The recent exposure by Mr. S.M. Yaseen, former Deputy Commissioner of Kupwara, about the shameful role played by various Govt. & non-Government functionaries in Kunan-poshpura mass rape case has ruffled many a feathers. In response Mr. B.G. Verghese has come up with an article in daily Indian Express of 14th March trying vainly to defend the heinous crime by Indian Army soldiers & his own role in the cover-up of the ghastly incident. He has well & truly proved the old saying that shameless people, by virtue of a trait ingrained in their DNA, attempt to cover ugly truth with a best dressed lie and then bully people into submission.
Let us first recount what happened at Kunan poshpura in the early days of 1991. Soldiers of 68th brigade of 4, Rajputana Rifles laid a search & cordon operation around the twin village of Kunan-poshpura during the intervening night of 23rd & 24th Feberuary 1991. While male members of the village were asked to assemble in the open ground for identification, (an exercise with which we all Kashmiris are familiar with) women staying indoors were gang raped irrespective of age, maritial status and health conditions. After the siege was lifted, the then Deputy commissioner of the area, Mr. S.M.Yaseen, visited the village and submitted his report- indicting the Indian Army Soldiers of having committed the heinous crime by literally turning into violent beasts. Soon after, a fact finding committee headed by a former chief Justice of J&K High Court and comprising men of eminence like doctors, lawyers and civil society activists as its members, visited the area and came to a definite conclusion that a mass rape had been committed by soldiers. The villages were later visited by international media teams, human rights activists, and filmmakers from across the world ,all of whom confirmed the veracity of Indian Army’s beastly act . More recently an Indian civil society team, comprising respectable citizens and including, among others, E.N. Rammohan, former chief of the Border Security Force who has served in Kashmir as head of the paramilitary forces, visited the area and found the allegations of mass rape true. According to the team, there has been a massive dereliction of duty by the district police and authorities.
In June 1991, the Army, faced with a growing criticism, appointed a press Council of India team headed by B.G.Verghese to inquire into the incident. Verghese, a close friend of Francis Rodrigues , father of then Army Chief, General S.F. Rodrigues, was knowingly & deliberately selected for the job to leave nothing to chance. In Mid June 1991, the team was flown to Kupwara in an Air Force chopper and extended all hospitalities at the quarters of the same brigade which was accused of having committed the rape, making the whole exercise a farce. Pursuant to an arrangement decided before-hand, he exonerated the army by cherry picking some holes here & there in the whole episode. It merits a mention here that Verghese is and continues to be associated with many Govt./Defence funded organizations and has served Indian Govt. in various capacities in the past like media advisor to Prime Minster & information consultant to Defence Minster.
When his report was made public, there was an outcry. Human Rights watch noted “The committee’s eagerness to dismiss any evidence that might contradict the government’s version of events is deeply disturbing. The committee has revealed itself to be far more concerned about countering domestic and international criticism than about uncovering the truth,” Another Human rights Organization, Asia Watch, in its 1991 report, stated: “The Press Council investigation fall far short of the measures necessary to establish the facts in the incident and determine culpability.” The United States Department of State, in its 1992 report on international human rights, also rejected the Indian government’s conclusion, and determined that there was “was credible evidence to support charges that an elite army unit engaged in mass rape in the Kashmiri village of Kunan-Poshpora.”
Twenty three years later, his wicked role in the incident was exposed by Mr. yaseen. Acting under Army’s patronage & support, verghese had warned him to stay silent and save Army soldiers in National interest. Peeved at this revelation, Verghese has, in his article, menacingly suggested that Yaseen should be summoned by Army for cross examination & sued for perjury, a power hitherto reserved for only Police & Courts. Only time will tell how is his misplaced patriotism going to help India or its army? If some recent incidents involving Indian Army are any indication, it is becoming more authoritarian, domineering & tyrannical with each passing day.
But then did’nt somebody rightly say that patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels?
(The author is a practicing chartered Accountant. E mail: email@example.com)