Book Review

Book Review: Rape of Kashmiri Women

Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander,  BeyondHeadlines

Kashmir Mey Khawateen Ki Behurmati (Rape of Kashmiri Women)

Author: Shabnum Qayoom

Publisher: Waqar Publications, Srinagar, Kashmir

Year of Publication: 2010

Price: Rs 300,   Pages: 320

Rape as a weapon of war has always been used by the occupational forces to demean, debase and finally destroy the social rubric of the enemy. In case of the secessionist tendency, the defiant population is tried to inculcate spirit of submissiveness and unconditional obedience by using various strategic tactics, and Rape is one of them. In every conflict rape has been used against the womenfolk of the other or enemy, in order to make them understand how weak and vulnerable they are and make a living testimony of their helplessness before the mighty institutions and a constant reminder not to side with the ‘other’ as the punishment awaits them in the form of rape of their womenfolk.

File photo of protest in Kashmir

Women especially in the conservative, traditional, orthodox and Eastern societies are considered to be the repositories of honor; hence to humiliate, deflower, and dishonor them through rape is to humiliate the collective honor, masculinity and strength of the society. Even in the Western countries where the sexual freedom has landed the societies into sexual anarchy, rape is considered as a grave crime, and when its use as a weapon to humiliate an ethnic group, population, a nation or a society is the order of the day, it is considered as a crime against humanity, whose perpetuators must be dealt with a serious punishment.

The present book under review by the seasoned journalist and historian Shabnum Qayoom deals with the Rapes of Kashmiri women by the Indian army since the inception of armed struggle in the early 1990s though no survey has been carried out to determine the exact number of rapes committed. The book was previously published from Pakistan in 1991 and after a span of two decades has again been published with important additions from Srinagar. The reverend author initiates the saga of agonies since the day Jagmohan a fascist and communal minded person was pronounced as the Governor of the Valley. He was the governor when the armed insurgency initiated and National Front coalition was ruling at the centre. Jagmohan first of all drove a wedge between the Pandit minority and Muslim majority of the State by rendering Pandits as refugees, and befooled them that their migration to Jammu was temporary, when the State of affairs would return to normal they would be rehabilitated again in the Valley, but they still are living as refugees in various migrant camps of Jammu. In this book the sinister designs of communal Pandit leaders have been unveiled by a Pandit himself and how the State had vowed to undertake genocide of youth by mass killings and change the demography of the Valley.

Pandits are now realizing their mistake, but now it is too late and they have even burned their boats, as most of them have even disposed off their properties, hence very bleak are their chances of return. RSS, BJP, Shiv Sena and many other Hindutva fascist communal organizations encouraged the exodus of Pandits and genocide of Muslims, and Jagmohan was removed after the massacre at the funeral of Mirwaiz Muhammad Farooq on 21st may, 1990 and replaced by Ex Chief Research and Analysis Wing(RAW) Girish Chander Saxena, who promulgated Disturbed Areas Act(DAA) on 5th July 1990, and in the coming months many more acts like AFSPA,TADA, PSA too were invoked to punish the defiant population.

These Acts gave forces unbridled powers to loot, arson, kill, maim, and rape under the guise of fighting terrorism and secessionism with impunity. Rape was a favorite weapon which these forces used to ‘discipline’ and ‘punish’ the population. This book documents a trail of agony and despair spanning from the initial rapes in the area of Chanapora during a search operation in 1990s to the 2009 Shopian double murder and rape case. Qayoom with his strong documentation and brutally honest analysis lays bare the fact that though India is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Geneva Convention, International Humanitarian Law and scores of other treaties and conventions but in practice Indian State has never bothered even an iota to uphold the strictures of them, while dealing with Kashmir. Amnesty International and Red Cross were denied permission to enter the Valley, in order to keep them in oblivion about the human rights violations taking place in the Valley at the hands of army with impunity and even now they can’t report about them.

Drawing on scores of cases documented in the book, the reader comes to know how girls were kidnapped, then held hostage in army camps and repeatedly raped, when released they would become crippled or mad or opted for suicide. The age, social status and public standing held no bar for soldiers, who even raped girl childern and pregnant women too.

Various tactics were used by the soldiers to rape women, who on the excuse of searching militants or arms would barge into a house and rape women, during crackdowns a whole area would be sealed with men assembled at a community ground and women and girls left behind in the houses would be gang raped, during nocturnal raids women were raped, women were intimidated that if they wouldn’t comply and resist the gang rape their sons and husbands would be killed, revenge rapes were also perpetuated on innocent victims when an army man would be killed in the militant assault the army would rape women by barging into their homes, in some cases the male members of the family were first killed and then the women were raped.

The free license to raid, search any premise gave army an upperhand to rape, who would even resort to loot, robbery, arson and even rape during the search operations. They would render eatables defunct by mixing them with oil, kerosene in order to starve the household. In many cases the victims reported that the soldiers said that they were given the orders of enjoyment and can’t take any second chances as the Kashmiri girls are too beautiful to resist.

Qayoom doesn’t only hold the army responsible for rapes, but even some criminals within the ranks of militants did resort to the same but they were instantly killed, but Qayoom is aghast at the rapes which were committed by the renegades and they are even involved in the supply of girls to high Police officials, bureaucrats, politicians as was depicted by the exposure of 2006 VIP Sex Scandal, in which scores of girls were sexploited by the officials of State under the pretext of providing them government jobs. Qayoom is of the opinion that under a well planned conspiracy the sexploitation of girls is undertaken by the State in order to suppress the Freedom Struggle in Kashmir and the exploited girls are then used as spies by various security and intelligence agencies. Qayoom holds the Gun Culture responsible for the sexploitation and anarchy.

Qayoom lambasts Indian State which never tires of preaching the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi like Ahimsa which has completely failed in Kashmir, he upholds that India is taking a revenge from Kashmiris for upholding the right of self determination which was promised by India to Kashmiris and the crimes of Indian State against Kashmiris have even put Chengiz Khan, Halaku and Hitler to shame, as the State has made the renegades even to supply their household womenfolk to the officials too and even those girls and women are raped who come to meet their incarcerated brothers, husbands, sons or fathers to army camps, torture centers and transit camps. Indian army even raped some foreign tourists as well as Pandit women. The family members if try to save the chastity and honor of their beloved ones are instantly killed and even some girls committed suicides while saving their chastity.

The aftermath of rape is most agonizing for the victim, and most of the victims suffer from depression and psychological trauma and many victims have even committed suicides. According to a survey conducted by Medicans San Frontiers(Doctors Without Borders) an International NGO in 2006 on “Kashmir: Violence and Health”, 11.6 percent of interviewees said they had been victims of sexual violence since 1989. Almost two thirds of the people interviewed (63.9 percent) by MSF had heard about cases of rape during the same period. The study revealed that Kashmiri women were among the worst sufferers of sexual violence in the world. The figure is much higher than that of Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Chechnya and Ingushetia. Many teenage girls are now going for counseling in order to cope the rising psychological impact of the atrocities on women perpetuated by army and police.

The Justice System in Kashmir is in shambles, as Kashmir has become a Police State, where the State tries every tactic to save the culprits of the heinous crimes who happen to be its soldiers. The various acts provide impunity to the army personnel to be tried in civil courts, and even the Police and State machinery is hesitant to file cases against the army as it will affect their morale. Hence not a single soldier has been brought to book and victims are still awaiting Justice which will elude them till eternity, be it the victims of Kunanposhpora or recent Shopian double murder and rape case, plus the police enquiry has never helped the victims who now even don’t bother to report the same.

What will be the effect of illusive Justice System is depicted by the story of one Dilawar Khan reported in the book, who took gun at the age of fifteen and killed scores of army men and renegades to avenge the rape of his sister by the army. The State doesn’t want to resort Peace and normality to Kashmir by establishing a Justice System, hence it will fuel resentment, anger and violence for the days to come.

The book is a saga of a nation which is paying a heavy price for their right of self determination and freedom. “This book is enough to declare India as a Terrorist nation”(P-309-310). Reading this book is destined to make you sad and the tears will trickle more than once from your eyes,

Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir and can be reached


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