Rape during the Kashmir conflict
|Part of a series on|
|Violence against women|
|Sexual assault and rape|
Since the onset of the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir in 1988, rape has been used as a weapon of war by Indian security forces; comprising the Indian Army, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Border Security personnel, against the Kashmiri population. The frequent rape of Kashmiri Muslim women by Indian state security forces routinely goes unpunished. Many women have become victims of rape and sexual assault in the conflict. According to scholar Seema Kazi, separatist militants have also committed rape to some extent, although not comparable in scale with that by the Indian state forces.
There have been events of mass rape also in the history of Kashmir conflict, which include the ones carried out by Dogra troops as well as Hindu and Sikh mobs, and by Pakistani armed tribesmen when the conflict broke out in 1947.
- 1 History of the conflict
- 2 Rape by Indian forces (post-1988)
- 3 Rape by militants (post-1988)
- 4 Reported cases
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 Bibliography
- 8 Further reading
History of the conflict
There have been many incidents of rape in the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. A large number of Muslim women were abducted and raped in the Jammu region of the state, during the 1947 Jammu massacres in October–November 1947, which were carried out by extremist Hindus and Sikhs, aided and abetted by the forces of the Dogra State headed by the Maharaja Hari Singh.
In October 1947, armed Pashtun tribesmen from Pakistan, who had support from the Pakistani administration and Army, invaded Kashmir and committed atrocities such as raping and looting the locals during the beginning of First Kashmir War, they took place in and around Muzaffarabad and Baramulla.
Mass rape was also reported in the Mirpur region of today's Azad Kashmir during the 1947 Mirpur massacre which was carried out against the Hindu and Sikh refugees, by the tribesmen from Pakistan. Many women were also abducted.
Rape by Indian forces (post-1988)
|Human rights abuses
in Jammu and Kashmir
In the aftermath of the rigged 1987 elections in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, where Islamic parties were prevented from winning several seats in the State Assembly, a popular anti-Indian separatist movement and militancy gained momentum in the Kashmir Valley, a territory disputed between India and Pakistan since 1947. To counter the insurgency, India militarised the Valley, deploying a huge number of troops in the region. Opponents of Indian military occupation in the valley maintain that 600,000 troops are stationed throughout the state, according to which the region possesses the highest ratio of troops to civilians in the world, since January 1990, Indian forces committed a number of human rights violations against civilians, including mass rape.
Rape as a weapon of war
According to a 1993 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, the security forces use rape as a method of retaliation against Kashmiri civilians during reprisal attacks after militant ambushes. Most rape cases, according to the same report, have occurred during cordon-and-search operations. According to a 1996 HRW report, security personnel in Kashmir have used "rape as a counterinsurgency tactic". Scholar Inger Skhjelsbaek states that the pattern of rape in Kashmir is that soldiers enter the homes of civilians, kill or evict the men and then rape the women present. Scholar Shubh Mathur calls rape an essential element of the Indian military strategy in Kashmir.
According to Seema Kazi, the motive of rape in Kashmir is no different to the rapes which were committed in Rwanda and the Balkans. Kazi opines that rape in Kashmir is a cultural weapon of war and the rape of Kashmiri women by Indian security forces, in the context of a predominantly Hindu state repressing a Muslim minority population, functions as a tool of subordinating Kashmiri men and the Kashmiri community at large, she also states that rape is used to demoralize the Kashmiri resistance and that there have been documented cases of soldiers confessing that they were ordered to rape women.
Professor William Baker stated at the 52nd United Nations Commission on Human Rights that rape in Kashmir was not the result of a few undisciplined soldiers but an active strategy of the security forces to humiliate and intimidate the Kashmiri population, he cited as evidence his interviews with several rape victims who were raped by soldiers in front of their families, including husbands and children. An Amnesty International report in 1992 stated that rape in Kashmir was a systematic attempt to humiliate the local population during counter-insurgency operations. Dr Maiti, a professor of political science at Burdwan University, has denounced the use of rape as an instrument of Indian oppression against the Kashmiri population, where the majority of victims are civilians.
During some interviews of soldiers on why they raped local Kashmiri women, some responded that Kashmiri women were beautiful. Others said it was a non-family station; in one case, a soldier replied that he raped a Kashmiri woman out of revenge because "their men did exactly the same to the women of his community''.
A study in 2008 by Médecins Sans Frontières concluded that Kashmiri women are among the worst sufferers of sexual violence in the world, with 11.6% of respondents, out of a total 510 people in the survey, saying they had been sexually abused. The study also found that the number of people who had witnessed a rape in Kashmir was far higher than other conflict zones such as Chechnya, Sierra Lone and Sri Lanka. 13% of respondents reported having witnessed a rape since 1989, and 63% reported having heard about rape since that year. 59.9% of respondents had heard of more than 5 rapes and 5.1% of respondents had themselves witnessed more than five rapes. According to scholars Rawwida Baksh and Wendy Harcourt, the high rate of sexual violence in Kashmir is little known internationally. Scholar Dara Kay Cohen lists the conflict in Kashmir among the worst of the so-called mass rape wars including Bosnia and Rwanda.
According to Human Rights Watch:
There are no reliable statistics on the number of rapes committed by security forces in Kashmir. Human rights groups have documented many cases since 1990, but because many of the incidents have occurred in remote villages, it is impossible to confirm any precise number. There can be no doubt that the use of rape is common and routinely goes unpunished.
Indian security forces reportedly gang-raped 882 women in 1992 alone. Humanitarian Law Project/International Educational Development verified more than 200 war rapes in the Valley and Doda district in January 1994 alone.
Many cases are not reported because of the shame and stigma associated with rape in Kashmir. Human rights groups state that 150 top officers, of the rank of major or above, have participated in torture as well as sexual violence and that the Indian government was covering up such acts; in 2016, Kashmiri human rights activist and lawyer Parvez Imroz has said that a vast majority of cases of sexual harassment by Indian forces in Kashmir go unreported.
Rape by security forces has notably occurred in areas of militant presence or activity, it has also happened to women from the Gujjar community, who live on the periphery of Kashmiri society. According to journalist Freny Manecksha, who tried to document conflict-related rapes in Kashmir in 2012-2013, their remote location has made them even more vulnerable to sexual violence.
Assaulted women continue to suffer severe physical and emotional consequences. Women and their male relatives suffer 'collective shaming' as their izzat (honour) is deemed to be lost, the men are seen to have failed to protect the honour of their mothers, wives and daughters. In conservative societies sexual assaults and the accompanying forced impregnations affect a man's reputation. According to Molen and Bal, “the authorities have deliberately inflicted collective dishonor—and in fact defeat—through appropriating Kashmiri men’s control of women’s izzat.''
According to Hafsa Kanjwal in SAGAR research journal of University of Texas Austin, that since Kashmiri society misplaces the blame of rape on the victim, women suffer from more psychological burdens and the victims internalize the concepts of shame and impurity attached to them, this feeling often leads to not just depression but also a breakdown in marriages, breakup of families and sometimes even suicide. An example would be the case of a 16 year old girl, Hameeda, who was sexually assaulted by an Indian army official in 2004 and was for years labeled as a “spoiled good” and rejected by her relatives, her efforts to seek compensation eventually led to the breakdown of her abusive marriage and she subsequently developed chronic depression and internalized the shame projected onto her by her community.
Molen and Bal state that there is a tendency in Kashmir to refuse marrying anyone from a village where rape has occurred; in the villages of Kunan Poshpora, some women were rejected by their husbands after being raped by Indian soldiers. At the behest of militants, some husbands did take back their wives but habitually abused them. One such woman told interviewers that she had begged her husband to 'forgive her' but her husband still considered her as defiled by another man. There were also cases of mother-son relationships breaking down, the rapes have also cast a stigma on other women from the rape victims' families, even if they themselves were not raped. Boys are also reported to have taunted the rape victims. Women who were pregnant at the time of their rape either miscarried or delivered deformed children.
Journalists Eric Margolis and Isaac Zolton have reported that some women who were raped by Indian soldiers subsequently fled from Indian administered Kashmir to Azad Kashmir. Studies have shown that nationalist resistance in Kashmir has been heightened because of sexual assaults and other atrocities Kashmiri women have experienced, primarily at the hands of Indian security forces.
Human Rights Watch stated in its 1993 report that, when confronted with the evidence of rape, Indian authorities have denied the charges, the report says they have either attempted to question the integrity of the witnesses or discredit the testimony of physicians, without ordering a full inquiry. Commissioner in charge of magistrates for Kashmir, Wajahat Habibullah, chose to resign after India denied the charges in 1991.
In 1993, Lt. General D. S. R. Sahni, General Officer Commanding in Chief of the Northern Command, when asked about the charges of rape by the security forces in Kashmir, has alleged that the militants "trump up" charges of rape against the forces, he said, "A soldier conducting an operation at the dead of night is unlikely to think of rape when he is not even certain if he will return alive."
According to Kazi, the Indian media has ''displayed unseemly haste in exonerating security forces'' from rape allegations; in 2016, JNU student union president Kanhaiya Kumar became the centre of controversy after speaking out on the rape of women in Kashmir by Indian security forces. The BJP youth wing filed a complaint against him, calling him 'anti-national'.
According to the report of Human Rights Watch, the common use of rape by Indian security forces in the conflict drew little international condemnation, despite reports in the international press and by Indian human rights groups. According to scholar Amit Ranjan, the Indian state has always sided with the perpetrators and not the rape victims and Indian society is generally not disturbed by rapes in Kashmir due to Kashmiri Muslims being considered the 'other', at the same time, Ranjan says that the Kashmir Valley's disputed status between India and Pakistan has given it the advantage of some international attention. Former Pakistani Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, in her address to the Fourth World Conference on Women at Beijing in 1995, called the use of rape as a weapon of war in Jammu and Kashmir ''reprehensible'' and ''depraved''.
Feminist commentators are critical of the way Kashmiri men have addressed the issue of rape. According to Kazi, Kashmiri men feel helpless and bewildered at the rape of their women, but Kazi also complains that while Yasin Malik of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front acknowledged the assaults by the Indian Army on Kashmiri women, he failed to address the torture and stigma which Kashmiri society then imposes on the rape victims.
According to journalist Syed Junaid Hashmi, both separatists and mainstream political parties in Kashmir have ignored the rape victims. Hashmi says that the state governments order inquiries which turn out inconclusive while those guilty are rewarded for fighting militancy. Separatists address the plight of the victims by saying, 'they have lost their honour for a greater cause'. Separatist leader Shahidul Islam commented, "I know by merely giving statements, honour lost by our daughters, sisters and mothers cannot be restored, they expected a lot more from the separatist leadership than what it has been doing, unfortunately we failed in pursuing the cause of our women vigorously."
In 1994, due to the international pressure, some court-martials of soldiers accused of rape were made public by the Indian government; in one such case, two soldiers were sentenced to twelve year imprisonment, on July 29 1994, for raping a village girl in Kashmir. However, many documented cases of rape were refused to be prosecuted by the authorities. According to Kazi, of all the human rights violations in Kashmir, rape has drawn the least investigations and prosecutions; in the case of the February 1991 mass rapes in Kunan Poshpora, The New York Times reported that the 'Indian Government issued a statement saying that the sexual assaults never took place'.
Human Rights Watch also highlighted the fact in its 1993 report that despite the evidence of widespread sexual violence perpetrated by the Indian army and paramilitary forces, few of the incidents were ever investigated by the authorities and no prosecution of alleged rapists ever occurred. According to the 1996 HRW report, in many cases these incidents "are never investigated by judicial and medical authorities".
According to Kazi, this indicates tolerance, if not official consent, of the State to such crimes. According to Mathur, the Indian government provides legal immunity to its personnel who are accused of rape. Skhjelsbaek states that the denial of rape by Indian authorities is systematic and the lack of prosecution allows acts of sexual violence to be perpetrated with impunity in Kashmir. Scholars Christine De Matos and Rowena Ward have observed that the official cover-ups follow a pattern of labeling the victims as 'militant sympathisers', questioning the honesty of their claims and persecuting human rights activists and medical personnel who try to assist the rape victims.
According to scholars Om Prakash Dwivedi and V. G. Julie Rajan, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has enabled the Indian military and security personnel to commit war crimes with impunity. The Indian military was given special powers under AFSPA in Kashmir in July 1990. Human rights groups criticize this law, stating it gives immunity to armed forces personnel who have committed crimes, the Army sources maintain that "any move to revoke AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir would be detrimental to the security of the Valley and would provide a boost to the terrorists."
As per AFSPA, Kashmiris who need to go to a civilian court to press charges against any security force personnel for human rights violations are required to first seek the permission of the Indian government. According to Kazi, such permission is 'never forthcoming', the AFSPA legislation has been described as “hated” and “draconian'' by members of Kashmir's State Human Rights Commission. The local judiciary in Kashmir is unable to function normally because of the privileges granted to the security forces.
According to Human Rights Watch, the military courts in India, in general, were proved to be incompetent to deal with cases of serious human rights abuses and were responsible in covering up evidence and protecting the involved officers. Amnesty International in its report in 2015, titled “Denied”-Failures in Accountability in Jammu and Kashmir, says, "...with respect to investigations, an inquiry that is conducted by the same authority accused of the crime raises serious questions about the independence and impartiality of those proceedings”, adding that according to the international law, an independent authority that is not involved in the alleged violations has to investigate such crimes.
Khurram Parvez remarks that women fear reprisals from the Army to file the cases of rape. He says, "this is because there are cases in which when rape was reported, members of their families were attacked or prosecuted." He also states that it would be technically very difficult to prove rape, since the incidents happen in the areas which are completely under the Army’s control.
Dwivedi and Rajan point out that India has been able to commit crimes against humanity, such as mass rape, with impunity in Kashmir because of its alliance with permanent members in the United Nations Security Council, such as the USA, and also because it is not part of the International Criminal Court (ICC). India refuses to join the ICC by contending that its own judicial system is competent enough to address war crimes. However, law expert Usha Ramanathan labels this argument misleading.
Rape by militants (post-1988)
According to the 1993 Human Rights Watch report, rape by militants is less common but has increased in frequency over the years. A 2010 US state department report blamed separatist insurgents in Kashmir and other parts of the country of committing several serious abuses, including the killing of security personnel as well as civilians, and of engaging in widespread torture, rape, beheadings, kidnapping, and extortion.
Some incidents of rape by militants appear to have been motivated by the fact that the victims or their families are accused of being informers or of being opposed to the militants or supporters of rival militant groups.
In 1989, attacks on Pandits escalated and Muslim insurgents selectively raped, tortured and killed Kashmiri Pandits, burnt their temples, idols and holy books, the Pandits fled en masse from the state after which their houses were burnt by militants and their artwork and sculptures were destroyed. While cases of systematic rape of Kashmiri Muslim women by the Indian military are well documented, the details and scale of sexual violence against Kashmiri Pandit women remain yet to be researched; in the meantime, some Pandit organisations have used the exaggerated narratives of gang rape by Muslims for their propaganda.
According to Human Rights Watch, despite threats by Islamist groups to women since 1990, reports of rape by militants were rare in the early years of the conflict, since 1991, reports of rape by Islamic miltants have increased. In some cases, women have been raped and then killed after being abducted by rival militant groups and held as hostages for their male relatives; in other cases, members of armed militant groups have abducted women after threatening to shoot the rest of the family unless she is handed over to a militant leader. Local people sometimes refer to these abductions and rapes as "forced marriages".
In 1992, a case of rape and murder by militants attracted publicity, partly because the incident provoked street protests condemning the militants for the crimes.
According to the Human Rights Watch, the rape victims of militants suffer ostracism and there is a "code of silence and fear" that prevents people from reporting such abuse, it says that the investigation of cases of rape by militants is difficult because many Kashmiris are reluctant to discuss it for the fear of violent reprisals. The increase in number of rape cases has resulted in an increased number of abortions, leading in one case to murder of a doctor, the doctor was accused of being an informer by the Islamic militant groups Hizbul Mujahideen and Al Jehad.
Indian security forces
- Jamir Qadeem (1990): On June 26 1990, a twenty-four-year-old woman from Jamir Qadeem was raped during a search of her neighbourhood by the BSF. Police in Sopore registered a case against the BSF in July of that year.
- Anantnag (1990)
- Chhanpora (1990): On March 7, CRPF raided several houses in the Chhanpora locality of Srinagar. During the raids a number of women were raped, the 'Committee for Initiative in Kashmir' which visited the Valley between March 12 to 16, 1990 interviewed the victims. Rape victim Noora (24) was forcefully dragged out of her kitchen by 20 men from the CRPF and raped, along with her sister-in-law Zaina, the rape victims also witnessed two minor girls being molested.
- Panzgam (1990)
- Trehgam (1990)
- Barbar Shah (1991): A mentally ill old woman was raped by security forces in Srinagar.
- Kunan Poshpora (1991): On February 23, 1991, a unit of the Indian army launched a search and interrogation operation in the twin villages of Kunan Poshpora, in the Valley's Kupwara district. Soldiers repeatedly gang-raped many women, with estimates of the number of victims ranging from 23 to 100.
- Pazipora-Ballipora (1991): On 20 August 1991, soldiers carried out mass rape in this hamlet, which is only a few kilometres away from Kunan Poshpora. The number of rape victims in this case varied between eight and fifteen or more.
- Chak Saidpora (1992): On October 10, 1992, an army unit of the 22nd Grenadiers entered the village of Chak Saidapora. Several army soldiers gang-raped between six and nine women, including an 11-year-old girl and a 60-year-old woman.
- Haran (1992): On July 20 1992 women were raped during an army search operation. One victim, interviewed by Asia Watch and PHR, reported being gang-raped by two soldiers in turns. Another victim in the same incident was raped by a Sikh soldier while another stood guard.
- Gurihakhar (1992): On October 1 1992, after killing ten people in the hamlet of Bakhikar, BSF forces entered the nearby village of Gurihakhar and raped women. One woman, interviewed by Asia Watch, tried to hide her daughter's identity as a rape victim by describing herself as the rape victim, to protect her daughter from public humiliation.
- Bijbehara (1993): Before the Bijbehara massacre there was a large incident of molestation and gang rape in Bijbehara, which elders hushed up due to fear it would bring shame to the families of rape victims. Later, in August, army men raped a woman in Gadhangipora, on the outskirts of Bijbehara town, in retaliation for an attack by militants.
- Hyhama (1994): On June 17 1994, seven women were raped by troops of Rashtriya Rifles, including two officers Major Ramesh and Raj Kumar in the village Hyhama.
- Sheikhpora Incident (1994): A 60-year-old woman was raped while men of her family were locked away.
- Kangan (1994): A woman and her 12-year-old daughter were raped by Indian security forces at Theno Budapathary.
- Wurwun (1995): On 30 December 1995, soldiers from the Rashtriya Rifles entered a house in Wurwun village, district Pulwama, and sexually assaulted and attempted to rape three women.
- Narbal Pingalgom (1997): A girl was raped in Pulwama in November 1997.
- Srinagar (1997): On 13 April 1997, Indian troops stripped naked and gang raped twelve young Kashmiri girls near Srinagar.
- Wavoosa (1997): On 22 April 1997, several Indian armed forces personnel entered the house of a 32-year-old woman in the village of Wavoosa. They molested her 12-year-old daughter and raped three other daughters, aged 14, 16 and 18. Another woman was beaten for preventing the rape of her daughters by soldiers.
- Doda (1998): A fifty year old resident of the village Ludna in Doda district told Human Rights Watch that on October 5, 1998 the Eighth Rashtriya Rifles came to her house, took her and beat her. She was then raped by a captain who was a Hindu and said to her: "You are Muslims, and you will all be treated like this."
- Bihota (2000): On 29 October 2000, there was a cordon and search operation in Bihota by the 15 Bihar Regiment. during which one woman was picked up and taken away to a camp. The following day twenty women went a long with a few men to get the woman released. However, the women were detained for four to five hours and sexually assaulted.
- Pahalgam (2002)
- Zachaldara (2004)
- Zero Bridge (2004): Four security personnel raped a 21-year-old woman in a guest house on 28 October.
- Handwara incident (2004): A mother and her daughter were raped in Baderpayeen, Handwara on 6 November. According to Khurram Parvez, programme coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, officers implied that this should not be an issue since the alleged rapist was a Muslim, Major Rahman Hussain, he was later convicted for transgression into civilian property instead of rape.
- Shopian (2009): Two women, Asiya and Nelofar Jan, were allegedly abducted, raped and murdered by Indian troops between 29 and 30 May at Bongam in Kashmir's Shopian district.
- Gujjardara-Manzgam (2011)
- In March 1990, the wife of a BSF inspector was kidnapped, tortured and gang-raped for many days. Then her body with broken limbs was abandoned on a road.:64
- On April 14, 1990, a Kashmiri Pandit nurse from the Soura Medical College Hospital in Srinagar was gang-raped and then beaten to death. Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) took responsibility for the crime, accusing the woman of informing the police about the presence of militants in the hospital.
- On 6 June 1990, a lab assistant at the Government Girls High School Trehgam, was kidnapped and gang raped for many days. Then she was sliced at a sawmill.
- Another women was abducted with her husband in Sopore. She was gang-raped for a number of days before the both were killed in November 1990.
- On May 5, 1990, a Muslim teenage girl was tortured for two days, gang raped and shot dead by Farooq Ahmed Dar of the JKLF.
- On August 13 1990, a teacher in the Education Department, was gang raped in her house in the presence of her family and then killed.
- On 30 March 1992, armed militants demanded food and shelter from the family of the retired truck driver in Nai Sadak, Kralkhud. The family complied, but the militants raped his daughter. When he and his wife tried to stop them, he was shot dead, his elderly wife was also raped. Then both the women were also shot dead.
- Journalist Prakriiti Gupta writes that there have been many cases of militants raping the young girls by forcing them into temporary marriages (mutah in Islamic law) – these ceremonies are called "command marriages".
- In 2005, a 14-year-old Gujjar girl was abducted from Lurkoti village by the Lashkar-e-Taiba militants, and forced to marry one of them. She was gang-raped by her "husband" and his militant friends.
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Sordid and gruesome as the militant record of violence against Kashmiri women and civilians is, it does not compare with the scale and depth of abuse by Indian State forces for which justice has yet to be done.
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In this respect the motive and intent of rape in Kashmir was no different from the Balkans and Rwanda, where rape functioned as a cultural weapon of war against women and against the community at large (Kesic, 2000)…Rape and sexual abuse is an integral part of the Indian counteroffensive in Kashmir
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These record a pattern of rape by soldiers who often claim to be following orders.
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