Rape during the Kashmir Conflict
Since the onset of the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir in 1988, rape has been used as a weapon of war by Indian security forces; comprising the Indian Army, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Border Security personnel, against the Kashmiri population. The numerous rapes of Kashmiri Muslim women by Indian state forces are generally ignored. Many women have become victims of rape and sexual assault in the conflict. Separatist militants have also committed rape to some extent, although not comparable in scale with that by the Indian state forces.
History and Conflict
There have been many incidents of rape in the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. A large number of Muslim women were abducted and raped in the Jammu region of the state, during the 1947 Jammu massacres in October–November 1947, which were carried out by extremist Hindus and Sikhs, aided and abetted by the forces of the Dogra State headed by the Maharaja Hari Singh.
Repe by Indian forces (Post 1988)
In the aftermath of the allegedly rigged 1987 elections in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, where Islamic parties were prevented from winning several seats in the State Assembly, a popular anti-Indian separatist movement and militancy gained momentum in the Kashmir Valley, a territory occupied by India contrary to the UN resolutions since 1947. To counter the insurgency, India militarised the Valley, deploying a huge number of troops in the region. The critics of the Indian military presence in the valley contend that 600,000 troops are present in the state, according to which the region possesses the highest ratio of troops to civilians in the world. Since January 1990, Indian forces committed a number of human rights violations against civilians, including mass rape.
Rape as a Weapon of War
According to a 1993 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, the Indian security forces use rape as a method of retaliation against Kashmiri civilians. Most rape cases, according to the same report, have occurred during cordon-and-search operations. According to a 1996 HRW report, security personnel in Kashmir have used “rape as a counterinsurgency tactic”. The pattern of rape in Kashmir is that when soldiers enter civilian residences, they kill or evict the men before raping the women inside. Scholar Shubh Mathur calls rape an “essential element of the Indian military strategy in Kashmir.”
There is no difference between the motivations behind rape in Kashmir with those which caused rapes to be committed in Rwanda and the Balkans. Kazi opines that rape in Kashmir is a “cultural weapon of war” and that the rape of Kashmiri women by Indian security forces, in the background of a mainly Hindu country repressing a Muslim populace, functions as a tool of “subordinating” Kashmiri males and the wider Kashmiri community. Rape is used to demoralize the Kashmiri resistance and that there have been documented cases of soldiers confessing that they were commanded to rape Kashmiri women.
At the 52nd United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Professor William Baker gave testimony that rape in Kashmir was not merely a case of isolated incidents involving undisciplined soldiers, rather the security forces were actively deploying rape on the Kashmiri populace as a method of humiliation and frightening. He cited as evidence his interviews with several victims whose family members, including husbands and children, were made to witness their rapes.
An Amnesty International report in 1992 stated that rape is conducted during counter-offensives against militants as part of a bid to methodically shame local Kashmiri communities. Dr Maiti, a professor of political science at Burdwan University, has condemned the oppressive Indian use of rape, noting that most of the Kashmiri rape victims have been civilians.
During some interviews of soldiers on why they raped local Kashmiri women, some responded that Kashmiri women were beautiful. Others said it was a non-family station.