Kashmir: Silence On Rapes
By Abdul Majid Zargar *
In the backdrop of recent incident of gang-rape of a girl in Delhi, Mr. Wajahat Habibullah, Chairman National Minorities commission & former Chief information commissioner of India has admitted that there have been numerous & widespread allegations of rape against Indian Army in Kashmir which have largely remained uninvestigated with the result that culprits have gone unpunished. But regrettably it has taken nearly ten thousand rapes of kashmiri women (Figure provided by a reputed news portal-Kashmir Media Service) for his conscience to arouse and speak truth.
Mr. Habibullah has worked in various top positions in Kashmir and is privy to many dirty things & covert operations having been committed in Kashmir .One such covert operation hatched by then Director General of Police that Killed Dr.Abdul Ahad Guroo in 1993 was revealed through his book “My Kashmir Conflict and the Prospects of Enduring Peace”(page 81-82).But one wonders whether he has fully come out of deep slumber or is it like a lucid interval for an insane person as in a recent TV programme it was shocking to hear his bizarre explanation of unidentified mass graves being unmarked because of persons of Wahabi sect buried therein which does not permit the names of dead to be inscribed on graves.
All Tyranny & barbarism needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent. This is what Kashmir is witnessing today. The long struggle of Kashmiris against occupational violence is an everyday reality in the valley. Violence has served as a tool to affirm power and increasingly, women have become a medium through which the armed forces assert their authority and inflict human rights abuses. Rape in Kashmir is not merely a matter of chance nor is it a question of sex. It is also not a casual act by some erring soldier. It is rather a question of power and control which is `structured by male soldiers’ notions of their masculine privilege. Being cheaper, more destructive and easier to get away with than other methods of warfare, it has assumed an instrument of State policy to punish, intimidate, coerce, humiliate and degrade the local population with the sole purpose of forcing them into submission. Dr Maiti, a professor of political science at Rurdwa University, West Bengal, explains, "Rape continues to be a major instrument of Indian oppression against the Kashmiri people while the majority of victims are civilians. This concept stands fortified by a report of International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) dated March 6, 2001, which mentions that women are raped in order to humiliate, frighten and defeat the enemy 'group' to which they belong. While addressing a seminar at the UN in Geneva, entitled, “Defending the Democratic Processes”, British parliamentarian, George Galloway, has also confirmed that India is using rape as a weapon of occupation in Kashmir.
A study done by “Doctors without Borders” reveals that Kashmiri women are among the worst sufferers of sexual violence in the world. It further mentions that since the beginning of the armed struggle in Kashmir in 1989, sexual violence has been routinely perpetrated on Kashmiri women. With victims numbering around ten thousand, Kashmir has surpassed the figures of Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Chechnya. A media portal of UK maintains that non-governmental organizations hardly took interest in documenting the plight of these silent sufferers of Jammu and Kashmir. This serves as a telling comment on the plight of women and on the indifferent attitude of the state towards addressing the issue. This has even been admitted by UN Special Representative Margot Wallstrom when she said recently . “It has become such a way of life in some conflict zones like Kashmir that many victims are simply too afraid to report it and you can understand that,” And even in those cases, where the victims manage to transcend these fears and report the matter to police, they achieve little or no justice because of the legal immunity provided to the erring soldiers.
With no remedy available at the national level, the rapes in Kashmir become eligible for an appropriate response at the international level. The state has to be held accountable for breach of its obligations under various relevant treaties and customary international law. The prosecution of individuals alleged to have committed rape should be done by the international criminal tribunal on the precedent of Nuremberg as the domestic courts and military court-martials have failed to deliver justice in these matters and are motivated by a state centric approach. The focus of the tribunal should be to punish the wrongdoers and not on providing compensation and support to the victim. If the international community remains a mute spectator to the war crimes in Kashmir, the people will loose trust in international law because of the strong developing perception that it applies only to the poor and weak and not to the strong and powerful? If you want global security, there are a lot of things to do, but the first thing is to have values or standards that are equal and fair.