Kunan Poshpura to Handwara: Justice is a half-widow in Kashmir

Mudasir Amin
Mudasir AminApr 22, 2016 | 18:12

Kunan Poshpura to Handwara: Justice is a half-widow in Kashmir

In January 2014, in West Bengal, a Shalshi Adalat ordered the gangrape of a woman for allegedly having an affair with a married man of another community. In northern India, there are khaps acting on same misinformed principle of justice.

There are no such "courts" here in Kashmir. But owing to how the Indian state, in collaboration with proxy regimes, functions here a similar kind of [in]justice is ensured.


In the last 27 years, Kashmir has witnessed thousands of killings, instances of torture, incidents of mass violence like massacres and mass rapes, enforced disappearances and much more. Most of the time, probes and enquiries have followed the acts of violence. One should be astute enough to not relate these probes and enquires with justice.

Instead, they are ordered to shield the perpetrators.

Courts just 'monetise' the crimes committed by Indian forces in Kashmir.

The judiciary has not been able to deliver justice to the victims who have suffered the brutality of the Indian occupation in Kashmir. In fact, courts ensure legal impunity to forces in Kashmir. Thanks to the lawless laws like AFSPA, civilian courts cannot prosecute the Indian forces. Military courts that the Indian state champions to be citadels of justice have, in fact, made a mockery of justice in Kashmir. All I remember is a single case where some military men were court-martialled in a fake encounter case. Military courts act as "judicial arms of occupation". Perhaps, the only notion of justice that the Indian state understands is compensation. Effectively, courts just "monetise" the crimes committed by Indian forces in Kashmir.

As I write this, the situation in Kashmir has once again returned to "normal" after almost a weeklong curfew and continued protests. This time the occupational guns targeted Handwara, a small town in the border district of Kupwara, 80 kilometres north of Srinagar. On February 12, the Indian forces killed three youth after a schoolgirl was molested by an Indian army personnel. Two days later, as protests continued, two more persons were killed.


Forget about the courts bringing the killers to book. That would be something irrational to expect in Kashmir. But what happened after the Handwara incident would even shock the "custodians" of Shailshi Adalats.

Let us follow the happenings from the beginning. The dead were not even covered with a shroud when the Jammu and Kashmir police and the Indian Army released a video showing the schoolgirl making a "statement" at a police station in which she absolved the army men of the charges of molestation and instead levelled allegations against two local boys for harassing her. The "nationalist" Indian media happily aired the video and labelled the entire incident as an act of "defaming" and "maligning" their "sacred army".

This is not new though.

It was also done in Kunan-Poshpora even when raped women testified before the police on the intervening night of 23 and 24th February, 1991.

In Handwara, the girl continues to be in "protective custody" (read illegal custody) of the police along with her family without any access to media and legal counsel. Acting on a Habeas corpus petition, however, the high court grilled the police for the unlawful detention of the girl. As a result, the police presented the girl before CJM Kupwara to make a statement wherein she maintained her stand, as recorded in the earlier video, thus apparently "exonerating" the Army of the molestation charges.


But this is not the only thing that happened during these days. Only two days into the incident, the family of the girl approached a rights group based in Srinagar to seek legal help. The rights group called a press conference for the mother, which was not allowed by the police. They laid siege on the office and did not allow the media to meet the mother. Same day, the family contested that the video statement of the girl was made under duress.

The mother of the victim in a statement to the rights body and the media accused the police of pressuring her family, especially her daughter. She also justified the protests by the Handwara youth, saying that they had acted to protect the chastity of their sister, calling those killed in the protests "martyrs".

The police in the garb of "protective custody" have kept the girl under illegal detention at some undisclosed place only to deny her access to a legal team and the media. The counsel of the girl later claimed that the statement made by the girl on both occasions was made under police pressure.

The one thing that has come out of this whole episode is that the state was able to shift the debate towards the girl whereas the killers of the five people roam free. Instead of taking action against the killers, the state government suspended five of its own employees for fomenting trouble and motivating the youth to protest.

And another youth named by the girl in the recorded "statement" was arrested for questioning. If the girl's statement prompted them to arrest the young man, why isn't police paying heed to the statement of her mother? Why isn't the police arresting any of the killers when it is established who the killers were. Roman philosopher Seneca once remarked, "nothing is more common than for great thieves to ride in triumph while small ones are punished".

This is exactly what happens in Kashmir. The only difference here is that the "great thieves" snatch lives.

Last updated: April 22, 2016 | 18:12
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