Human Rights

1336 rape cases in Kashmir in 7 years, conviction rate woefully low

With the entire country up in arms against the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old student in a moving bus, Jammu and Kashmir’s rape victims despite fighting for justice from past many years have remained a disappointed lot as the culprits continue to remain scot-free.

Surprisingly, the government has registered 1336 rape cases since 2006 in the state but has failed to punish the offenders, adding to the woes of rape victims. The government makes hollow claims that stringent laws are already in place and the accused will be dealt sternly and the investigations in these cases are supervised by senior police officials. Ironically, many of the rape victims are below the age of 18.

As per the government, only one person had been convicted of the crime so far during the last five years and the bulk of the rape cases are either sub-judice or under investigation.

The fact is that there are no reliable statistics about the number of women raped or molested in Kashmir in the two decades of conflict. However, a Kashmir-based NGO claims that more than one thousand women have been raped, molested or abused during the last 20 years.

However, international agencies like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International put the figure of such victims at around 900. Khurram Pervez, coordinator of Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), said in most of the rape cases women in Kashmir do not report the crime due to the fear of reprisals, besides having trust-deficit. Kashmiris are always expected to forget and forgive all the gory incidents under the label of reconciliation. But in other Indian states, unlimited support is given to a single incident while silence is being maintained time and again over the pain and sufferings of the people in Kashmir, said Pervez.

He added that in several cases where they were able to collect the information about the rape, they found it quite difficult to persuade the victims to file the cases as no victim showed any interest in the prevailing judiciary. “The victims asked us about any example where after filing a case, victim has succeeded in getting the guilty punished.  Victims in Kashmir lack faith in the existing institutions of justice. In the Delhi rape case such a speedy investigation has taken place that within no time the perpetrators were arrested and now the entire nation is demanding their punishment but what message are they sending by not introspecting on our incidents and not punishing our culprits,” Pervez said.

Besides, the suffering of women who were raped, the victims face double whammy of sorts. The burden of raising children without male or financial support has driven many women to suicide. A 1994 study carried out by the Kashmiri Women’s Initiative for Peace and Disarmament (KWIPD) had reported that for three years after the incident of the infamous rape case of Kunan-Poshpora in Kupwara district on 23 February, 1991, not a single marriage proposal had been received for any woman, raped or not, in the village.

“It doesn’t hold any meaning for us whenever any group demands that the rape cases should be reopened. Instead, it adds salts to our wounds, as the past memories haunt us and everything comes before our eyes. We alone can’t blame government for probes and other investigations as the whole system is corrupt and instead of punishing the guilty, they are given awards of bravery,” said the family member of a rape victim, adding that the way the Delhi rape case has been highlighted has once again added to their despair.

In some of the most reported cases -Kunan Poshpora, Shopian alleged twin rape and murder case, Wavoosa case, judiciary had taken no action to punish the guilty.  There are also instances where police stations have been reluctant to register FIRs against the security forces. Similarly, there are hundreds of cases, reported and unreported, which have been buried with time and fair trial and justice are unimaginable as the victims had to change their identities to live their normal lives.

Abdul Rashid Hanjura, a social activist, said that despite the fact that thousands of cases have been reported in the state, yet the judiciary failed to give justice to the victims. “The rape victims in the valley were not given justice by the system. Even if any victim had mustered courage to fight the legal battle, the system terribly failed to ensure justice which had further pushed the victims towards more alienation,” Hanjura said.  “In many reported rape cases, Kashmiris have shown their resentment but at the end their outcry has been proven futile,” he added.

Meanwhile, officials in the Home  department have claimed that the government is keeping a vigil at sensitive locations, where incidents of rape are high and are also organizing various awareness programmes and legal camps to sensitize people about the issue and how to deal with those involved in crime.