‘Kunan Poshpora victims unlikely to get justice’: Support Group

Kunan
Photo by Support Group for Justice for Kunan Poshpora

The case of Kunan Poshpora has hogged international limelight. Despite the attention and the global outrage over this mass rape case, justice still seems elusive for the victims, Irfan Mehraj reports. 


Srinagar: On the twenty-eighth anniversary of the mass rape and torture in the twin villages of Kunan Poshpora in Kupwara district of Kashmir, the group of women activists who filed a fresh petition in the case in 2014 on Saturday said that “it seems unlikely that the Kunan Poshpora victims will get justice in their lifetime.”

Stressing on the wide attention that the mass rape and torture of villagers in Kunan Poshpora has received in Kashmir and in international media, with more than 300 human rights organizations and journalists reporting and writing about the mass rape, the activists said that “despite wide international outrage over the incident, justice for the victims seems to be a mirage.”

“The investigations have been stayed and even if the investigations are carried out, the sanction is an issue before the Indian Defence Ministry, which has not granted sanction to a single case of rights violation by armed forces personnel so far,” a statement by Support Group for Justice for Kunan Poshpora said.

“The long delay in the process of ensuring justice to the people of Kunan Poshpora has generated a sense of hopelessness and fatigue in the survivors,” Natasha Rather, one of the activists said.

Six survivors, who were witnesses to the mass rape and torture, have since died.

“28 years is a very long time and the death of 6 witnesses is a big loss. The Indian state has failed, as always, to punish its army men for the crimes they have committed in Kashmir,” she said.

‘Case stuck in Supreme Court’

Support Group for Justice for Kunan Poshpora said that the Union of India by filing a Special Leave Petition in Supreme Court of India in 2014 challenged the interim orders of the JK High Court to pay compensation to the victims and of the Kupwara District Court for reinvestigation in the case. “The judiciary stayed the reinvestigation and the payment of compensation,” the Support Group said.  

“For two years the case was in the registry of the Supreme Court and since then it has not come up for hearing,” Natasha said.

Another activist Ifrah Butt called the repeated delays as 'a tactic adopted by the state’. Ifrah said that the state adopted similar tactics when the case was in Kupwara district court. “Now that the case is in Supreme Court, they have not served notice to any party which includes people like Habibullah and Verghese or those who were involved in the cover-up,” she said.

It is pertinent to mention that even the order of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) – which had recommended for reinvestigation of the case and payment of compensation to the victims – was stayed by the JK High Court. “There are five petitions regarding Kunan Poshpora case pending before the High Court and the Supreme Court of India since 2014, three of which have been filed by the Indian army, which has denied justice to the victims till date. Presently the matter is stuck between the two Courts,” the Support Group said.

Calling Indian judiciary as otherwise sensitive towards cases of sexual violence, the Support Group said, “In a case of rape of a Bangladeshi woman which was filed by Adv. Mrs. Chandrima Das, a compensation of 10 lakh Rupees was paid to the victim. The 2012 Nirbhaya rape case was put on trial in a fast tract court and the perpetrators were awarded death sentences within one year of the incident. But the mass rape case of 1991 seems not to be a priority for the judiciary because of the involvement of the Indian army.”

The Support Group blames impunity enjoyed by the armed forces under AFSPA to be a big handicap in dispensing justice to the victims. “This case stands to be a chilling example of the political and judicial impunity enjoyed by Indian Armed Forces in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, under the facade of Indian democracy,” they said.

Below is the timeline of the case:

Timeline of Kunan Poshpora Mass Rape and Torture Case

Date

Event

23/24 February 1991

Mass rape/torture by personnel of 4 Rajputana Rifles, 68 Mountain Brigade in villages of Kunan and Poshpora

25/26 February 1991

Letter sent by villagers of Kunan and Poshpora to DC, Kupwara and police authorities regarding rape/torture

1 March 1991

Protest by villagers

5 March 1991

DC Kupwara visits villages of Kunan and Poshpora for enquiries

7 March 1991

DC Kupwara informs Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir of enquiries conducted

8 March 1991

FIR no. 10/1991 registered at Trehgam Police Station

18 March 1991

Divisional Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah visits villages of Kunan and Poshpora

July 1991

Press Council of India team headed by B.G. Verghese submits report that includes reference to events at villages of Kunan and Poshpora

23 September 1991

Director, Prosecutions informs the Superintendent of Police, Kupwara that the case of Kunan and Poshpora is “un-fit for launching criminal prosecution”

21 October 1991

Jammu and Kashmir Police closes Kunan and Poshpora case as untraced

2004

Victims of Kunan and Poshpora events approach SHRC

16 October 2011

SHRC issues final decision on case

March 2013

Women of civil society begin consultations to file PIL

March 2013

Jammu and Kashmir Police file closure report in case before the lower court Kupwara

20 April 2013

Following inaction of State in the case, PIL filed before High Court, Srinagar for re-investigations and other benefits

14 May 2013

High Court does not admit PIL

14 May 2013

Meeting of High Level Committee, Government of Jammu and Kashmir to be held

May 2013

Judicial Magistrate takes “statements” of certain victims

10 June 2013

Petitioners 1 and 2 file protest petition on closure report before lower court Kupwara

13 June 2013

CPO opposes protest petition

18 June 2013

Sub-Judge, Judicial Magistrate, Kupwara orders further investigations by SP within three months

22 June 2013

 

Victims address a Press Conference organized  by JKCCS and Support Group at  Srinagar and announcement of BG Verghese Boycott

2 July 2013

Victims informed that SP Kupwara, Abdul Jabbar appointed investigating officer in case. Statements to be recorded before Kupwara court on 3 July 2013

3 July 2013

Victims, family and lawyers arrive in Kupwara. After five hours of being made to wait, SP Abdul Jabbar cancels the program. Protest letter lodged before SP Abdul Jabbar on behalf of victims

30 July 2013

Three/four victims/witnesses summoned once again by police. Three of the persons summoned are no longer alive. The sole surviving witness summoned is not from the original list of witnesses in police investigations.

14 August 2013

21 August 2013

24 August 2013

31 August 2013

Statements of rape survivors/ torture survivors taken by JKCCS and Support Group

 

Review of statements ( incomplete)

13 September 2013

SP Kupwara, Abdul Jabbar seeks extension of six months for investigations

14 September 2013

Sub-Judge, Judicial Magistrate, Kupwara grants three month extension, without hearing the petitioners

     18 October 2013

Writ petition filed in High Court, Srinagar

18 November 2013

Revision petition filed by army

 

18 , 19 , 21 and 28 November 2013

Writ Petition converted to a PIL, transferred to a Division Bench (2 judges) but not heard.

13 December 2013

SP sought time and granted three months by Munsif. No notice given to survivors.

14 December  2013

Revision petition: Survivors file objections to revision petition

 

Contempt petition: Survivors filed a contempt of court petition against SP Kupwara for not concluding the investigation as ordered by the Sessions Court Kupwara into the mass rape and torture case of Kunan Poshpora villages. Filed before CJM Handwara who on the same date [though order received subsequently, referred it back to Judicial Magistrate, Kupwara]

19 December 2013

Revision petition: Members of civil society, the Village Committee, Kunan Poshpora and the Support Group for Kunan Poshpora visited Kupwara Sessions Court to observe and record the legal proceedings. The army Counsel, Karnail Singh sought further time, despite having had five days to draft and submit objections. Advocate Parvez Imroz appearing on behalf of the survivors, objected strongly to the army’s continuous excuses and delaying tactics, in a case where five of the victims had already died and twenty two years had passed without investigations.

26 December 2013

Revision petition: Arguments on locus standi of survivors

 

Contempt petition: Judge on leave

30 December 2013

Revision petition: The Sessions Judge, Kupwara decided the Kunan Poshpora survivors application on their right to be heard and contest the Indian army revision petition to shut down investigations.

18 January 2014

Revision petition: Government public prosecutor did not appear before the court. Since the public prosecutor was not present in the court, army counsel insisted that the matter should be adjourned.

1 February 2014

Revision petition: The army counsel, Karnail Singh argued that the case is a conspiracy against the army, that there are no medical evidences, and “this is a pre-planned, politically motivated game against army”. The army counsel argued for over an hour. The Public Prosecutor was reluctant to argue and asked the counsel for the victims to argue. Next date fixed for arguments.

8 February 2014

Revision petition: Judge not present

9 February 2014 [Sunday]

Revision petition: Due to conditions, parties could not appear

23 February 2014

Kashmiri Womens Resistance Day

1 March 2014

Revision petition: Judge not present

8 March 2014

SP sought time and granted three months. No notice given to survivors.

15 March 2014

Revision petition: Judge not present

29 March 2014

Revision petition: Judge present but no hearing on revision petition as meeting scheduled in afternoon.

 

Contempt petition: Objections were filed by SP Abdul Jabbar

5 April 2014

Revision petition: PP conflict of interest issue raised. Order against PP.

 

Contempt petition: No hearing as Judge had urgent issue to attend

19 April 2014

Revision petition: Special PP not appointed. PP claims another person appointed. He appears and says he has not received any formal communication. 4 days given.

 

Contempt petition: Survivors seek time for documents

26 April 2014

Revision petition: Judge not present

 

Contempt petition: Documents received, next date set for  arguments

10 May 2014

Revision petition: Judge not present

 

Contempt petition: Arguments. Next date set for further arguments.

20 May 2014

High Court issues notices in writ petition

24 May 2014

Revision Petition: SPP seeks time

 

Contempt petition: Written submissions, as ordered, by petitioners, submitted.

2 June 2014

Revision Petition: Judge on leave, due to personal bereavement

 

Contempt petition: Orders yet to be delivered

5 June 2014

SP Abdul Jabbar seeks six month extension

14 June 2014

Revision petition: Judge on leave

 

Contempt petition: Contempt petition dismissed by order

 

Further extension granted for 3 months

1 July 2014

High Court: State to consider compensation

12 July 2014

Revision petition: Final arguments heard

24 July 2014

High Court: Review accepted and further time given to State

31 July 2014

Revision petition: Further time given for submission of judgments [which were then submitted]

8 August 2014

Revision petition dismissed

12 August 2014

High Court

2015

Union of India files a Special Leave Petition in Supreme Court of India

 



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