CHAPTER 8

Seige by Scandal

In an orchestrated manner, terrorists, their sympathisers in Press - particularly the foreign media, and, of course, various human rights groups have unleashed a disinformation campaign regarding the Kashmir's violence. As the Army, since 1990, was increasingly called out in aid of civil administration, there began to appear frequent reports of excesses and atrocities such as indiscriminate or extra judicial killings, torture, arson, rape and loot.

In a rare gesture, the perturbed Army authorities approached the Press Council of India, with a request to investigate the allegations made in the print media and by the human rights groups. The Press Council agreed to that and appointed a three-member committee, headed by B. G. Verghese, former editor of The Hindustan Times and the Indian Express. Jamna Das Akhtar, a veteran journalist and K. Vikram Rao, special correspondent of The Times of India. However, Akhtar, on account of old age, could not accompany the other two members of the committee, who visited the affected areas in the Valley. The report - generally known as the Verghese Committee Report - stated in its findings that reports of human rights excesses against the Indian Army in Kashmir have been either grossly exaggerated or invented. It added that some excesses did occur, but these have been inquired into and action taken against those found guilty.

The report said: "The two most serious allegations against the Army, namely, the so-called Dudhi killings and the mass rape of women at Kunan Poshpora, are without foundation. The Kunan rape story, on close examination, turns out to be a massive hoax orchestrated by militant groups and their sympathisers and mentors in Kashmir and abroad as part of a sustained and cleverly-contrived strategy of pathological warfare and as an entry point for re-inscribing Kashmir on the international agenda as a human rights issue. The loose ends and contradictions in the story exposes a tissue of lies by many persons and at many levels.

"The women of Kunan Poshpora have been tutored or coerced into making statements derogating their honour and dignity. The cruel exploitation of simple women through demeaning self-abuse is itself a deplorable human rights violation."

The committee noted, "Most of the charges levelled against the Army are anecdotal and have not been properly investigated. Human rights organisations and the media play a valuable watchdog role but have an obligation to be far more rigorous in piecing together information and publishing what might pass for hard findings. The mere say-so of alleged victims and propagandists can only be treated as such and suggest a cause for inquiry, no more."

It added, "The Indian Army has broken new ground in taking the bold decision to throw open its human rights record to public scrutiny through the Press Council of India. Few armies in the world would invite such an inquiry. The Indian Army has cooperated in this task. And it has, all things considered, emerged with honour."

The committee investigated at least five incidents in which the Army was accused of excesses and rape. They were (1) Killing of 73 militants at Dudhi on the Line of Control on May 5, 1991 (2) Mass rape by the Army jawans at Kunan Poshpora on Feb. 23-24, 1991 (3) Army firing at Zakoora on March 1, 1990, (4) Army firing at Tengpora on March 1, 1990, (5) Mass rape by Army jawans at Pazipora on August 10,1990. The report is being reproduced in detail:

The Dudhi 'Killing'

Several thousand youth over the past few years have been inveigled, coerced or ideologically motivated to cross over from Jammu & Kashmir to Pak-occupied Kashmir (PoK) for armed training under the aegis of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Thereafter they have been infiltrated back across the Line of Control with sophisticated weapons and equipment to wage war against the Indian state, conduct acts of sabotage and terror, and 'liberate' Kashmir. This process is fully documented and established in India and abroad. It is freely admitted by militant groups and their sympathisers in Kashmir, and has been abundantly detailed in confessions by those who have been apprehended or have surrendered to the Indian security forces.

In the early hours of May 5, 1991, a group of about 130 infiltrators penetrated the Line of Control in an attempted crossing of the Shamsabari range in the Dudhi/Tangdhar sector of Kupwara district. The elevation here varies from 10,000 to 14,000 feet. The movement was detected by Army pickets who challenged the intruders and called upon them to surrender. The infiltrators, however, decided to give battle. The exchange of fire lasted almost 96 hours. Two Army jawans were killed and the militants lost 73 men. Fifteen militants were apprehended with a large quantity of arms and ammunition. During the action, the Pakistani forces provided covering or diversionary fire.

The charges that these youngmen were massacred when they could have been arrested or were prepared to surrender are unfounded. The Dudhi incident was such a blow to militants that they gave a call for a 60-hour hartal in the Valley.

Seventy-three Dudhi militants were killed in a remote, desolate and snow-bound mountain area and it would have taken a very considerable effon to bring the bodies to Srinagar. They were accordingly buried at the spot. In view of the kind of propagandist advantage taken by militants on such occasions to glorify 'martyrs' and whip up passions, the next suggestion made was that the photographs and names of the dead men be published in batches in the Srinagar Press. This was opposed by the Administration in the High Court. The matter was taken to the Supreme Court which ordered that photographs of the slain men be instead displayed at offices of Deputy Commissioners and at police stations for inspection by relatives and friends, but that no cameras be allowed.

The further argument that those exfiltrating and infiltrating across the Line of Control are not terrorists but innocent civilians is patently absurd. The higher mountain slopes near the Line of Control are virtually unpopulated and are at best the haunt of Gujjars and Bakarwals. In no way could so many youth be gathered there in highly inclement weather for an innocent jaunt. In fact, tbe authorities believe that the grim determination with which this particular group of infiltrators fought suggests that they comprised a particularly hardened, motivated and trained lot of militants who were conceivably being infiltrated back to undertake special assignments. Hence the sustained covering artillery and mortar fire by Pakistan, which was also anxious to identify those killed so as to assess its losses. Hence, the pursuit of photographs and particulars of the dead men was undertaken through what might seem normal legal procedures. The theory is entirely plausible in the light of the desperate measures adopted by the ISI. Indeed, Pakistan put out a story that 90 Indian jawans had been killed in the Keran sector. This is untrue and was promptly denied.

Further evidence in support of the official Indian version was provided to the committee by those who surrendered in lhe Dudhi encounter. These youths told us (the committee members) why and how they had gone to PoK and Pakistan. They had received some initial training and thereafter undergone battle inoculation with the Mujahideen in the no-man's-land along the Afghan border. These men had been told that if they fell into the hands of the Indian Army they would be tortured, their nails pulled out and worse. On the contrary, having surrendered with their arms they found themselves well-treated. They were a chastened lot and felt they had been deceived by their mentors. All they now wanted was to return home, look after their families and lead normal lives.

Anyone trying to cross the Line of Control or moving about lhe border belt in suspicious circumstances is not automatically gunned down but is challenged. Infiltrators who surrender or are captured are humanely treated. In November and December 1990 there were occasions when frost-bitten, injured and starving infiltrators who were deserted by their guides on inhospitable and densely-forested mountain slopes were airdropped food and medical supplies and then rescued and evacuated for medical treatment.

Mass Rape Alleged At Kunan Poshpora

Few incidents have aroused as much controversy, indignation, and publicity both within Kashmir and globally as the alleged mass rape of women in a cordon-and-search operation by men of the 4th Rajputana Rifles (Raj Rif) of the 68 Mountain Brigade in the village of Kunan Poshpora, a modest-sized twin-hamlet settlement in Kupwara district at the very edge of Kashmir Valley.

The allegation is that not less than 23 but possibly up to 100 women of all ages and conditions, pregnant, deaf-mute and elderly (up to 70 years), were raped by one to seven men at a time in an orgy of sexual violence from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. on the night of February 23 and 24, 1991 - often in the presence of their children and families. The younger men were herded out. The electricity was cut off. The soldiers were swilling liquor. The commanding officer - a Colonel - and eight other commissioned officers were for most of the time at a couple of interrogation centres. The women were discovered cowering, bleeding and unconscious by their men only in the late morning when they were allowed to return to their homes. The Army column moved off about 9 a.m. after having procured by threat of force a no-objection certificate (NOC) signed by three village notables and two J&K police constables who had accompanied the troops as required. Graphic first-person details were published and widely distributed throughout the world.

The official version is quite different and a prompt denial was issued from Delhi. The substance of this is that a totally fabricated account of a normal cordon and search operation was put out 10 days after the event as part of a motivated propaganda campaign by militants and their mentors to discredit the armed forces. The officers of the Raj Rif including the commanding officer received no complaint and the no- objection certificate was readily given by the villagers. Even before the troops left the village some women and children received medical attention from the Army doctor who was present, indicating full confidence in the unit and no sense of fear or revulsion regarding the manner in which the search had been conducted overnight.

The sequence of events is as follows. The 4th Raj Rif conducted a cordon and search operation on the night of February 23 and 24. The Brigadier commanding 68 Mountain Brigade himself visited the village, about five km from his headquarters at Trehgam, on the 24th morning before the operation concluded. No complaint was made. However, on February 27, some villagers visited his headquarters and told him that 'people in Handwara' were saying that women had been molested at Kunan on the night of the search. The Brigadier asked if any of those present could name any relative or other woman in the village who had been molested. None could name anybody. Nevertheless, the Brigadier said that if after inquiry the villagers made a specific complaint he would look into the matter and take severe action against anyone found guilty.

There was no come back from the villagers. But around March 3 or 4 the Deputy Commissioner (DC), Kupwara - Syed Mohammad Yasin - told his superior, Phunsong, the Special Commissioner, Baramulla, that he had heard of something untoward having happened in the village. He was advised lo visit Kunan Poshpora, which he did a day or two later, but by that time the village chowkidar had also come in with a report. The DC was accompanied to Kunan Poshpora, some ten km from Kupwara via Trehgam, by the Tehsildar and SHO (Police) Trehgam, in whose jurisdiction Kunan falls, and the two J&K police constables from Trehgam, who had been with the Raj Rif search party on February 23 and 24. He was given a detailed account of what had transpired, handed over three whiskey bottles as evidence of the liquor the jawans had imbibed, and examined 23 women who said they had been raped, other victims having fled the village. He visited the affected homes and saw the tell-tale torn and blood-stained garments of the victims.

S.M. Yasin sent a confidential report to the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir - Wajahat Habibullah - at Srinagar on March 7 with copies to several others. The report leaked out and newspaper accounts quoted the DC as having stated that the armed forces 'behaved like violent beasts . . . a large number of armed personnel entered into the houses of villagers and at gunpoint gang-raped 23 women married, unmarried, and without any consideration of their age and pregnancy, etc'. "There was a hue and cry in the whole village", the report said.

A First Information Report, No. 10 u/s 375, 452, 342 of the Ranbir Penal Code, was registered at the Trehgam police station on March 8. On learning about this the Army deputed Brigadier H.K. Sharma, commanding another brigade, to conduct an inquiry which he did on March 10. A Defence Ministry release later dismissed the charge as 'malicious and untrue.'

Following Yasin's confidential letter to the Divisional Commissioner having leaked to the Press, The Telegraph of Calcutta ran a story on March 14. This brought an immediate contradiction from the Defence Ministry in Delhi. It was based on the information received through military channels. Subsequent reports to the effect that Wajahat Habibullah was so outraged by this denial that he resigned forthwith and sought early retirement from the IAS (Barbara Crossette, New York Times, April 7, 1991), were totally baseless.

Habibullah in fact conducted an inquiry into the Kunan incident on March 18. He was accompanied by the DG Police, a senior CRPF officer, the DC and SP, Kupwara, and the Army PRO of the XV Corps Habibullah found the number of rape victims rising from 23 to 40 and then 53. (Subsequent Press reports put the figure around 100).

No complaint was made about the 4th Raj Rif officers. But it was said the men were drinking. Habibullah found no explanation for many simple questions. How was it that the number of rape victims kept fluctuating? That night search parties were in groups of six to eight persons while the two J&K police constables stood outside. If each woman was gang-raped by several men it would take more jawans than those present in the village. Why was the complaint so delayed? Why were there no screams or cries? Why was there no complaint the very next morning when the assembled villagers were addressed by the Commanding Officer (CO) and the no objection certificate (NOC) was signed? How was it that the women, including some bearing the same names as the rape victims, came forward to be treated by the Army Medical officer? And would troops on a hazardous cordon-and-search mission in a village known to be harbouring militants nonchalantly spend the night carousing and raping?

The Divisional Commissioner in his report found many discrepancies that led him to conclude that the charges levelled against the Army were grossly exaggerated though he did find some of the women in the village genuinely angry. He could not understand why the villagers had not reported the matter at once to the DC and if they said they had not done so as this would be of 'no use', why did they later - after ten days - approach the very same official.

A medical examination of 32 alleged rape victims was conducted at the Primary Medical Centre, Kralpora, on March 15 and 21, 1991, by Dr. Mohammad Yaqoob, Block Medical Officer (BMO). The report was submitted by him to Dr. S.M. Rafiq, Chief Medical Officer, District Hospital, Kupwara. It stated that all the women, barring four, were married and almost all of them uniformly had 'abrasions on the chest and abdomen'. The doctor found these injuries 'resolving'. In the case of three unmarried girls, however, the hymen was found torn. The Doctor advised further examination of these women by a gynaecologist Dr. lady assistant surgeon. 'As per history, all of them were repeatedly raped, allegedly by Army personnel.' The remark appended to the examination of the 19 women examined on March 15 was, 'As per history, they were molested repeatedly about 20 days back'.

Thus, according to the BMO's report three women said they were raped, nineteen said they were molested, and there is no specific comment about the remaining ten. This is the 'women's say-so' and not a medical finding.

Such a delayed medical examination proves nothing. 'Abrasions on chest and abdomen' are likely to be common among village folk in Kashmir as they hug 'kangris' (earthen pots with burning coals) to ward off the winter chill. As for torn hymen, this could be a result of natural factors such as injury, pre-marital sex or rape. These three women were examined 26 days after the alleged incident. The fourth unmarried girl, examined on March 15, was described as having been only molested. The almost identical remarks otherwise made about the two categories of women, married or unmarried, are noteworthy.

Several newspapers reported that Zarifa (or Hanifa) aged 25, wife of Sanaullah Magdi and daughter of Mohammad Dar and Jangti, was nine months pregnant when raped by three jawans. According to Mukhtar Ahmed in the Delhi Mid-day she was raped by seven men. Mukhtar and Tim McGirk in The Independent (London) in its issue of March 19 added that Zarifa had been kicked in the womb by a soldier and delivered a baby boy in Kupwara's District Hospital four days later with a fractured arm in consequence.

The committee met almost all concerned: The Corps Commander, Divisional Commander, Brigade Commander, Battalion Commander, medical officers, the Governor, DGP, the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir; the Special Commissioner, Baramulla; the DC, Kupwara; Yasin, the SP Kupwara; S. K Mishra, the Tehsildar Kupwara; Mohd. Sikander Malik; and the CMO, Medical Superintendent and Chief Physician of the Kupwara District Hospital. It also visited Kunan Poshpora village and talked individually to several of the alleged rape victims in their homes, their menfolk, and other men who said they were interrogated or kept out in the cold all night long while the houses were being searched. The committee met the village headman or lambardar, a teacher, and the two J&K police constables of the Trehgam police station, who were present in Kunan on the fateful night.

According to the Army, Kunan and Lower Poshpora constitute a contiguous hamlet with about 120 houses. It is a known staging camp for infiltrators and weapon-carriers and had been searched twice before by the para-military forces. Having got an intercepted information that probably a number of militants with weapons were at Kunan Poshpora, 107 ORs and 9 JCOs with as many as 9 officers were detailed to conduct a cordon-and-search operation. Normally villages and mohallas may be cordoned off at night but are only searched by day. But exceptions are made when an elusive or important catch is anticipated. The outer cordon around Kunan Poshpora started forming with about 60 men after 11 p.m. A second column under the CO of the 4th Raj Rif set out later, picked up two J&K police constables from the Trehgam police station and reached the village a little after 1 a.m., moving through heavy snow.

The 'spotter' or informer with the search party identified eleven 'suspect' houses which were searched after the men, other than the aged, infirm and children, had been asked to collect outside the school, the first floor of which served as an interrogation centre and command post. An officer or JCO with four to six men formed half a dozen search parties, accompanied by the two J&K constables, who stood outside the houses. No militant was found but the inmates named certain other households thus extending the night search to another six or eight houses. The men from all these 'suspect' houses were interrogated and on their breaking down under questioning, two AK-47s, one of them plastered into a wall, and a pistol were recovered with ammunition. No militant was found.

The night search concluded around 4 a.m. Sometime after the morning azan (call for prayers), the two J&K policemen used the same loudspeaker to ask all the men from all the houses to gather outside the mosque which they did by about 6.30 a.m. The CO distributed sweets to some of the kids who appeared and the medical officer set up a clinic which was attended by twenty-three persons, including eight women, some of whom bore names similar to those who were subsequently named as rape victims.

Meanwhile, ten search parties were formed and, accompanied by representatives of the village, conducted a general search of all houses which was completed around 8.30 a.m. No complaints were made though all the houses were visited, the C.O. himself going into some of them. Thereafter, some village notables and the two J&K constables signed a no-objection certificate, which is a standard requirement after explaining this procedure to the villagers. Again, none complained.

The column left the village around 9 a.m. in a friendly atmosphere exemplified by the fact that the men were offered fruits and eggs and they later led the army jawans to a arms cache outside the cordon from where a stick grenade was recovered. Just before the Army departed, Cmdr 68 Bde arrived for a personal inspection and spoke to the headman, the teacher and some others. None complained or lodged any protest. It was only some days later on February 27 that Cmdr 68 Bde was informed by some villagers, that people in Handwara' were talking of some excesses at Kunan Poshpora. No names or details were vouchsafed. The rest of the sequence has been narrated.

Not more than ten or fifteen minutes were spent in each house during the night search as the Army was looking for militants or their collaborators, who alone would be able to lead them to any caches of arms and ammunition.

It is admitted that some women did offer resistance when men from the 'suspect' houses were being taken away for questioning during the limited night search. But this is held out to signify that even in remote villages, Kashmiri women, particularly in the militant-infested areas, are far from shy and docile and indeed quite aggressive in defending their men, shouting, screaming, beating their breasts and tearing their clothes, as experienced on other occasions too. Subsequently, most of the women, as is their wont during searches, huddled in groups in a few houses.

Incidentally, a militant did surrender in Kunan some weeks after the cordon and search operation.

The DC, Yasin, in his letter to the Divisional Commissioner, said he had been given whiskey bottles which the jawans had left behind. He had handed these over to the police. He said that the women did not scream in the night and the no-objection certificate was given the next morning, all under duress. He also stated in writing that one of the rape victims had given birth to a child four days earlier, and cited this as an index of the brutality of the men as narrated to him.

Brigadier H.K. Sharma visited the village and in the course of his inquiry spoke to the headman - Abdul Aziz Shah - and others. On being asked about alleged excesses, thirty women were produced before him of whom thirteen specifically said they were raped. Others were seen giggling. The first woman who came forward was the abandoned wife of a mad person whose whereabouts are unknown. He was only shown an old, torn cotton 'pheren' (long cloth) but no woollen garments and saw no signs of broken doors or locks. He listed six J&K police personnel from Kunan Poshpora whose women were allegedly raped or molested despite their families stating that they showed these men's ID cards, belts, service numbers, etc. The men themselves were away in Srinagar or elsewhere on duty.

The committee went to Kunan Poshpora on June 1 1, 1991 with a civil escort and the Tehsildar - Mohammad Sikander Malik - acted as the interpreter. We (the committee members) visited some homes and talked to the alleged rape victims in the presence of older female relatives. The older women did the talking.

Makhati - wife of Jumma, the village guard - and her daughter Munira - wife of Ghulam Mohiuddin of Lower Poshpora - told us of their experience. Makhti said that at about 1 a.m. some men entered the house and took her husband out. Munira was raped by two men. She called her mother but did not scream. Jumma said he returned home after an hour but his wife disagreed and insisted he had only come home much later. We asked him why, as a village guard, he had not reported the matter. He replied that it was no use telling anyone and in any event he was unwell and could not walk. But he did speak to the DC about what had happened when Yasin visited the village on March 5, and had got some medicines for Munira from Trehgam on a prescription. He said his daughter was medically examined at Kralpora some time in March. She was taken there with a group of women by the police.

Lassi - wife of Rustam Sheikh - and deaf-mute Sajji - wife of Ahmed Sheikh - pointed out that their front door was broken open around midnight. Five men entered and hustled the men out and then raped both women. Lassi said her thighs were very badly bruised and asked for the law under which such a thing could happen. She totally denied that any search was conducted and insisted that the troops had only come to satisfy their lust . She said she would not be able to recognise the men as there was no light. She had pleaded that her son was in the J&K Police and had sought to prove this. But this had no effect on the jawans. She did not report the matter to anyone. But this was talked about in the village.

In another house, Jangti - wife of Mohammad Dar - and Aziz Didi, her mother-in-law - wife of Ghani Dar - recounted their story. Zarifa, Jangti's daughter and wife of Sanaullah Magdi of Kandi, Handwara, was at home for her confinement. The family was asleep when there was banging at the door. Fearful of what this might portend, Jangti took Zarifa up to the first floor. The power had been cut off. Some jawans forcibly entered the house and, coming upstairs, two men advanced on Zarifa who was nine months pregnant. Jangti struggled to protect her daughter and finally jumped out of the window, landing on a snow-drift where she lay or stood all night long until two J&K policemen found her at the time of the morning azan at 3.30 or 4 a.m. There was a good deal of screaming. "It was like a tooffan," Jangti recalled.

Zarifa was raped by three men, Jangti recalled, and delivered a baby boy three days later at the Kupwara District Hospital. The baby's arm was damaged (fractured is what the newspapers said). The doctors attending the delivery were not told of the assault on Zarifa but, sensing something wrong, they inquired and learnt the truth. Zarifa was in hospital for two or three days and returned home after which a Kralpora doctor treated her. Zarifa was later medically examined with the other alleged rape victims at Kralpora. We (the committee) members could not meet Zarifa. She was with her husband in their home at Kandi, Handwara.

What Jangti said is noteworthy. According to her Zarifa delivered a baby three days later, while the DC's report says Zarifa had delivered her baby three days before the rape. The baby's fractured arm was attributed by newspapers to Zarifa being kicked in the stomach by a jawan in the course of the assault on her. At the Kupwara District Hospital we spoke to the physician - Dr. Ali Mohammad Sheikh - who recalled being summoned to treat the baby which was born with a fractured humerus. The doctor bandaged the infant's arm and referred the case to the Bone and Joint Hospital, Srinagar. What happened after that? The doctor did not know. Although Zarifa had told those attending on her delivery about the assault when they suspected something wrong, the hospital seems to have ignored the matter and not pursued it either medically or legally.

The committee was given to understand from medical experts that babies can be born with fractured limbs if ' dais ' (maid doctors) or doctors hook on to them to position the foetus correctly or otherwise to ease the delivery.

At yet another house the committee met Zebi, wife of Jabbar Dar and her unmarried daughter, Nasima, aged about twenty. Zebi said her husband had gone mad some years ago and she did not know where he was. It was the same story. The lights went off. Some jawans entered the house and took away her two sons aged fifteen and seventeen for interrogation. Three men then raped her and her daughter. The assault must have lasted about two hours. She fell unconscious. Later her sons returned and one reported the incident to an officer at the interrogation centre but was slapped. The boys, however, raised a hue and cry, hearing which some other men too got agitated. Zebi was a bit incoherent at this point and it was not clear how things progressed. But at some stage a military officer also came by. Zebi said she would not be able to recognise the men who assaulted her and her daughter as well as a third woman who was also in the house. "No one will want to marry my daughter," she wailed.

The next house the committee members entered was that of the lambardar (elected headman), Aziz Shah. He said he heard a midnight knock. The women of the house were downstairs. The jawans bound his hands and dropped him into a 'nullah'. His head was ducked in a bucket and some men trampled over his body. Along with some others he was kept out in the cold all night. On returning home in the morning, he discovered that his daughter-in-law, Halima, married to his son, Ghulam Rasool of the J&K Police, had been raped by two men. His son came home two or three days later and was greatly affected by the treatment meted out to his father.

The committee asked Aziz Shah the reason why, as an elected official and an intermediary between the village and the Government, he did not take some action as he was duty bound to do. He said he was unwell. After some days, when he was better he made enquiries at affected homes and estimated that forty women had been violated in about thirty houses. With twelve others he met the "DC Sahib" at Trehgam on February 27 and narrated Kunan Poshpora's tale of woe. But neither the names were mentioned, not even Halima's, nor did Ghulam Rasool - Halima's husband - report the incident to his superiors in the police.

Aziz Shah estimated the number of troops in the village as between 200 to 500 with more outside the village forming the cordon party. He denied that any medical clinic was conducted the next morning by the medical officer and insisted that none from the village goes to the Army 's MI room at Trehgam. He showed us a medical bill for some drugs purchased at Kupwara quite some time later.

Phabi, wife of Ghulam Mohammad, is a mother of three and has an unmarried sister, Pitho, staying with her. Some men entered the house, and broke the light bulb after which two of them raped her and her sister. She fainted.

At the 'interrogation centre', located on the first floor of the school buiding, a number of men told the committee that their faces had been ducked in a bucket full of water mixed with chillie powder. One man said he was administered electric shocks with wires attached to a battery. Another said that he was made to lie down after twelve men trampled on a board laid over his body. There were no lights, but a fire had been lit.

Various by-standers lamented: "We helped India in 1965 and what have we got?" "Gandhi's India and democracy in India are dead." "Islam has no place in India." "It is no crime to ask for freedom." "Nyari Fauj (the 4th Raj Rif) are a bad lot." The teacher delivered quite a harangue and told them what they must tell Chandra Shekhar - the Prime Minister - and Venkataraman - - the President. It was quite a speech. Abdul Rahim said they went to Cmdr 68 Bde on February 27 because they were afraid of bypassing the Army. They waited for five days and on not getting any satisfactory response, reported the incident to the DC. Rape was committed in 33 houses for certain. Others were unwilling to disclose their shame, the committee members were told.

As we committee members were leaving the village they were summoned back to speak to a group of four or five distinctly younger girls standing outside a house while a curious youthful crowd watched the scene from across the lane barely a feet or two away. They were told that these too were victims. They seemed quite unashamed to be lined up in public.

Mukhtar Ahmed, reporting from Kupwara for Delhi Mid-day (March 18, 1991), cites Mohd. Abdullah Dar - a farmer - as saying that 'women were crying for help. But we could not save their honour. The cries continued throughout the night. Where is the Government? Where are the officials? The tragic part is that our Radio Kashmir kept mum. The radio did not bother to broadcast the news,' Dar wailed helplessly. That is an interesting comment. The heavy accent on publicity says something.

Two J&K Police constables accompanied the 4th Raj Rif cordon and search party. One of them, Abdul Ghani, belongs to Kunan Poshpora and frequently visits his parents and sister there though he himself lives at the Police Lines, Kupwara. He has l2 years service and has been posted at Trehgam since September 1990. Both he and his fellow constable, Bashir Ahmed, whom the committee members also met, signed the NOC at Kunan Poshpora on the completion of the cordon and search operation on February 24,1991.

The committee spoke to Abdul Ghani at Trehgam. He said a military column reached the Trehgam police station around 11 p.m. on February 23, and asked for an escort. The SHO sanctioned the request and he along with Bashir Ahmed was detailed to accompany the force. The road to Kunan Poshpora was closed on account of snow and he walked with the column which was led by the CO, 4th Raj Rif. They got to the village at about 1.15 a.m. and went to the Islamia Model School where he saw about thirty to forty men assembled outside. They told him they had been there since about 10 or 11 p.m. Kunan Poshpora is an electrified village and some lights were on. He accompanied the CO on a round of the village at about 2 a.m. and returned to the school within half an hour. The search had started earlier.

The officers were on the first floor of the school building and he and Bashir Ahmed stood below with the men who had been assembled there. Some of them had lit a fire to keep warm.

Since screams and cries of women and children pierced the silence all night long, the men outside the school, who obviously belonged to the houses being searched, grew restive and asked Abdul Ghani to investigate. So both he and Bashir Ahmed jointly and separately made a couple of forays to find out what was going on. At some stage, an officer gave each policeman one of his gloves as a mark of identity so that they should not be stopped by the jawans.

Abdul Ghani went round and shouted 'Awaz bandh karo' (Stop that noise), to which some women replied 'Hamey tang kar rahe hain' (They are troubling us). The doors and windows of these houses were open. There were no lights. The cries would stop momentarily but would soon resume.

At one point Abdul Ghani went up to the house of Ghani Dar - son of Asad Dar. Being familiar with the village he knew that a pregnant woman lived there. One of the older women in the house cried out, "Tang Kiya." Abdul Ghani replied, "I'm here. Don't worry," shining his torch or a light of some kind on his face and uniform for identification. There was silence for a while after which cries could be heard again. (Was this Zarifa's house?)

Around 3 a.m. there was a scream. An officer called out from the first floor of the school and aksed Abdul Ghani to investigate. He went to a house some 40 or 50 yards away and there saw a bare headed and bare-footed woman in a pheren without any salwar standing outside. Two jawans could be seen in the open doorway. They covered their faces in their parkas (part of turban) and slunk away in a hurry as the woman cried "Save my child." The woman, however, said nothing, when asked what was wrong. Abdul Ghani took the woman and a child to a neighbour's house and, knocking at the door, asked the family to take care of them. (Was the women Jangti - Zarifa's mother?)

Asked what meaning he would read into the word ' tang ', Abdul Ghani said it could imply 'beating, tearing of clothes, sitting beside a woman, or even rape'. In other houses, the response to his call ' Awaz bandh karo' was 'Mare gaye'.

From all this it transpires that screams and cries could be distinctly heard throughout the night by the men being held in the open space beside thc school as well as by the officers of the 4th Raj Rif. Abdul Ghani himself said the men were agitated and he had heard women say 'tang kiya', 'mare gaye', and 'Save my child'. Yet, he did nothing to find out what was going on or to report then or later to the CO or any other officer.

Sometime after the morning azan, all the remaining men, still indoors, were summoned to assemble outside. The Army doctor treated some patients, both men and old women. After the search was completed the CO addressed the gathering. Before signing the no-objection certificate (NOC), Abdul Ghani asked the villagers if anyone had any complaint. None did. Both he and Bashir Ahmed then signed the NOC. So did four others, he recalled.

Abdul Ghani left the village wilh the column shortly after 9 a.m. and reached Trehgam by noon. He reported to the Station House Officer (SHO), Trehgam police station, and stated that there had been no complaints and that the NOC had been signed. Two days later, Abdul Ghani, on an overnight leave, returned to Trehgam to visit his family members who live in Upper Poshpora. That must have been on February 26. He was told that a lot of people in the village seemed to be ill. There was otherwise little discussion about the events of February 23 and 24.

His next visit to Kunan Poshpora was on March 5 when the DC went to the village to make inquiries, accompanied by the Tehsildar and SHO. The DC did not question him, Abdul Ghani said. An FIR was filed. Even at this stage he did not speak to his immediate superiors in the Police or to the SP, Kupwara - S. K. Mishra - who told the committee that although quite a few J&K policemen belong to Kunan-Poshpora, none made any kind of report or complaint to him.

While at Kupwara, the committee met the local reporter of the Al Safa - one of Srinagar's leading dailies - at the district hospital. And though Trehgam and Kunan Poshpora are fairly close at hand, yet no newspaper got scent of the story until the DC's report to the Divisional Commissioner leaked into print on March 14. And the Al Safa, which hinted at the incident before any other paper and had photographs of the rape victims by one accounl, curiously ran a long reprint of an earlier dispatch by Ghulam Nabi Khayal - a stringer of the UPI - entitled, Mass rape leaves village in the shock. This English language report in an Urdu daily appeared in Al Safa 's issue dated May 26, 1991. (Why?)

A senior J&K newspaperman says he spoke to the DC, Kupwara, on the phone after the Kunan story broke. According to him, the DC admitted three rapes but felt compelled to report twenty-three fearing a threat to his life. When the committee met the DC, he said that he had had examined twenty-three women and had recorded what they told him. The trauma, he witnessed in the village, appeared to constitute the circumstantial evidence on which he based his report in which he had recommended a full inquiry. However, his report was clearly anecdotal. hardly investigative. This is important since all else flowed from this report. Yewsmen subsequently took the alleged incident as a proven fact because the DC had said so and because an FIR had been filed.

Before leaving Trehgam the committee visited the MI Room at the 68 Bde Hqrs on June 12. It was a little before 10 a.m. Some 15 or 20 patients were seated on a bench in the process of being registered before treatment. Several of these were women with children and had come from a number of villages around. The committee inquired why they should trek so far. They said that the Government health facilities, including those at the district hospital - if they existed at all - were very poor. They came to the MI Room, Trehgam, because they had found they got prompt attention here.

Among the out-door patients on June 12, 1991 were a man and two women with children, from Kunan Poshpora. They talked freely and expressed confidence in Army doctors. The committee inspected the attendance register maintained at the MI Room and found confirmation of what they had been told, namely - women and children from Kunan Poshpora and villages further a field had been regularly visiting the MI Room even on the days immediately following the alleged rape which should have struck terror and caused the utmost revulsion and disgust against the Army. Many women bear the same names as those of the alleged rape victims though family details are not available.

The committee was fortunate to come across a video cassette in which twenty-five women and some men of the village recounted what had happened to them at Kunan Poshpora. The cassette carries no credits and was made around mid-April, 1990, by unknown persons. It came to the committee through human rights sources.

Right at the start, the narrator tells viewers that Kunan Poshpora is inhabited by poor and illiterate farmers. However, all the women appear well groomed and dressed for an occasion in the video film unlike the grimy ladies we saw in the village. Many of them used a common phrase like 'that was a night of andhi and toofan'. Several made special reference to heavy drinking by the Army jawans. Quite a few said they became unconscious. A male narrator estimating that fifty to sixty women were so found the next morning. The women uniformly said that neither they nor their children could cry or scream because guns were pointed at them or they were gagged. Not even a few emphasized that this was Kunan's third cordon and search operation and nothing untoward had happened on the two previous occasions.

Rafiqa said her children were thrown out of the window by the jawans. Nothing is said of what happened to them or what she did at that moment. But guns seem pointed at everyone. Zaitoona - a victim of polio - said she too was raped. One woman said that when she remonstrated with the jawans they laughed and said that their officers had told them that they could take liberties. A second woman said, "We told the officers next morning." A third one informed viewers that the medical examination they underwent at Kralpora later lasted from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and that the doctor confirmed that they had been raped. Tears came to her eyes too with the shame of it all. A fourth one said civil and military officers had come to the village, and seen and heard all only to deny that anything had happened. She denounced these men. "We are not trading on our honour. Why do these officials not believe us?" she remonstrated.

The crowning testimony was that of Zarifa and her mother, who separately stated that Zarifa had delivered a baby 6 days before the fateful night. Zarifa said, "They hurt my baby of 6 days." Her mother said that around the time of azan 'when the cock crows' three men came and took her daughter to another room. This is not what she had told the committee at Kunan.

And at the end, Muzaffar Ahmed - a private teacher - delivered the same impassioned peroration we had heard at Kunan. He denounced the Divisional Commissioner who, though a Muslim, had after seeing and hearing everything, reported that nothing had happened at Kunan; the UN and Amnesty had been barred from Kashmir; Indians 'don't care for the honour of Kashmiri women and only want the land of Kashmir'; where was the India of Gandhi, democracy, minority rights and human dignity, he asked?

The cassette appears to build up to this political statement which comes strangely from a poor, illiterate village, which has nothing to do with militants, the viewers are told.

The committee members have dwelt on the Kunan Poshpora incident at considerable length not only because it is the most brutal alleged assault on women in Kashmir thus far but because it has received a great deal of international publicity in the media and through the Amnesty and the Asia Watch.

After going into the matter as carefully and fully as possible the committee found that the evidence offered, whether directly to us or through earlier news accounts, is riddled with contradictions of the most elementary kind. We concur with the Divisional Commissioner's finding that the so-called incident has at best been grossly exaggerated. Indeed, we would go further. In the absence of any credible evidence it would appear to be an invention, a hurriedly-contrived piece of dissimulation which finally broke down under the weight of its own contradictions. The committee's own visit to Kunan Poshpora and its meeting with the dramatis personae gives the lie to the cassette which provides conclusive evidence that the video recording was a carefully rehearsed piece of misinformation made and marketed to arouse anger and hatred against India among viewers unacquainted with the facts, to intensify alienation and to win external sympathy.

It seems beyond belief that such a horrendous and traumatic event that understandably aroused such anger should remain totally unreported for ten days. Two principal defences are offered. First, the village is in a remote area and was snowbound and, secondly, that traditional village women are shy and would be ashamed to disclose the details to their families and neighbours let alone to others, such being the social stigma attached to rape, especially of unmarried girls. Kunan is not a particularly remote village and is barely four km from the Trehgam police station and may be ten km from Kupwara, the district headquarters. If it was so badly snowbound it seems amazing that Zarifa - the nine-month pregnant girl so cruelly raped and kicked in the stomach - should be able to reach the Kupwara District Hospital two or three days after the rape, should deliver a baby with a fractured arm and return home, all before the word went out about Kunan's night of shame. But word was out. Zarifa's doctors at the Kupwara hospital knew. They did nothing, though the DC and SP were next doors.

The Kunan men say that they were all herded out of their homes and not allowed to return until after the Army column left and so could not protest to the CO, 4th Raj Rif or Cmdr 68 Bde. This is flatly contradicted by Zebi - wife of Jabbar Dar - who said her two sons raised a hue and cry and even reported to an officer who refused to take notice of the complaint. The women in general said that they did not scream or cry because they were held at gunpoint. But Abdul Ghani - the J&K escort policeman - says screams and cries rent the air throughout the night. He goes further. He investigated them, once at the instance of an officer, and on another occasion at the prompting of the men assembled outside the school, who were greatly agitated on hearing the wailing of women and children. And despite being told 'tang kiya', 'save my child', 'mare gaye', all desperate cries for succor, he did nothing, said nothing and reported nothing. His testimony is incredible.

Abdul Ghani belongs to Kunan Poshpora. He knows all the folks personally. Yet he signed a NOC which he knew to be false - again at gun point we are told by the DC. Let that be. He goes home a couple of days after this hideous experience. He had no difficulty getting to Kunan from Trehgam. He makes no inquiries and barely discusses the matter with his family. Neither he nor Bashir Ahmed nor any of the other Kunan police personnel pursue the matter with their superiors.

The BMO's medical report on the alleged thirty-two rape cases is worthless. The DC records in writing that Zarifa delivered her child three days before the event and was raped even in that delicate condition. The district hospital, next door, records that Zarifa delivered three days later and the baby's fractured arm is cited in newspaper reports as evidence of the brutal manner in which a nine months pregnant woman was raped and kicked in that delicate condition. Zarifa's mother told the committee the baby was born after the rape; but on the cassette she confirm's Zarifa's own statement that the baby was born 6 days earlier. And Zarifa's mother jumped out of the first floor of her home, she would have the committee know, and spent several hours of what must have been a bitterly cold night just shuffling around when she would have been expected to rush up to the nearby school as the men were assembled outside the school building and shout to prevent any harm and indignity to her pregnant daughter. Her version in the cassette tells a very different tale.

The lambardar - whose daughter-in-law was raped - was too unwell to report the matter to anybody. But two or three days later when his policeman son visited the village (long before the DC appeared on the scene), he, too, did nothing. Truly, the equanimity of all these Kunan Poshpora men in the face of what must surely be the greatest outrage the village has suffered in living memory, appears extraordinary. That is until the eighth or tenth day. Thereafter, everyone has been tirelessly seeking publicity. None is coy or afraid. The lament is that Radio Kashmir did not broadcast the news. Interviews are sought and granted. The news is printed and circulated worldwide and reprinted again months later. A video recording is made. The transformation is remarkable. And there is little to explain it.

No one has complained against the Army officers. Yet they were there at Kunan in strength. Kunan Poshpora is not without a military history. Weapons were recovered in that very cordon and search operation. And on that cold winter's night it seems difficult to imagine that - by the arithmetic of the stories narrated - the entire body of ORs, numbering 60, spent the small hours in ruthless abandon, gang-raping twenty-three, or thirty-two, or forty, or near hundred women when they could have got a bullet in the back at any moment. And after the orgy, some of those same women or their neighbours went to the same formation doctor in Kunan itself, and subsequently at Trehgam, and sought medical treatment for themselves and their loved ones!

The CO, 4th Raj Rif and Cmdr 68 Bde assert that the night search was limited to only a given number of houses suspected of concealing militants or arms. It is the women of these houses who were the prime 'rape' victims. It is held by some of those the committee met that the mass rape story was an afterthought, detailed and orchestrated by militants and their sympathizers and mentors to denigrate the Indian Army. It was the militant's revenge. The theory is not fanciful.

The question asked repeatedly is whether so many women would testify to something as detestable as rape unless something really happened? If one or two women had said they were raped that might have been more credible. Delayed reports of ever-growing numbers would dilute family diffidence, stigma or shame. And there would be no stigma whatever if, according to insider knowledge, the story was not true at all but propagated and retailed on video for a 'cause'. Militants have when necessary, been extremely brutal and have not hesitated to employ terror-tactics. Kunan lies in a heavily militant-infested area along the main infiltration routes form PoK from where arms supplies, trained personnel, ideology material and strategic doctrines flow. Kunan too, is vulnerable. Unless far better evidence is forthcoming, the Kunan rape story stands totally unproven and completely untrue, a dirty trick to frame the Army and get it to lay off Kunan Poshpora - which is precisely what it has done.

Pazipora Incident

Pazipora is few km from Kunan Poshpora and also located in Kupwara district. On August 10, 1990 an Army patrol from the 6th Rajputs, also of 68 Bde, was ambushed after a morning search of Didikot village. In the ensuing chase and battle it is alleged that twenty-five persons of Pazipora were killed, eight to fifteen or more women of Pazipora-Ballipora (an adjacent village) raped, and several houses in Pazipora set on fire. This alleged incident was widely reported in the local, national and, foreign Press and by human rights groups. While the accounts vary, the broad contours are to be found in various news reports, including Protectors or Predators from The Illustrated Weekly of India, Sept. 20, 1990.

The committee planned to visit Pazipora but could not do so for want of time. However, it met the CO and officers of the 6th Rajputs, Phunsong; the Special Commissioner, Baramulla - who visited the village a day after the event; the SP Kupwara; and others.

According to the CO, 6th Rajputs and Cmdr 68 Bde, the search of Didikot having proved infructuous, the force pulled out and was returning to camp in two separate foot and vehicle columns around 10.30 to 11 a.m. when first the one and then the other were a mbushed by militants near Upper Pazipora. Thereafter, a running encounter ensued in the Pazipora-Balipora area, both adjacent villages. All able-bodied persons had deserted Pazipora, but for some militants, who opened fire, while the women of the village had taken shelter at nearby Balipora. The scene of action shifted to the fields around Balipora and some peripheral hamlets with the troops in hot pursuit, exchanging fire as they moved through strands of maize and paddy.

Two groups of militants escaped into the jungle while at least two other groups were engaged. Twelve militants were killed and four apprehended, three of them with injuries. Recoveries included one LMG, one AK 47 and a pistol. The bodies of twelve dead militants were recovered from the fields after a search by the jawans, with assistance from a number of villagers. Four jawans of the 6th Rajputs suffered injuries. The 'spotter ' or informer with them was also wounded and later died of his injuries.

All the alleged cases of rape and molestation are said to have taken place at Balipora, where the Pazipora women had sought refuge. They were congregated in a cowshed in a peripheral hamlet almost entirely occupied by the Khoja family, which reportedly had strong militant and criminal connections. As the Balipora pursuit group neared the hamlet and was fired upon from the fields, Saja - wife of Abdulla Khoja, one of five brothers - ran into the fields but was pursued by an officer and brought back to the cowshed. Some of the Khoja houses were searched and, there being no men, Saja - aged about 60 - as the eldest woman, accompanied the search party. She has not complained of rape but says she was hit under the eye by a rifle butt. This is denied, and a scar or mark she cites as evidence cannot, according to the Army, inflicted by a rifle butt.

The versions about the Pazipora rape vary. Justice Bahauddin Farooqi (Retd.) has the most graphic account in Vol. II of Kashmir Aflame: "The jawans were seen carrying bottles of liquor in pockets and guns in hands . . . 20 to 30 women were lodged in a spacious house . . . The jawans pounced on them like vultures . . . 10/15 robust, attractive and healthy women (were) isolated between the age of 7 year and sa year. One group of lusty soldiers tore their clothes to shreds and rendered them nude. A bonfire was made of their garments . . . and (they) were raped one by one . . . after crying slogans of 'Jai Hind" and so on . . . A local police officer told . . . that though 10 cases of molestation of women had been reported, only 3 cases had been registered . . . The 3 victims were taken to the Government Hospital, Kupwara, for medical check-up after a week or more of the unfortunate incident . . . For fear of further humiliation in the society, the names of the victims are being held back."

The extravaganza of the language used by the former Chief Justice of the J&K High Court and the firm conclusions he for one has arrived at without attempting to cross-check or assess the evidence or the probabilities is breathtaking. The judge visited Pazipora-Balipora on August 15.

Reporting in the August 24, 1990 issue of India Week, (Mar Loge, Ya Pyar Doge.7) N.V. Subramanian and Brij Raj Singh certify six cases of rape. Three victims - Atiqua, Jana and Taja - spoke to them. Atiqua, aged 20, unmarried but engaged, claims to have been raped by three men and says she can recognise her assailants. Taja, 22, was also gang-raped and says she too can recognise those who raped her. However, no identification parade has been conducted. This is strange. The correspondents state that 'the outrage is medically unproven' but the 'charge has been bolstered by FIR No. 40/90 under sections 376/342 IPC registered by the SHO Shah' with the approval of S.K. Mishra, SP, Kupwara.

According to Sukhmani Singh of The Illustrated Weekly, about eight women were raped by eight to ten men each. Among the victims was 16-year-old Rukhsana who was 'whisked away from her uncle's compound in Balipora'. A doctor in the Kupwara district hospital corroborates that the five women brought to her from Pazipora 'were all definitely victims of rape' and that these cases had been registered with the police. But she added that she herself had yet to prepare the reports of the (rape) victims she had examined. That is interesting. The rape allegedly occurred on August 10. The medical examination took place at least a week later, and when Sukhmani Singh spoke to the lady doctor some or several days thereafter, the essential task of writing up the medical report on a criminal charge that must have caused consternation in Kupwara was vet to be completed.

The Asia Watch reported six rapes at Pazipora but had been unable to confirm these. It stated that the local J&K Police were reportedly rrevented from filing FIRs. But an FIR had been filed.

The rapes allegedly took place at Balipora and here the troop strength of the 6th Rajputs was just thirty men, including officers. It is admitted that there was exchange of fire and a number of bodies were recovered from the fields. The Rajputs too suffered causalities. Weapons were recovered. According to the Army, the force started moving out of the area finally just after 2 p.m. It strains the imagination to be told that in the space of three hours during which militants were being chased and fire exchanged in a running battle spread over a large area, thirty soldiers in Balipora, also a scene of firing, should find both the time and the mood ripe for parading lovely women in the nude, making bonfires of their clothes and then gang-raping them while bullets could have got their lives at any time. And all this in broad daylight in a semi-open cowshed.

The Army also claims that several policemen and the SHO, Vilgam, (which has the jurisdiction here) were in Pazipora from 1 to 5 p.m. that day. Further one of the unmarried girls who was allegedly raped, reportedly got married some months later to nobody's shame. Inquiries by the Army failed to reveal the whereabouts of 16-year-old Rukhsana - who, Sukhmani Singh suggests - was raped by seven jawans. There is no Rukhsana who fits the description in Balipora. Queried on this, Sukhmani Singh is said to have stated that Rukhsana does not exist. She had used a fictitious name to protect the identity of the actual victim. This is a legitimate practice but in every such case it must be clearly stated that a fictitious name is being used to save the person concerned from avoidable embarrassment or whatever. By not doing so in a story, making a specific and major charge against the Indian Army, Sukhmani Singh was clearly guilty of a gross journalistic impropriety, possibly born of inexperience. She made a similar allegation against 68 Bde at Trehgam with reference to the rape and gorging out of the cheek of a so-called Mumtaz of Tangwari Mohalla in the very same story Protectors or Predators in The Illustrated Weekly. Again, when Army investigations revealed that no such person exists - and the village mohalla named is exactly twenty-five metres from the gate of the 68 Bde Hqrs - Sukhmani Singh apparently confirmed that the Army's search must obviously have been in vain as the fictitious name Mumtaz had been used without disclosing the fact. In any event the Tangwari Mohalla elders confirmed in writing that the cheek of no girls by any name had been gorged out as stated in the article.

Sukhmani Singh quotes the DGP, J. N. Saxena, as saying that Pazipora residents sent in a list of 14 rape cases but 'these allegations were made two days after the incident. Nobody came forward at that time'. This is more specifically confirmed by the Special Commissioner, Baramulla - Phunsong, who told the committee that he visited Pazipora the very day after the incident, namely on August 11, 1990. He was shown the bodies but nobody mentioned a word about rape. The first reference to rape came only that evening or later. This is surprising and, as at Kunan Poshpora, the rape charge which is what has caused the greatest indignation and concern, was made as an afterthought.

The alleged rape of Saja or Saba, aged 26, is also challenged. The Illustrated Weekly story says she was raped after her husband, and brother-in-law were shot by the jawans. According to the army and the lambardar of Pazipora - Mohd Jamal Butt - Saja or Saba is not 26 but 45 and her husband, Ghulam Ahmed Butt, is not dead but is still in Upper Pazipora. He has also certified in writing that after due inquiry he is in a position to state that Saba 'has neither been molested or disgraced nor has she been beaten'.

The other charge is that whereas the Army handed over thirteen bodies to the civil authorities after the Pazipora-Balipora action on August 10, the villagers claim to have found twelve more bodies later, taking the total to twenty-five. Bahauddin Farooqi lists twenty-five names. It is quite possible that some bodies remained undiscovered in the fields - lying concealed in the standing crop - and were located only later. This would be a perfectly reasonable explanation and can also be accounted for as battle casualties since these very fields were the scene of firing. That some innocent farmers got killed in the crossfire is also quite possible - not all those killed may have been militants. But none of this answers the Army's question as to why no post mortem was conducted on the twelve additional bodies said to have been found later when this is a mandatory requirement if foul play or indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians is alleged. This is a material point and needs an answer.

Bahauddin Farooqi has also complained of several people being detained. The Naib Tehsildar did get some of those arrested released, as he felt he could vouch for their integrity. It is, however, reported that he later got a call, obviously from militant sources, saying 'Kya aap iske chacha hain? Unko bhi ladney do azadi ke liye' (Are you his uncle? Let them too fight for freedom).

In other words, a cause had to be sustained. And charges of rape, indiscriminate killing, arson and large-scale arrests provided grist to the mill. Pazipora is not particularly a large village, but it has contributed many recruits to military organisations. Like Kunan Poshpora, it is located along with major exfiltration and infiltration routes to and from PoK and arms supplies too, pass that way.

In accordance with the regulations, a no-objection certificate was sought from Balipora residents before the 6th Rajputs left the village. The NOC stated that 'we have not been tortured or harassed nor have we any complaint, etc' and was signed by Ghulam Rasool Wani.

A court of inquiry was immediately instituted by the local Army authorities as soon as the various allegations about Pazipora-Balipora surfaced. It found the reports of excesses to be false and part of a well-coordinated and larger campaign by militants to malign the Army and create alienation between it and the local people both of whom have traditionally maintained very cordial relations in this area.

Intercepted information on militant communications have revealed interesting details of how these organisations operate. According to army sources, an electronic warfare intercept logged by an electronic warfare detachment on December 15, 1990 revealed that a certain militant had raped the daughter of one Abdul Khaliq. Such incidents too are laid at the door of the security forces so as to show them in a bad light and put them on the defensive. Another intercept on January 2, 1991 revealed that militants had planned to wear Army uniforms and get themselves photographed near burnt houses in village Tikker, Kupwara and thus let the Army defend itself against the charge of arson. Apparently, militant groups have managed to get hold of Army fatigues (condemned), dresses and auctioned Army jeeps so as to enable themselves to pose as regular members of the Indian armed forces. These are typical tactics of psychological warfare.

Tengpora and Zakoora crossing incidents

On March 2, 1990 the Amnesty International issued a second appeal for Urgent Action on Kashmir pertaining to Tengpora and Zakoora. Reports of these two incidents which took place just a day - earlier, on March 1 - on the outskirts of Srinagar, were duly published in the Indian Press. A detailed account appeared in the March 31, 1990 issue of the Economic and Political Weekly of Bombay, which reproduced the text of India's Kashmir War by a team of four members of the Committee for Initiative on Kashmir. Excerpts from that same report were quoted in the "Diary of a Recluse" by S. Mulgaokar in The Indian Express on April 7, 1991.

The Committee for Initiative on Kashmir basically accused the Army of unprovoked firing on peaceful demonstrators, in both cases. In the case of the Tengpora-Bemina bypass incident it is alleged that the Army had resorted to a subterfuge by falsely stating that its escort opened fire when an excited mob pelted stones at a bus carrying children of the Army School while they were being dropped home. The grievance of the charge is that the court of inquiry was an eyewash - since all schools were closed for extended winter holidays by a Government order and that there is, in any case, no Army school in that vicinity.

The facts are otherwise. There is an Army school in the cantonment at Badami Bagh in Srinagar. This is attended by children of armed forces personnel at Badami Bagh and other army locations, one of which is at Sharifabad near the HMT factory. Some children of civilian parents have also been enrolled as per the availability space. Life in Srinagar had been disrupted by the mass agitation in the Valley through the early months of 1990. It is for this reason that the Government ordered extension of the winter holidays until some normalcy was restored. This order was, however, not binding on the Army, which continued to run the Army school in Badami Bagh cantonment, fletching and dropping back children from other locations in school buses provided with an Army escort. It was one such bus that was confronted by the mob at Tengpora on March 1.

According to senior officers at XV Corps Hqs whom the committee met, thirty-seven school children of classes I to IX were in two vehicles with a small escort of guards. Near the Batmaloo crossing, a large number of processionists dismounted from their vehicles and tried to enter the school bus by seeking to tear down the protective wire netting fixed at the rear. Sensing trouble, the JCO fired a single warning shot. This was disregarded and the mob pressed on. Fearing that they might be overwhelmed, the JCO ordered the naik accompanying him to fire. Eight rounds were fired, seven by the naik and one by the JCO. Eight persons were killed. The mob dispersed and the children were safely delivered home.

In the second incident, at the same afternoon, Zakoora crossing, the allegation once again is that there was unprovoked firing by Army personnel moving in a convoy of vehicles which forced its way into a huge procession rather than give way for the demonstrators to pass. A jawan then snatched a flag from a processionist and firing commenced immediately thereafter. According to the Army version, an Army convoy consisting of some five vehicles with three JCOs and twenty-five men was returning to Srinagar from Gund when it found its way blocked at the Zakoora crossing. The convoy was stoned, anti-India slogans were shouted and an attempt was made to snatch weapons from the hands of the jawans. At this, a JCO fired a warning shot which had no effect. Thereupon the troops opened fire in self-defence. Thirty seven rounds were fired. The mob scattered and the convoy returned to the base. According to the Army, neither the local SHO nor the Soura Medical Institute had any evidence of death as a result of the firing (though this is disputed). The Press, however, reported twenty-two killed.

Two courts of inquiry were held immediately by the Army. This found that eight persons had been killed by firing at Tengpora but none at Zakoora - according to contemporary police or hospital sources. In both cases, firing was found to be justified and in self-defence.

The committee has no direct knowledge of the Zakoora incident and is unable to comment on it. But in the Tengpora incident, the allegation against the Army must fall flat since the charge has been sought to be negatively substantiated - on the ground that the Army's statement about protecting a school bus was concocted since schools were not in session and there is no Army school near Tengpora. The school does exist and was in session. The Army escort had a manifest duty to protect the lives of the thirty-seven school children entrusted to its care, the Press Council's committee noted.

It seems that human rights organisations are more interested in defending the 'inhuman' rights of terrorists in unleashing a reign of terror than unfolding the miseries, wreaked upon the population in the Valley during the current spate of terrorism.

Crescent over Kashmir

CRESCENT OVER KASHMIR
Index
About the Author
Preface
Islamabadisation
The Abdullah Dynasty
A Journey into History
Kashmiri Pandits
The Myth of Negligence
Mullaism
Mortgaged Media
Siege by Scandal
The 'Inhuman' Rights
The Valley of Oddity
This Happened to KPs
Exaggerated Reporting
Appendix