So Much for the Rule of Law
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.