So Much for the Rule of Law

Southasia - - THE LAST STOP - By Anees Jil­lani

The In­dian me­dia loves to ridicule Pakistan and the state of its democ­racy. It is proud of its tra­di­tions that up­hold the rule of law in In­dia. It is a dif­fer­ent mat­ter that there is a lot that it has rea­son to be ashamed of in­clud­ing the night of Fe­bru­ary 23, 1991 when 125 per­son­nel of 4 Ra­jputana Ri­fles be­long­ing to the Army cor­doned off Ku­nan Posh­pora vil­lage in Tre­hgam Tehsil of bor­der dis­trict Kup­wara, some 100 km north of Sri­na­gar, and or­dered all the men to come out in the open. The troops en­tered the houses, and gang-raped the women rang­ing from the ages of ten to 80 years. The num­ber of women is not im­por­tant as even one is too many but the peo­ple of Kash­mir claim that more than 200 women were raped. The govern­ment es­ti­mate hov­ers at around 55.

The courts in Pakistan are crit­i­cized for their in­abil­ity to con­vict the ac­cused in the Mum­bai at­tacks. In the case of Ku­nan Posh­pora, what to talk of any con­vic­tions, not a sin­gle ac­cused has ever been ar­rested. The peo­ple are just ex­pe­ri­enc­ing one in­ves­ti­ga­tion af­ter another.

In June 2013, the Chief Ju­di­cial Mag­is­trate Kup­wara, while dis­miss­ing clo­sure re­port of Jammu and Kash­mir po­lice in the case, asked po­lice to “fur­ther in­ves­ti­gate to un­ravel the iden­tity of those who hap­pen to be per­pe­tra­tors.” The court had said that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion would be con­ducted by an of­fi­cer not be­low the rank of SSP and within a time bound pe­riod of three months. Even this time pe­riod has ex­pired and no­body has heard of the re­port.

The In­dian For­eign Min­is­ter who in­ci­den­tally is a Mus­lim dur­ing his re­cent visit to Kash­mir con­demned the gang-rape of the vil­lage women when asked about it by a re­porter. How­ever, he ad­vised the Kash­miris to for­give and for­get and move for­ward. Now this is one ad­vice that the Govern­ment of Pakistan should keep handy all the time and share with the In­di­ans each time they ac­cuses Pakistan of not pros­e­cut­ing the ter­ror­ists for the of­fenses com­mit­ted in In­dia.

There were of course protests in Kash­mir af­ter this. There were of course gov­ern­men­tal in­ves­ti­ga­tions but they re­jected the al­le­ga­tions as “base­less.” Apart from the fact that in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights or­ga­ni­za­tions like Amnesty, Hu­man Rights Watch and the US State Depart­ment ex­pressed se­ri­ous doubts about the in­tegrity of these in­ves­ti­ga­tions and the man­ner in which they were con­ducted, stat­ing that the In­dian govern­ment launched a “cam­paign to ac­quit the army of charges of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions”, which woman and then a Kash­miri Mus­lim one would levy such a false charge.

We in South Asia live in a male chau­vin­ist so­ci­ety where the vic­tim rather than the rapist are usu­ally pun­ished and os­tra­cized. So­cial stigma gen­er­ated out of this in­ci­dent has re­sulted in women of this vil­lage fac­ing dif­fi­cul­ties in get­ting mar­ried even to­day. The vil­lagers are so iso­lated that only two stu­dents have gone to univer­sity since the mas­sive rape; most choose to drop out af­ter eighth class than bear the taunts and barbs di­rected at them when they go to the other vil­lages to con­tinue their stud­ies. The only govern­ment school in the af­fected vil­lage teaches up to stan­dard eight.

It is a sad re­flec­tion on the com­mu­nity but many of the other vil­lagers have banned all so­cial con­tact with the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies. Par­ents say it is dif­fi­cult to marry off their chil­dren. At least one fam­ily has con­fessed to mar­ry­ing off their 16-year-old daugh­ter to a 50-year-old di­vorcee and fa­ther of three be­cause “none of the young men in the vil­lage came for­ward” and “a search for prospec­tive grooms out­side the vil­lage was never an op­tion af­ter the in­ci­dent.”

So much for the rule of law and jus­tice, In­dia… Anees Jil­lani is an ad­vo­cate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and a mem­ber of the Wash­ing­ton, DC Bar. He has been writ­ing for var­i­ous pub­li­ca­tions for more than 20 years and has au­thored sev­eral books.

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