Historically, sexual violence is used as a weapon of war. In Kashmir too sexual violence and its fear is put to use to achieve military objectives. The law and legal machinery is employed as an efficient tool to perpetrate brutality without any accountability and with complete impunity. Although rape came to be regarded as a war crime under the international law, yet during wars and conflicts rape is used as a counterinsurgency measure to weaken and demoralize the ‘enemy’ and Kashmir is no exception.
On 26th year of commemoration of Kunan-Poshpora mass rape, we are still awaiting justice. During the intervening night of 23 and 24 February 1991, Indian Army’s fourth Rajasthan Rifle Battalion committed mass rape in the twin villages of Kunan and Poshpora in the Northern District of Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir. Amidst protests across the valley, First Information Report (FIR) was lodged after an initial report filed by the District Magistrate after two weeks. The then Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir Wajahat Habibullah also submitted a report, although claiming that the accusation of the mass rape cannot be sustained, recommended a higher-level investigation in the matter. In addition to Wajahat Habibullah’s own misdemeanors, in a blatant violation of the investigation norms the section of the report that recommended a higher-level inquiry was deleted by the Indian State at the time of making the report public. To add insult to injury the Press Council of India team, going beyond its statutory mandate flew in an air force chopper to Kunan and Poshpora. The team stayed at the quarters of the same brigade involved in the incident before filing a botched-up report that gave Indian Army personnel involved in the incident a clean chit.
Sexual violence perpetrated against women in Kashmir is an attack on our resilience and resistance. From shielding our loved ones against torture, arrests and beatings by the Indian Army to fighting for justice, women in Kashmir have been at the forefront of the struggle and have immensely contributed to the struggle alongside men. On the 26th year of the incident, we salute the courage and spirit of resistance expressed by women of Kunan and Poshpora. Their resilience is our inspiration and today we take a pledge that as Kashmiri women, we will not yield and we will not give up our struggle against oppression.
Under the Indian State’s militarization of Kashmir among other brutalities, enforced disappearances have been used as a tool to suppress the people and their voices. Nevertheless, APDP has been resisting this suppression for years now. While APDP has been seeking justice for the families of the disappeared, the Indian state continues its cowardly acts of intimidation and harassment. In its recent attempt to target our movement, the state issued non-bailable warrants against the chairperson of APDP, Parveena Ahangar and 4 other members including one of our deceased members Ghulam Mohammad Bhat of Chattabal. Bhat’s son was forced to disappear by Indian Army on 27 April 1996. Bhat died in 2014. These warrants dated 9 July 2015 and 17 February 2016 are issued against us for taking a march to the United Nations Military Observer Group in Srinagar in 2004.
While we commemorate the 26th year of Kunan Poshpora incident, the recent incidents of crackdown on Indian universities are disturbing. APDP expresses concern regarding how universities as some of the last remaining spaces for dialogue and expression in India are fast shrinking. In this context, it is important to mention that Jawaharlal Nehru University is among a very few spaces left in India where it was possible for the struggling people of Kashmir to make Indian people aware about the Indian State’s oppression in Kashmir. We express our solidarity with the faculty and students of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi and Jhadavpur University in West Bengal. Students across the globe have expressed support to our struggle for justice and in this hour of despair, we want to extent our support to the student movement in JNU. We strongly condemn the crackdown on the campuses and harassment of student’s community by the Indian State. We demand immediate revocation of criminal and disciplinary actions against all the students. We urge Indian academia and students to support fellow Kashmiri students in JNU and other universities. As parents of disappeared persons in Kashmir, we can understand the pain and the trauma of the family members of the students in JNU. We would like to express our solidarity with the family members of Umar Khalid and Kanaya Kumar and all other students who are being framed and witch-hunted.
The Kashmiri students and their fellow students studying in Indian campuses are the ambassadors of Kashmir. The crackdown on student’s community by the Indian state is only an arrogant expression of fear, the fear of the Indian State that the oppressed are resilient enough to fight back.