SEXUAL VIOLENCE: A WEAPON OF WAR AND TERROR IN KASHMIR

By- Vaishnavi Chandarana

“Many Indian soldiers have raped Kashmiris. In the last 25 years, there have been hundreds of women who came forward to file cases of rape.”

- Kashmiri rights activist Khurram Parvez

Ever since Independence, India and Pakistan have been locked in conflict over Kashmir and it has been a disputed territory, where witnessing heavily deployed armed forces is very common and normalcy remains a distant dream for the citizens.

In the valley, Human rights have been violated every other day, ranging from mass killings, forced disappearances, torture, rapes, and sexual abuse to political repression and suppression of freedom of speech[1].

A 60-year-old widow, victim of such sexual violence perpetrated by the state, Fauza, says that “Soldiers enter the house, put the gun at the temple of my father and tie up the younger men. They demand food and after consuming it, they hold the hand of the most beautiful daughter in front of the parents and brothers and take her to another room and rape her throughout the night. They separate men folk outside and molest and rape women inside…. We have to obey; otherwise, they either kill our men on flimsy grounds or beat them to pulp or do something like that.[2]

Sexual violence against women in the valley is a strategically chosen weapon of retaliation to terrorize the citizens and most importantly, the men, who were willing to join the fight for freedom of Kashmir.

In a society where notions of purity and chastity of women are glorified, rape became a carefully deployed weapon to target the men who were attracted to the armed struggle. The fear of sexual abuse of women as reprisal –and the collective notions of shame and honour strongly discouraged men from joining the struggle.

The choice of participating in the freedom struggle would not only mean that they will be threatened, abused, and assaulted but it also meant that the safety, honour, and dignity of ‘their’ women would be jeopardized. Not only women but men in Kashmir too are sexually abused.

The torture methods for men have been as brutal as severe beatings, sometimes while the victim is hung upside down, and subjecting them to electric shocks!

There have been alleged incidents of people being crushed with rollers, burned alive, stabbed with sharp instruments, and sometimes chilies or thick rods forced into their rectums.

And these incidents have been almost completely undocumented or at the very least, under documented[3]. The state has been displaying the entire country, a sugar-coated picture of the valley, the clichéd paradise on Earth, whereas it is quite not the truth.

Kashmiris have slept to the sounds of guns, bullets, and violence and have woken up startled, by the nightmare of a loved one disappearing into oblivion and a hope of getting served with justice is keeping them alive.

They have been told to look for their dear ones among the unidentified graves. Being a citizen of Kashmir, living a life with dignity and feeling of security is hard to achieve as the utter horror of the armed forces haunts the valley.

But so far, all these years later, the legal quest for justice has been futile. Indian Army has exercised barbarism and Kashmiris have stayed silent under the face of oppression and the climate of absolute impunity has been prevailing for years.

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act’(AFSPA) gives them this exemption from prosecution. With this act, the Indian army gets the competence to maintain public order in “disturbed areas” and it also lets the army men to conduct operations anywhere and to arrest anyone without a warrant.

Moreover, the act empowers the army men to use force or even open fire in extreme circumstances. The act was extended to Jammu and Kashmir in 1990 and has been in force ever since. Under AFSPA, Indian soldiers cannot be tried in civilian courts. This competence, without an iota of doubt, has to be used in good faith, but clearly, so is not happening[4].

Furthermore, how do you make sense of government machinery that blocks the truth and manages to control people’s opinions and views and in fact distorts them, by controlling the institutions that are meant for people, like the judiciary, media, et cetera and that relentlessly falsified the claims of people who had been victimized and accused them of treachery?

There are certain crucial questions that arise, provided the brutalities of Indian Armed forces in Kashmir and the climate of impunity that has prevailed. Is rape in India punishable, but rape in Kashmir justified, when committed by the men in uniform, the so-called protectors of the nation’s honor in Kashmir? Is this democracy, or is it the oppressor’s tyranny?

And most importantly, how does one replace the despair with hope, how does one continue to invest in the belief that justice will be done?

The brutalities of the Indian State sends out a loud message to the people of Kashmir. Will the sons, who saw their mothers and sisters getting brutally raped by the Indian Army, ever accept themselves to be the citizens of the same country?


[1] Rather, Butt, Batool, Rashid, & Mushtaq, 2016.

[2] Borpujari, 2018.

[3] Rather, Butt, Batool, Rashid, & Mushtaq, 2016.

[4] MHA to continue to have final say on AFSPA in J&K.

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