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HRW report on Kashmir skips 'rapes'

by Shahnawaz Khan,

Srinagar
Sep 14, 2006:

Everyone lives in fear
A report released by US based Human Rights Watch here on September 12, documenting human rights abuses in Indian administered Kashmir, makes no mention of 'rapes' in the region.

The 156 page report, "'Everyone lives in fear": Patters of Impunity in Jammu and Kashmir" claims to document abuses by the Indian army and paramilitary forces, as well as by militants, and is the first ever report to be released by an international human rights group in Kashmir.

The Indian government's failure to end widespread impunity for human rights abuses committed both by its security forces and militants is fuelling the cycle of violence in Jammu and Kashmir, the report said.

While the report details instances of custodial killings, disappearances, shootings and arbitrary detentions, in the region, the words 'rape' or molestation' do not appear anywhere in the report.

In the 17 years of conflict in Indian administered Kashmir , there have been many allegations of rapes and molestations particularly against the Indian troopers. A 1994 United Nations publication (E/CN.4/1995/42, pp.63-69) says that 'during 1992 alone, 882 women were reportedly gang-raped by Indian security forces in Jammu and Kashmir'.

The absence of 'rapes' from the latest report has not gone well with many Kashmiris.

Syeda Afshana, lecturer at the Media Education Research Centre, University of Kashmir describes the absence of rapes from the report as a "major flaw".

"Women are the silent sufferers in Kashmir and their voices are being ignored" said Syeda.

Syeda however blames the local groups for the problem.

"The problem is that local press and human rights groups have not reported the incidents (of rape and molestation) well. So how can we expect international groups to do that," she said.

Human rights activists say most of the 'rapes' in the region have gone unreported.

"The graph of rapes in Kashmir compared to other rights abuses is very low, but it is so because most of these are not reported. The victims do not come forward in most of the cases because of the social stigma," said Pervez Imroz, a human rights activist in Srinagar .

Imroz adds that most of the 'rapes' have occurred in remote areas "where the press and the human rights groups have little access".

Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain of the Department of Law, University of Kashmir says there are "bundles of mistakes' in the report.

"Not only rapes, many other things have been ignored, like employment of private groups for counterinsurgency operations, etc. The figures about the Migrant Pandits provided in the report contradict the census reports," said Hussain.

Allegation of rapes began to emerge in Kashmir with the outbreak of anti-India insurgency in 1989.

Kunanposhpora rape controversy in 1991 is one of the most infamous cases in Kashmir .

Ritu Dewan a Mumbai based journalist was part of a four member fact-finding team, which visited Indian administered Jammu-Kashmir in May, 1994. In an article published later she writes:

"The incidence of rape is higher than what is reported, because of the associated stigma. As in Kunaan Poshpora in Kupwara, near the border, known throughout Kashmir as the "raped village". On the night of February 22-23, 1991 , over 30 women and children were gang-raped by soldiers of the 5th Rajputana rifles. No marriage has taken place in Kunaan Poshpara since then. The victims have been deserted by their families. The experiences of Kunan Poshpora's women have been repeated over and over. Women are molested routinely by the para-military forces during searches. Pandit women who have remained in the Valley too face harassment from the forces. Some who worked as teachers in schools at some distance away have given up their jobs because of humiliation."

Fifteen years after the incident the victims 'still wait for justice'. To their dismay even the Press Council of India gave a clean chit to the accused troopers and accused the women of fabricating the story.

In November 2004 alleged rape of a mother-daughter duo by an Indian army soldier in Langate Handwara dominated the headlines. The incident sparked protests across the Kashmir Valley. The Langate incident was preceeded by another in Mattan Anantnag where a woman was allegedly gangraped by troops of Rashtirya Rifles.

Hardliner women separatist leader Aasiya Andrabi attributes the absence of rape in the report to "well entrenched Indian policy".

"Basically India uses rape as a war crime and they don't treat it as a HR violation. So it employs all curbs and other tactics on the rights groups to pressurise them to desist from publishing it".

Human rights groups like Amnesty International, Asia Watch a division of Human Rights Watch have however acknowledged the occurrence of rapes in Indian administered Kashmir in their reports earlier, blaming both Indian troops and militants.

A report by 1994 Human Rights Watch/Asia and Physicians for Human Rights titled The Human Rights Crisis in Kashmir: A Pattern of Impunity says,

"The incidence of rape is also high. Women are often raped in the course of house searches by the security forces, and in retaliation for militant attacks on government patrols." The 1994 report also cites rapes by militants.

Also Read:

            "Everyone lives in fear": HRW report released in Kashmir

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