Book Review: Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora

kunan poshpora

The book comprising of seven chapters gives a comprehensive but shuddery description of how during the intervening night of 23rd and 24th Feb. 1991 the district Kupwara’s twin villages, Kunan and Poshpora witnessed a midnight army operation which resulted the brutal torture of men and mass rape of women. It goes on to trace the roots and background of the investigations in this infamous mass rape by Indian army. The book is of its first kind which had endeavored to narrate things by way of the fieldwork and interviews conducted by the authors, reports of various committees and news reports of the time. The book documents the account of all the events that unfolded on that ill-fated night of 1991. Apart from that, the condition and what the villages Kunan and Poshpora have been through all these years have been scholarly written. The authors have touched almost every part including psychological and social aspect. The renewed struggle since 2013 to seek justice for the victims too has been included. The book further suggests that many people are not aware of the fact that it was the people of these two villages who actually initiated the legal struggle, the outcome of which was the recommendation by the state human rights commission (SHRC) in 2012 for providing compensation to the victims and re-investigation in the incident.

The first chapter narrates the role that Kashmiri women have played in resistance movement.  It then discusses the stories of the five authors growing up in conflict-ridden Kashmir and the way they understood the repressive nature of the occupation which according to them is as cruel as any other cruel norm(s) of society in Kashmir. The authors in the second chapter had tried to make the reader understood about the politically uncertain environment in Kashmir. It discusses how the rape is used as a systematic military tool and how the climate of impunity (which is deeply rooted in Kashmir) is shielding the culprits and making any case unsuccessful which could dent the image of state or its military apparatus. It discusses that no one among the women-folk (from age 13 to 60 or even the pregnant or handicapped) were spared in the mass rape of Kunan Poshpora. Furthermore, it sheds light on the fact that the district Kupwara is so much garrisoned with the military establishments that it sometimes leads oneself to think that visiting this district meant stepping right to the battle ground and putting oneself in jeopardy.

The third chapter takes the reader directly to the horrors of that fateful night which pulverized the honor and dignity of all the women of these two villages. It analyses the key documents pertaining to the case, including the case diary submitted by the police, statements which were made by the rape survivors to the State Human Rights Commission and most importantly, the personal interactions of the authors with the victims of that night. The chapter had succeeded in exposing the lies, cover-ups and the shoddy investigations that went in to trampling any form of justice for the victims.The fourth chapter deliberates the life of the survivors in the two villages and the subsequent repercussions this incident had made on the lives of the female-folk altogether. The chapter has a detailed section which highlights the effects the incident had embarked up on mental and physical health of the victims and their families even today. Like when they sense the feeling of ‘other’ or when someone call them the daughters of the raped villages’ et al. This chapter however reflects the spirit of resistance and resilience that the women had shown particularly when they decided to struggle for justice because they did not want this incident to be repeated in the other villages.

The fifth chapter revolves around the legal technicalities and how the victims choose to continue this fight despite being traumatized. A section of the chapter critically exposes B. G. Verghese ‘manufactured’ report in which he had tried to nullify the happening(s) of the mass rape during that calamitous night. The authors called him an army paid man. The authors did not even spare the then Divisional Kashmir, Wajahat Habibullah, whose responsibility according to them was to unveil the whole truth but he ironically choose to remain silent for around 22 years only to protect his position and chair. The authors in the sixth chapter had endeavored to reconstruct the events of that haunting night (and after) by interviewing those who were indirectly or in some way involved with the incident. The former DC of Kupwara S. M. Yasin was one among the various interviewees. He was the whistle blower and whose report became the basis of the FIR. This chapter makes the reader to understand the value and importance of the counter-discourses in understanding of history. The seventh chapter reflects the recent struggle with an insider’s view of the events that happened post the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in 2013 and how the case has been re-opened and brought back the point of justice for the victims of Kunan-Poshpora.

Why this book is particular and holds much value despite the fact a lot of documentation has already been done on Kunan Poshpora is due to the fact that the authors have not only narrated the interviewed stories of the victims but also have derived much from the available police reports, legal documents and witness accounts. All this makes this book a wonderful piece of work, a must read for all.

Bottom-line:29 years down the line, the struggle for justice by the people of Kunan and Poshpora have not given up. They have not backed down in the face of impunity and atrocity. Lest we forget.

The author has masters in Sociology from Aligarh Muslim University. Her areas of interest include Sociological Study of Society, Cultural Studies, Religion, and Contemporary Women Centric Issues. Email: [email protected]

Author(s):EssarBatool, Ifrah Butt, Munaza Rashid, Natasha Rather, SamreenaMushtaq

Publisher:Zubaan Books (New Delhi, 2016)

ISBN: 978-93-84757-66-3

Pages: 228

Price: 395




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