A Letter to the People of India from a Kashmiri
It is indeed with intense pain that I am writing this letter to you.
I am writing to share with you one incident among many others, the immense suffering that was inflicted on us by the so-called protectors (army men). Twenty-six years ago, on 23rd February 1991, the men in uniform cordoned off Kunan Poshpora, a remote village in the Kupwara district, at night.
Men in uniform assembled men at different places and then robustly entered homes. They shamelessly gang-raped 30 to 40 women in the age group of 15 to 80 years. Even after this gruesome incident, the government has not taken any action against the criminals in uniform. It is extremely ironic that on one hand, you believe that J&K is an integral part of India, but on the other hand, so many of you never seem to be bothered about our worries and pains.
When Nirbhaya was raped, so many of you hit the streets and demanded strict action against the perpetrators, something I and many other Kashmiris wholeheartedly supported, but how unfortunate it is that till date, there has been no mass movement to heal our pain, the pain of the brutal assault done by men in uniform at Kunan Poshpora.
Syed Mohammad Yasin, the then Deputy Commissioner of the Kupwara district, said, “The incident was shocking. I must say I felt ashamed while recording the victims’ statements. A woman told me that she was kept under jackboots by the army men while her daughter and daughter-in-law were being gang-raped.” While describing the incident, one of the male members of a victim’s family said, “When I returned home in the morning, what I found is really indescribable. My old aged mother, wife, two sister-in-laws, daughter-in-law, aunts and cousins had all been gang-raped.”
It is pertinent to mention here that the criminals in uniform did not even spare eighty-year-old women. I am deeply distressed by the silence of the common people of India over the injustice done to the Kashmiri people. A common Kashmiri questions the common Indian. Are Kashmiri girls who were raped that ill-fated night any less of rape victims than Nirbhaya? If not, then, why are you not as vocal about them? It is really a matter of sorrow that the Nirbhayas of Kashmir are still waiting for justice. What I am going to say to you may not be very pleasant but I must say that today, a common Kashmiri doubts even the common people of India because of your indifferent attitude towards us.
My motive behind writing this letter is to tell you all that injustice is injustice. Injustice done to Kashmiri Pandits and pro-India Kashmiri Muslims by separatist militants (which I also do condemn and I seek justice for those victims too) is in no way different from this injustice. One shouldn’t be selective in condemning injustice. I still feel that the common people of India will certainly understand the sufferings of the Kashmiri people as we all have suffered government inefficiency and apathy, so very typical of government functionaries in South Asia.
I hope that you will raise your voice against the injustice done to us and ensure that the perpetrators of the crime, being criminals in uniform, will not be spared. We are waiting and our wait will certainly end some day when you are seen hitting the streets in solidarity with us for justice for victims of human rights violations by security personnel.
I totally understand the sense of affinity towards security personnel fighting for the Indian nation, and I too would not generalise all of them as violators of human rights, but such acts by some elements have only disgraced India and widened the gulf between Kashmiris and India, thus doing no service to the Indian national cause.
I may also add that in the context of the recent JNU controversy, I strongly condemn slogans calling for India’s destruction and I also do fervently oppose the idea of Kashmiris taking to any kind of violence, something I spoke about at a seminar recently in Srinagar. But there are some extremists everywhere who only provoke the other side and derail any productive exchange of ideas to resolve conflicts, and that, in no way, should be allowed to interrupt a healthy engagement between Kashmiris and the Indian civil society.
A redressal of the genuine grievances of the Kashmiris, irrespective of religion, is the need of the hour and all Indian citizens must raise their voices for the same. Dragging this conflict forever, putting a toll on precious national resources, will do no good and it is time that the Indian state work to genuinely win over Kashmiris’ hearts than just take some economic measures as breadcrumbs to manage the conflict rather than resolve it, which will not happen till the scars of Kunan Poshpora and Nadimarg and the likes don’t get healing.
Peace to you all.
(Photo Credit: Flickr)