Seige by Scandal
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
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.
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.
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."
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."
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Rape Alleged At Kunan Poshpora
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.'
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.
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
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
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
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'.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
'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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
a militant did surrender in Kunan some weeks after the cordon and search
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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?)
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,
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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?"
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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'.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
and Zakoora crossing incidents
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.