The alarming increase in rape incidents!
From Kunan Poshpora to Kathua- Judiciary has traditionally failed the victims here!
BY: Shabir Ahmad
Rape is a horrendous crime which astonishes and degrades human race and exposes the beastly tendencies that we might have. Earlier, the state of Jammu and Kashmir was free from such heinous crimes and was more known for its tranquillity and peace. But things have changed drastically over the years and incidents of crime, especially rape, are reported very frequently now.
The recent case of rape of a 3 year old child in Tirgaam, Bandipora, is a great tragedy and travesty for the people of Kashmir valley who have always boosted on high moral values. It is a bigger tragedy that even though the magnitude of the incident has broken many hearts in Kashmir and shook the conscience of masses, the case might not reach a logical conclusion even after police has ensured a speedy investigation. Such has been the nature of rape cases in Kashmir!
On May 18, 1990 Indian security forces turned a women’s wedding into a tragic event when they first fired upon them and then gang raped the bride and her pregnant aunt for hours in south Kashmir.
Kunan Pushpora mass rape incident is best known to everyone when females from twin villages of Kupwara district were gang raped during by Indian Paramilitary forces. The incidents devastated the dreams of hundreds of lives. Even though, three decades have gone by, courts have failed to deliver justice.
According to some of the reports by International organizations working for justice and human rights, Kunan and Pushpora villages of Kupwara district of Kashmir valley were raided on February 23, 1991, by more than 300 personnel of the Indian army. As many as 150 girls and women were raped that night; nearly 200 men were tortured. Barns became torture chambers. The next morning, as one can well imagine, was marked by immense horror and paralyzing pain.
Another incident of rape in Shopian left Kashmir valley in turmoil and almost 40 days curfew was imposed by the then Omar Abdullah’s led coalition as widespread outrage of public disrupted all government functioning.
Justice has remained elusive as the Indian army has enjoyed complete impunity, thanks to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The controversial law lets Indian Army personnel enter any premise at any time in the Valley, without a search warrant, and use lethal force, if they deem it necessary. The Indian state has continuously shirked responsibility for abuses at the hands of the Army.
It will not wrong to say that the rape incidents were first introduced in Kashmir by Indian security forces and were later acquitted free the judiciary. If they would have been convicted, the incidents reported later would never have happened.
According to a 1993 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, the security forces use rape as a method of retaliation against Kashmiri civilians during reprisal attacks after militant ambushes. Most rape cases, according to the same report, have occurred during cordon-and-search operations. According to a 1996 HRW report, security personnel in Kashmir have used “rape as a counterinsurgency tactic”. The pattern of rape in Kashmir is that when soldiers enter civilian residences, they kill or evict the men before raping the women inside. Rape is an “essential element of the Indian military strategy in Kashmir.”
A study in 2005 by Medicines Sans Frontiers concluded that the rate of sexual violence against Kashmiri women was one of the highest among the world’s conflict zones, with 11.6% of respondents, out of a total 510 people in their survey, reporting personal experience of sexual abuse.
Kathua, Unnao, Surat, Manipur, Delhi- the stretching list of gang rape cases across the nation has enraged people. Last time, something like this shook people’s conscience was in 2012, when Nirbhaya was brutally gang raped in a moving bus in Delhi. The sad part is that nothing has changed, even after so many promises were made at that time.The Kathua rape victim was just 8-year-old, Surat victim was just 11, Manipur girl who was raped and then set on fire was also 11-year-old.
An eight-year-old innocent girl was brutally raped for days. She was sedated, tortured before finally killing her inside a temple. The nomadic girl had gone missing on January 10 and her body was recovered from the Rasana forest on January 17. Why was she raped? Well, according to the investigation, it came out that the innocent Bakherwal girl was raped and killed to make the nomads move out of the area in fear. Yes, just to make them leave Kathua.
In western Islamic nations like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran, Dubai, etc., rape is a rarest of rare incident to be reported because there exists a Sharia Law which enforces fast trail of cases and accused is stoned to death within 24 hours. The punishment is very harsh and is a reason to restrict the people from these types of heinous acts. In democracies like India, some rape accused have even gone on to contest Lok Sabha /Assembly elections and move freely without any fear.
India had launched fast-track courts and a tougher rape law that included death penalty after a gruesome assault on a student in a Delhi bus shocked the country in 2012. But crime statistics indicate the situation has got worse since then. Statistics show that since 2012, reported rape cases climbed 60% to around 40,000 in 2016, with child rape accounting for about 40%. The conviction rate of people arrested for rape remains stuck at around 25%. The backlog of rape cases pending trial stood at more than 133,000 by the end of 2016, up from about 100,000 in 2012, National Crime Records Bureau data showed. In each year during that period, about 85% of the total rape cases being heard remained pending.
The Indian judicial system must improve the “timeliness and efficiency” of the legal process around rape, and cut the length of time between reporting and court proceedings, so that rape victims are not faced with years of additional trauma and uncertainty. Outdated laws are not the only barriers preventing women from seeking justice for rape. Widespread prejudice, victim blaming, credibility questioning, negative stereotypes and myths, often among the people responsible for enabling victims’ access to justice, must also be addressed.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir in particular and India in general needs an immediate overhaul of the judicial system. There has to be a fast track trial system where accused could be booked within least possible time. Failure of Judiciary in deciding the rape cases is the major reason of increasing rape incidents in the state. The rape cases must be trialled irrespective of age of the victim or accused.
The Author is a Freelance Writer and can be reached at [email protected].