“This book is about one night in two villages in Kashmir, Kunan, and Poshpora. A night that has refused to end for 24 long years, a night that holds stories of violation, injustice, oppression, and falsehood, as well as acts of courage, bravery, and truth. This book is about Kunan Poshpora: The Story of a Mass Rape..”
On a cold February night of 1991, two villages of Kupwara district in Kashmir, Kunan and Poshpora were under military crackdown. A crackdown in which protocols were bent to inhuman levels. Incensed at the villagers’ refusal to share any information on hiding militants, soldiers pulled residents from their homes, torturing men, and raping women. Both the villages were drowned in muffled screams of women who were being raped, some in front of their families and others in nooks and corners. The men were taken away to be questioned separately, but even they were tortured in such a brutal manner that now when they try and remember that night, shivers run down their spine.
Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora by Five young authors, Essar Batool, Ifrah Butt, Samreena Mushtaq, Munaza Rashid and Natasha Rather, is a book that many of us don’t know about. These five young women from Kashmir use memory as a powerful weapon to reconstruct the facts of that cold February night of 1991 when a mass rape of 31 women took place in the villages of Kunan and Poshpora. And how after 25 years, justice is not given and the case was also once closed as”untraced”.
The legal fight for justice of mass rape of these women started when Delhi was burning in anger due to a mass rape of medical college student, “Nirbhaya”. The whole nation rose up to power questioning authority and central government as to how such a grotesque thing can happen in the capital? It was then when Samreena, a volunteer in a civil society organization asked her friend Essar, “Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora? “. The hollow eyes of victims of Kunan and Poshpora still await the day when their criminals will be punished. The girls question, why did a rape in Delhi make nation’s blood boil and justice was delivered timely whereas a mass rape by Armed Forces was still shrouded in silence? Why a rape in India is punishable but a rape in Kashmir is not?
These five women raise very powerful questions about the state and armed forces capability to handle the situation, of not collecting evidence on time, of numerous delays in the court hearing and people responsible not turning up for questioning. A fight that is 25 years old but no justice has been given to the victims yet. Ifrah initiated the Support Group for Justice of Kunan Poshpora and began working on the PIL to reopen the investigation of Kunan Poshpora. At first, only seven girls came forward to be the part of PIL, but then Ifrah thought that they need more numbers. She appealed to others, some reluctantly came forward and some agreed without hesitation. The PIL was not admitted, but the court proceedings threw some light on the inhumane actions of Armed Forces that night and many major loopholes. It also showed how cunningly the facts were twisted and hidden. In March 2013, The J&K police hurriedly submitted a closure report on the case which was not accepted. On June 18 that year, the judicial magistrate of Kupwara ordered further investigations by the police to be completed within three months. Those three months have long since passed, but the case is still awaiting action. The writers also question the findings in B.G. Verghese committee. The twist and turn of this legal struggle have been meticulously covered in this detailed account, Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora.
Before I got my hands on Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora, I was a little aware of the incident. But when I started reading it, I was shocked. My knowledge of the incident was very much limited to google search. But the book thoroughly covers from the beginning what happened that night. How Armed Forces, who was once placed to save the civilians from militants, became one of the most dreaded outfits for these two villages. The book is like a personal account of the journey of these five young authors working on this case, the limitations they faced, stigma attached to the victims, the cunning Armed Forces and their unreliable committees being set up to give justice. With rarely heard voices and concern, Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora is an account that will take you face to face to the fact that how it feels, to live under military rule for 30 years?
One of the positive things that came out of Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora was how women who are illiterate and have never seen the light of education, are coming out of their shells and sharing the story of their lives. Their spirit to fight makes people notice them, makes people applaud and respect them, even if they are shattered from inside.
In a recent Facebook thread of a friend, she candidly asked “Pokemon Go or Divyanka Tripathi – who has hijacked your feed better in the past week?”. Out of all the responses, only I was the one who wrote Burhan Wani. And in that moment I understood why Kashmir will always be aloof to us. It’s easy to say that “Doodh Mangoge Kheer Deenge, Kashmir Manogoge Cheer denge”, but at the end of the day we belong to a society that doesn’t want to discuss Kashmir. We watch the news, we abuse the terrorists, we sympathize with the public and then we go off to sleep. We think that discussing won’t solve anything, but maybe discussing Kashmir is what we require after so much of bloodshed in a state, that we proudly announce as the “Head of India”. No matter how many Policies Modi Government introduces or how many gold medals we win, we can never be a developed country if one of our states is drowning in the blood of men being killed and screams of women who are being tortured and raped!
I am no expert on Kashmir subject and those who even say they are, know that being an expert won’t help anything in Kashmir. What can help is the discussion, voices of the young generation and intellect that can question right and wrong that is happening in one of our state that has now been reduced to graves. Kunan Poshpora is something that very few people know of, and that is the tragedy of this great nation, ignorance, and deafness towards injustice that women face in Kashmir.