Rape as a weapon of war

How the Kashmiri woman suffers for self-determination

My heart starting aching and horrors ran inside my scratched soul when I heard news of the abduction and alleged rape attempt of a Bandipora-based minor girl. I felt myself humiliated and intimidated and at the same I felt something like a sharp knife stabbing the weak walls of my chest. It sent shockwaves down my spine and reminded me that how sexual violence had been a method of retaliation against the common people and their justified desire for the right of self determination.

Thousands of Kashmiri women have been battling for the past many decades with no end to the scary injustice. They cry out in suffocating pain and wait for the day when they will be given justice for the trauma they endured. The Kunan Poshpora tragedy, the Asiya Nelofar case and many other cases of gendered violence are yet to be looked at and yet to be solved. This makes one declare that women’s bodies have been battlegrounds ever since conflict engulfed the Kashmir valley. They have been robbed of their lives, their peace and their dignity and yet there is no systematic approach to solve the majority of pending rape cases. Having nothing in their hands, the survivors of these rape incidents mark the anniversaries of what was done to them and continue to expose and dishonour the accused.

This violence and human rights butchery would surge unless authorities change the very basis of their policies and listen to the woes of the public. The UN-mandated plebiscite to be held in Kashmir needs to be given a proper shape. People should be given right to express their say that whether they want to be with India, with Pakistan or they want to be become an independent nation. The rest of those involved in sexual violence against Kashmiri women need to be convicted well in time. Restore peace, restore everything!

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In the year of 2005, Médecins Sans Frontières, known for its projects in conflict-torn regions, revealed how Kashmir is witnessing a large scale sexual revolt and how Kashmiri women have been subjected to the worst kind of sexual exploitation. Furthermore, they revealed that the total number of raped women in Kashmir outnumbers that in other existing war-torn regions. Wikipedia states that parliamentary troops carried out gang rape of some 882 of Kashmiri women in 1992 alone. Dara Kay Cohen, a Harvard University-based scholar performed extensive research into this field and listed the Kashmir conflict as worst of mass rape wars.

These and others like these, there are thousands of research papers and books identifying innumerable unattended cases of sexual violence against women in Kashmir. Yet there seems no end to it and justice dies in courts of shame. What is fair is that the victim deserves proper justice no matter who the perpetrator is. But what to do when all goes topsy-turvy?

Actually the history of rape as “weapon of war” and “counter insurgency tactic” dates back to the origin of conflict, and was intended to satisfy unjustifiable revenges, to subordinate the local population and to instill fear in them. Rape was employed as method of collective punishment against those who spoke of their rights and led a public outcry.

Women of hard-line men, separatists, protesters and militants were targeted and remained toys in the hands of parliamentary troops. Third degree tortures, disappearances and rapes have been clear indication of malpractice of power in the past few decades and in current times as well. Also many times in the fear of getting boycotted, shamed and treated like victims, hundreds of rape cases remained unreported by the victims of families. An example of the hushing up of this mass excruciation is the woman who while trying to save the dignity of her raped child pretended herself a rape victim in Gurihakhar (in 1992).

Though many human rights organizations and NGOs have peeped into this issue for years, the exact and reliable statistics related to rape cases remain a daydream. The reason is that thousands of cases went unnoticed, unattended and unreported in the past and the same is going on now because the rape has been made common and generally goes unpunished. Even today all these allegations find their place in bins and are rejected like they are baseless. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), nightmares, flashbacks, hopelessness, suffocation, suicidal ideation, anger, blame, sense of getting wronged again and fear is what rape has brought to its Kashmiri women survivors. Thus Kashmiri women stand at the verge of getting all of their privacy torn besides they are everyday victims of verbal abuse and the ongoing unrest.

Now who to blame for this never ending slaughter of societal dignity? Yes the conflict and use of excessive force in the name of law and order are real demons. This violence and human rights butchery would surge unless authorities change the very basis of their policies and listen to the woes of the public. The UN-mandated plebiscite to be held in Kashmir needs to be given a proper shape. People should be given right to express their say that whether they want to be with India, with Pakistan or they want to be become an independent nation. The rest of those involved in sexual violence against Kashmiri women need to be convicted well in time. Restore peace, restore everything!

Aabid Shahin
Aabid Shahin
The writer, a student of the University of Kashmir, Srinagar, Indian Unioon Territory of Kashmir, can be reached at [email protected]

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