“Do you remember Kunan Poshpora? a book by five young Kashmiri women Essar Batool, Ifrah Butt, Samreena Mushtaq, Munaza Rashid and Natasha Rather investigates the fateful night of mass-rape of over 80 women by the Army in the villages of Kunan and Poshpora in 1991. The book published by Zubaan publications under their series “Sexual Violence and Impunity in South Asia” project explores the struggle of the survivors and their fight for justice and dignity over the past 20 years. It is a collective effort of the authors and the residents of the village to preserve the memory of the injustice towards the survivors against the state mechanism and that of centre’s that has tried to erase the memory from the public’s conscious as much as their own.
“People argue that word of mouth is sufficient to pass down memories from one generation to the other. But we felt a need to document more than a just rhetoric story of that night, with evidence and statements which act as a solid proof,” Essar Batool, co-author tells Sajad Rasool, our community correspondent in Kashmir.
The two villages Kunan and Poshpora were tied together in tangles of misery and horror on a February night in 1991 when soldiers of 4 Rajputana Rifles of the Army's 68 Brigade swooped down for a cordon and search operations in the area. They collected the men from their homes and confined them together in two houses in Kunan and then barged into the other houses and allegedly gang-raped women and children. Since then, the people of the villages have been boycotted by the nearby villages and Kashmir as a whole – their children are denied education, their women are denied, husbands.
The young authors have recorded details of the atrocious sexual violence suffered by women and even talk about the sexual violence the men underwent – something that has scarcely been talked about or documented. “We have carefully gone through police reports and legal documents like statements of army officials, women and medical reports to compile a complete picture of what happened that night,” says Munazza, co-author. The army has constantly denied that the incident ever took place and the courts have left the case in lurch stating that evidence and reports were insufficient in stating anything. An investigative report by Press Council of India, statutory body in India that governs the conduct of the print media termed the incident as “a massive hoax, orchestrated by militant groups and their sympathizers and mentors in Kashmir and abroad as part of a sustained and cleverly contrived strategy of psychological warfare."
The journey of writing the book has been a journey for the writers as they interacted with the people of Kunan and Poshpora for the project. At the start of the project they had gone with a notion that the survivors were sufferers of the injustice that had been mete out to them. “In reality they are fighters. They have single-handedly raged a battle against the state because they don’t want anyone else to go through the ordeal they were put through. Their unity will simply surprise you,” says Essar Batool, co-author.
The book attempts to explain both the army’s role in Kashmir and of gender. But more so, an attempt is made to explain how patriarchy uses a woman’s body to subjugate a society.
This video was made by a Video Volunteers Community Correspondent Sajad Rasool.
Community Correspondents come from marginalised communities in India and produce videos on unreported stories. These stories are ’news by those who live it.’ they give the hyperlocal context to global human rights and development challenges. See more such videos at www.videovolunteers.org. Take action for a more just global media by sharing their videos and joining in their call for change.
This video report is from Barabanki district, Uttar Pradesh, of a remote Government Primary Health Centre (PHC) that caters to about 30 thousand people. Community Correspondent Sunila Raaj went there to find out about their facilities and conditions of their medical services.