishnan Kumar and Constable R C Marmoo of 58th battalion BSF. The accused, part of a BSF patrol of 20 to 25 persons, came to the residence of the victim and asked everyone to come out. The girl was taken back inside the residence for a search and was raped. After that, the same old procedure followed! Like other similar cases, no sanction for prosecution has been sought in this case as well.
(The story has been prepared from a recent report released by a civil society group in Kashmir.)