Re-visiting Konan Poshpora Need to probe all rape cases

 
   

An interaction with the victims of Konan Poshpora organised by a civil society group in Kashmir on Saturday, revealing the unending nightmare of over 40 women after the heinous gang rapes committed by army personnel 22 years ago during a crackdown, underlines the need to revisit the un-probed crimes of rape committed in the last over two decades by men in uniform. The latter have been enjoying impunity for all crimes against humanity including sexual offences simply on the pretext of counter insurgency. It is important to press for re-investigation of all such crimes against women and Konan Poshpora gang rapes form a very important marker in this landscape and history of Kashmir conflict for several reasons. The scale of brutality and range of its victims continues to send shivers down the spines of anyone who hears about it.

This was also the first incident highlighting the vulnerability of women caught in a militarized zone. Thirdly, it exposed the shoddy role of the police in even lodging the basic complaint or proceeding with an investigation or, revealing how all evidence is lost at the altar of such procedural delays, denial to act and insensitivity to understand the human trauma following sexual assault. Consequently, it revealed that the armed forces enjoy impunity not just in cases of torture, extra-judicial killings, custodial deaths and fake encounters but also raping women. Konanposhpora rapes have also been remembered for the delayed response of the Indian media after Press Council of India belatedly, three months after the incident appointed a one man commission headed by senior journalist B.G. Verghese as a cover up. panel announced the burial of the charges by stating that the charges were simply a figment of the imagination at the behest of some militant organizations, even though there was no evidence to that. But what made

it easy for the one man inquiry commission by senior journalist B.G. Verghese to come out with such a lopsided report is because there really was no documental evidence of the crimes committed, nor a scientific documentation of the statements and responses of the victims thereafter. When the incident happened, the village men complained to the officials but no action was taken. No formal complaint was lodged. It was on the basis of protests that three weeks after the incident, medical examination of the victims was conducted even though it is a known rule that much evidence is lost 72 hours after the rapes. It is in this context that the narratives of the victims are significant. Also, it is important to revise scientific protocols for police to be followed in rape investigations. Two decades after the Konan Poshpora rapes, the Shopian double rapes and murders once again demonstrated the absolute package of impunity that the security forces including the police enjoy in raping, killing and tampering with evidence. It manifested the brazen manner in which this mechanism of protection comes from the top. 

When the entire country has woken up belatedly to the issue sexual crimes against women, why should there be silence on rape cases – from Konan Poshpora to Shopian, interspersed and followed by many other forgotten stories, some of them unreported? While there is need to re-open and re-investigate all these cases, there is also need to look at another dimension of the issue. The victims’ fresh narratives from Konan Poshpora revealed the immensity of the suffering that was further exacerbated in way these rapes were placed within the stereotyped ‘honour’ discourse, so typical of South Asian societies, thus inviting a great deal of stigma and thus a kind of ostracisation from society. This trend lies at the root of denial and refusal to report such cases of sexual assault. There is need for societal awareness to make the shift from the misplaced honour discourse to honouring the rape victim who already suffers enough physical and psychological violation at the hands of the perpetrator.