It is unfortunate that trouble rocks Kashmir shortly before the Pakistan and Indian foreign ministers meet in New Delhi after an agonizing one-year wait. Once again, secueity personnel have allegedly dishonoured a Kashmiri woman, leading to anti-India demonstrations by thousands of people, mostly youth, in the Manzagam village on Friday. While the Manzagam case was probed, there came another molestation bid by a soldier in Hyderbeg area of Pattan in North Kashmir.
The struggle of Kashmiris is a reality. Violence has served as a tool to affirm power and increasingly, women have become a medium through which the armed forces assert their authority and inflict human rights abuses. Rape in Kashmir is not merely a matter of chance nor is it a question of gender. It is also not a casual act. It is rather a question of power and control which is `structured by soldiers’ notions of their masculine privilege. Being cheaper, more destructive and easier to get away with than other methods of warfare, it has assumed an instrument of state policy to punish, intimidate, coerce, humiliate and degrade the local population with the sole purpose of forcing them into submission. Dr Maiti, a professor of political science at Rurdwa University, West Bengal, explains, "Rape continues to be a major instrument of Indian oppression against the Kashmiri people while the majority of victims are civilians. This concept stands fortified by a report of International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) dated March 6, 2001, where it has been mentioned that women are raped in order to humiliate, frighten and defeat the enemy ‘group’ to which they belong.”
While addressing a seminar at UN in Geneva, entitled, “Defending the Democratic Processes”, British parliamentarian, George Galloway also confirmed that India is using rape as a weapon in Kashmir.
A study conducted by “Doctors without Borders” reveals that Kashmiri women are among the worst sufferers of sexual violence in the world. It further mentions that since the beginning of the armed struggle in Kashmir in 1989, sexual violence has been routinely perpetrated on Kashmiri women, with 11.6 percent of respondents saying they were victims of sexual abuse. Interestingly, the figure is much higher than that of Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Chechnya. While the state home department has no specific data in this regard for the last 20 years, the number of reported rapes is estimated at around ten thousand during the last twenty years. (According to data maintained by a media portal of United Kingdom on reported cases of rape and molestation in which security forces were allegedly involved, nearly 500 women were raped in various parts of Jammu and Kashmir during 1990-1994. Media portal maintains that it has compiled the reports from what was reported by state media. The portal maintains that non-governmental organisations hardly took interest in documenting the plight of these silent sufferers of Jammu and Kashmir.
Cases of molestation abound in Kashmir and many go unreported because of the fear of social stigma and of reprisal by state agencies. This has even been admitted by UN Special Representative Margot Wallstrom, she recently said, “It has become such a way of life in some conflict zones like Kashmir that many victims are simply too afraid to report it and you can understand that”. And even in those cases, where the victims manage to transcend these fears and report the matter to police, they achieve little or no justice. Kunanposhpora, Pazipora, Budsgam, Bandipora and Shopion are well ingrained in our memories.
The scene of present crime, Manzgam, has been virtually made “out-of-bounds” for every one. No protests were allowed even in adjoining areas. Even Women Parliamentary Delegation from New Delhi has not been allowed to visit the area. It stands to reason that by adopting such tactics, the local authorities want to coerce the victims to revise their version by whatever means possible.
The fact that sexual violence has been systematically committed against Kashmiri women and that justice has not been delivered in these cases. This in spite of the fact that the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has ruled in a case that rape is a graver crime than murder as murder kills a person only once but rape kills a woman again and again. This makes rapes in Kashmir eligible for an appropriate legal response at the international level. The state has to be held accountable for breach of its obligations under various relevant treaties and customary international law. The prosecution of individuals alleged to have committed rape should be done by the international criminal tribunal on the precedent of Nuremberg as the domestic courts and military court-martials have failed to deliver justice in these matters and are motivated by a state centric approach. The focus of the tribunal should be to punish the wrongdoers and not on providing compensation and support to the victim. If the international community remains a mute spectator to the heinous crimes in Kashmir, the people will lose trust in international law because of the strong developing perception that it applies only to the poor and weak—the Milosevics and Kim Jong Ils or whosoever—and not to the strong and powerful? If you want global security, there are a lot of things to do, the first thing is to have values or standards that are equal and fair.
Author is a practicing chartered accountant and can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)
The fact that sexual violence has been systematically committed against Kashmiri women and that justice has not been delivered in these cases. This in spite of the fact that the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has ruled in a case that rape is a graver crime than murder as murder kills a person only once but rape kills a woman again and again. This makes rapes in Kashmir eligible for an appropriate legal response at the international level. The state has to be held accountable for breach of its obligations under various relevant treaties and customary international law.