Kunan Poshpora was not the first instance of rape of by the armed forces in Kashmir. In his memoir, Curfewed Night, Basharat Peer talks about a rape that had happened less than a year ago:
“Women and girls formed a circle, held hands and sang. They moved back and forth, tapped their feet on the ground, shook their heads, raised and lowered their voices. It was an old custom practised before the groom left for the bride’s house; grooms left for the bride’s place after the sunset and returned after a late dinner. Kashmiris had discarded that centuries- old tradition after the evening of May 16, 1990, when Indian paramilitaries fired upon a marriage party and raped the bride.”
Peer was referring to the case of the 18 year old bride Mubina Gani in Anantnag, who was travelling by bus with her husband and a marriage party of 27 people. The bus was fired upon and stopped near Badasgam village in Anantnag district by a patrolling party. The bride was kidnapped by the jawans, gang-raped and released after 48 hours. Mubina’s was perhaps the highest profile case of sexual assault by the armed forces in J&K in 1990 – the first full year of the Kashmir conflict – and among the rare ones where there was some token action (the BSF suspended 4 jawans).
In September of that year, The Illustrated Weekly of India published a special report, ‘Protectors or Predators’, chronicling several other cases that had taken place in a span of just 8 months (January-August).
Among them: “Three unmarried sisters from a well-respected family in Lal Bazar, a downtown area of Srinagar, were carried off to the cantonment and released after two nights of sexual assault.”
“Young girls in scenic Trehgam village were dragged inside their homes alone and subjected to various forms of physical torture from blows with belts and rifle bulbs (sic) to electric shocks.”
“Eighteen year old Mumtaz of Tangwara mohalla had the flesh of her left cheek gouged, her clothes stripped off and it is uncertain whether she escaped rape for she has withdrawn into herself.”
“Near Chokibal, another serene village in Kupwara, a couple was arrested and taken to an army camp where the husband was tied to a tree while his wife was raped by jawans.”
In Ballipora, a dozen women from neighbouring Pazipora were “raped by 9 or 10 men. One of them was pinned down in a field for as long as three hours, her blood-stained salwar later set on fire by the jawans.”
In Kupwara town, after a crackdown, 26 year old Rabia was caught alone by three jawans who “snatched her baby out of her arms and knocked her to the ground with their rifle butts. They then gagged her with one of her own phirans, tore her kurta, and raped her. One of them even pressed his boot down on her child’s chest so that he could not cry out while they were unleashing their passion. This carried on for an hour, after which she fainted.”
Several other news and investigative reports, including the Physicians for Human Rights/Asia Watch report ‘Rape in Kashmir: A Crime of War’ (1993) and the report by Committee for Initiative on Kashmir, ‘Kashmir: A land ruled by Gun’ (1991), chronicle dozens of other atrocities andassaults on similar lines.
And of course Kunan Poshpora was not the last. Besides the well known case of Nilofer and Asiya who were allegedly raped and then drowned in Shopian, there have been several cases of rape by the Army. Alleged Perpetrators , a landmark report published by the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian Administered Kashmir (IPTK) in December 2012, examines 214 cases of human rights violations, several of which include rape.