Attempts to obstruct justice in Kathua case bring back memories of earlier denial

The register of such crimes against the people is long, and so is the saga of systematic denial of justice to the victims in the state.

SHAFAQ SHAH
Srinagar, Publish Date: May 22 2018 12:20AM | Updated Date: May 22 2018 12:20AM
Attempts to obstruct justice in Kathua case bring back memories of earlier denialRepresentational Pic

When horrifying details of gang-rape and murder of a nomadic child in Kathua came out last month the world took note and an enraged mass of people globally mounted pressure to ensure justice is served in the case.

As the eight-year-old victim’s family awaits justice the wheels of the system move as notoriously slowl as ever, raising apprehensions among many that this case too might meet the same fate as numerous others in the past that couldn’t pass the system of legal impunity prevalent in Jammu and Kashmir.

The register of such crimes against the people is long, and so is the saga of systematic denial of justice to the victims in the state.

Between 1990 and 2009, major cases of gruesome crimes in Kashmir took place in which perpetrators have been identified but not tried or punished.

In the winter of 1991, during a nightly siege of Kunan and Poshpora villages of Kupwara district 40 women were raped by 4rth Rajputana Rifles of Indian army’s 68 Mountain Brigade, as men of thevillages were tortured in makeshift interrogation centers.

The searches went on for three days according to the villagers who were not allowed to approach civil administration officials to register their complaints of the horror visited on them.

It was only two weeks later, when the district administration chief visited the villages that police registered a First Information Report (FIR) starting an investigation.

“Offence u/s 376/RPC stands made out against 4th Raj Rifles under the command of Commandant Adjutant R Kuler,” the police found.

“Only the arrest and the identification of the culprits was to be done.”

But no arrests were made.

Much later, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) also said the accused soldiers had indeed raped the women and recommended the case be re-opened and reinvestigated by a Special Investigation Team headed by an officer no less than a senior superintendent of police.

The government ignored the SHRC recommendation, and more than a decade later in 2014 the state High Court asked the government to implement it.

But again, the army and the civilian government together managed a stay order from a court to stall re-investigation into the crime of mass rape and torture.

Finally, in 2015 the army secured a stay from the Supreme Court of India for any further proceedings in the case.

Nothing has happened since then, and justice is as illusive for the victims of Kuna and Poshpora as it was in the beginning.

The way crimes have been handled indicates the attempt has been to deny justice rather than stay the judicial process.

In 1992, Rashid Pahloo a ‘Commander’ of the Ikhwan (State sponsored private militia) from Preng area of Bandipora was accused of repeatedly raping a girl for over four months. In 1993, after being raped and tortured, the girl became pregnant and died after two days of hospitalization.

A case was registered in Sumbal police station, but no investigation was carried out. The FIR in the first place was registered against “unknown person” leaving little scope for investigation, prosecution and justice in the future.

LEGAL IMPUNITY

In many cases impunity law, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is used to delay and deny justice to victims of abuse.

On 15 May 1994, gunmen suspected to be soldiers gang-raped a woman at her home after her husband was abducted the same night at gunpoint.

On reaching home the next morning, after the husband found out what had happened from the victim, a case was registered under FIR no.69/1994 u/s 376 [Rape], 452 [House trespass after preparation for hurt/assault/wrongful restraint] Ranbir Penal Code, 1989 [RPC] at Qazigund Police Station.

Eighteen years later, in 2012 in two separate communications, police stated the case was sent for sanction for prosecution as required in AFSPA.

The accused perpetrators are believed to have been tried in a military court.

“It is unclear what followed the court-martial process and whether the alleged perpetrators actually served their sentence or appealed against the court-martial verdict in the higher courts,” according to a report by rights group Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS).

“Based on the available documents, it is shocking that the police took atleast 11 years, from 1994 to 2005, to complete investigations and submit the documents for seeking sanction for prosecution under AFSPA,” the JKCCS report states.

“Another sad fact that after applying for the prosecution sanction the Government of Jammu and Kashmir lost track of the case and until 9 July 2012 had no knowledge of the court-martial verdict in the case or that sanction for prosecution had been declined.”

SYSTEMATIC DENIAL OF JUSTICE

Almost all cases of sexual assault and rape blamed on government forces personnel have met the same fate.

On May 18, 1990, in Badasgam village of Anantnag an 18-year-old bride and her pregnant aunt were gang-raped by troopers of Border Security Force (BSF). They were a part of a marriage party traveling in a bus that was stopped by BSF soldiers and fired upon, injuring 10 including the groom.

The bride and her aunt were dragged out into a field and gang-raped. They were later held captive by the soldiers for 48 hours.

No one was convicted for the heinous crime.

Almost all allegations of sexual crimes blamed on government personnel since 1989 have either been dismissed as false or not investigated and tried.

On January, 2, 1997 an officer and two other personnel of 5 Rashtriya Rifles unit were accused of raping two sisters and killing their father in Dooru area of Anantnag.

In April 1999, a 43-year-old woman and her 16-year-old daughter from Baldarri in Doda district were gang-raped by soldiers of 322 Air Defence Artillery unit after a grenade blast near their house.

On 14th February 2000, an Officer of the 12 Rashtriya Rifles along with 3 Special Police Officers (SPOs) entered a house in Banihal, Ramban district of Jammu. The mother and daughter of the house were taken into two separate rooms and raped by Captain Ravinder Singh Tewatia and one of the SPOs, while the other two SPOs kept guard.

The accused were convicted by a military court. It was later challenged in the High Court and the perpetrators were acquitted.

ABSENT INTENSION FOR JUSTICE

On the night of February, 9, 2002 a woman from Korafali Haand in Doda was raped by armed personnel from 10 Rashtriya Rifles in her neighbour’s house. She filed a complaint in Police Station Doda two weeks later.

No details about any investigation into the case are known.

In November 2004, an officer of the 30 Rashtriya Rifles was accused of raping a 30-year-old woman and her 10-year-old daughter at Badra Payeen village near Langate in Handwara area of Kupwara district.

The incident sparked protests in the entire Kashmir valley. A military court dismissed the accused, Major Rahman from service.

But he was later reinstated.

In 2009, a 22-year-old woman and her 15-year-old sister-in-law were raped and killed, their bodies found a day after they went missing, in the Rambiyar Nallah in Shopian.

The Justice Jan Commission instituted to probe into the case clearly stated that, “it is evident that both the girls were raped and in order to destroy evidence, they were killed”.

This incident led to months of mass protests across the Kashmir Valley. The police, after its initial investigation, claimed that it was a case of drowning. The same was later established by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

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