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05 Jun 2009

The rape and murder of Asiya Jan and Neelofer Jan by members of the CRPF in Shopian, Kashmir and the subsequent dumping of their bodies in a stream is a horrific crime by any measure, in any society.

When the crime is committed by state forces in a situation of armed insurgency and nationality struggle as there exists in Kashmir it takes on certain other implications as well. It suggests that state forces operate in the region with complete impunity, violating all rights of the local population. The armed forces instead of protecting local populace see them as the enemy. Kashmir’s status as an occupied territory in the attitude of the Indian state is amply illustrated by such an incident and its aftermath where instead of dispensing justice the wrath of the state descends on those demanding justice. That this strengthens pro-azadi protests is hardly surprising.

This kind of tyranny is allowed for institutionally by the status of Kashmir as a disturbed area, and the overarching powers given to the security forces under the AFSPA.

This double rape and murder is not the first incident of its kind. Sexual violence against Kashmiri women by security forces is a well known reality. A 1994 UN report documented 882 rapes by security forces in Kashmir between 1990-92 The targeting of ‘enemy’ women is a way of stamping national authority on the region, often indulged in by security forces and allowed by the Indian state through its repeated crimes of omission. The doctors’ reluctance to give the post-mortem report to the family and the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir’s immediate explanation that the bruises on the bodies of the young women , could be from the rocks in the stream where their bodies were found, reveals the tendency to cover- up that immediately kicks into operation when such incidents occur.

PUDR expresses its solidarity with the people and women of Kashmir in their protests and demands immediate criminal action against the guilty. We demand the immediate withdrawal of AFSPA and the observing of the Geneva Conventions' Protocol III, 1977 under which even in non-international conflicts the warring sides have obligations. Furthermore as per the Rome Statute (International Criminal Court), which sets the benchmark for crimes committed during war/conflicts the state cannot escape responsibility. Finally PUDR believes that this incident again points to the need for demilitarising Jammu and Kashmir and creating a political climate wherein the aspirations of people of J &K are democratically ascertained, and their right to a life of freedom and dignity upheld..

Moushumi Basu

Gautam Navlakha

Secretaries, PUDR

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