Kunan-Poshpora rape victims lock polling booth, stage protest

Kunan-Poshpora rape victims lock polling booth, stage protest

“It has been over three decades since our lives were shattered by army soldiers and still we are awaiting justice,” the victims said.

 Kunan-Poshpora (Kupwara), Dec 2: Holding black flags and sticks, the victims of 1991 Kunan-Poshpora mass rape Tuesday boycotted the assembly elections to register their protest against ‘inordinate delay’ in punishing the accused army soldiers and government’s apathy to rehabilitate them.

As brisk polling was going on in a polling booth at Government High School here, a group of women assembled outside its main gate and locked it. They were among 40 women raped allegedly by soldiers of Army’s 4 Rajputana Rifles of 68 Brigade during the intervening night of February 23 and 24 in 1991.

“It has been over three decades since our lives were shattered by army soldiers and still we are awaiting justice,” the victims said.

“Those who voted do not have any respect for women and have bartered our chastity and sufferings for jobs and other petty benefits. This indelible ink on their finger will continue to haunt them,” they said, pointing towards some people who had voted in this north Kashmir hamlet.

“The soldiers looted my chastity and even trampled a leg of my two-year old daughter, rendering her physically challenged. My son crossed Line of Control for arms training to avenge my rape and he too fell to bullets of army in an encounter, after his return. They shattered my happy family and are yet to be punished,” she said, amid sobs and holding black flag as a mark of protest.

The victims huddled and consoled each other.

They said even after moving from post to pillar, they have failed to get justice.

Following massive public outcry against the mass rape, Police had lodged an FIR vide no 10/1991 under various criminal sections at police station Trehgam, against the Army. On June 13, 2013 Judicial Magistrate Kupwara had directed SSP Kupwara, heading the Special Investigation Team to complete the investigation within three months but the probe has not been concluded yet.

“By boycotting the elections, we want to protest indifferent attitude of the government towards us,” a victim (name withheld), said. The victims had also boycotted the Parliamentary elections earlier this year.

In 2012, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) had recommended re-investigation and payment of Rs two lakh as ex-gratia to each of the victims and action against then Director Prosecution for closing the case in 1991 as untraced. On November 11, the State Government informed the Jammu and Kashmir High Court that it has decided to challenge its directions with regard to compensation to the victims of the mass rape, in the Supreme Court.

“No money can compensate our sufferings. Despite being victims, we are facing social stigma. Nobody is ready to marry our daughters and we are seen as untouchables. The pro-India leaders and successive regimes have added insult to our injuries by denying us justice. By voting we cannot trade our plight in lieu of so-called development,” the victims said, shouting slogans against the government as a large contingent of police and Army looked on.