The Subject Association, Department of Political Science Jamia Millia Islamia organized a seminar on “Two Decades after Kunan Poshpora: State Violence, Legality and Justice” in the FTK-CIT Conference Hall of the varsity on 24th February 2015.
Commemorating 24 years of Kunan Poshpora mass rape, the program was chaired by Human Rights activist and journalist, Gautam Navlakha and the panelists included Warisha Farashat, a Delhi based Lawyer; Sukumar Muralidharan, journalist and fellow at Indian Institute of Advanced Study Shimla; and Uzma Falak, writer and filmmaker.
In his address, Sukumar Muralidharan spoke of the creation of nation states and how they look at themselves as having a monopoly over violence. “The State creates exceptions that legitimize the use of violence”, he said, adding how this violence was used by the Indian State when consent “that appeared to be there, although it really wasn’t, began to break down in Kashmir in 1980s”.
Next to speak, Warisha Farasat highlighted how every safeguard, every institution in Kashmir is compromised by the Indian State as “there is complete judicial impunity”. Speaking about the experience of her first visit to Kashmir as a college student, she added “Kashmir has made me unlearn everything that I had learned in Law School. The first thing I was asked in Kashmir was- are you from India? Welcome to Kashmir- and that’s when I realized there was a problem here.” She spoke about the flawed investigation process in cases like Kunan Poshpora, Shopian rape and murder case of 2009 and further added that it wasn’t wrong to speak of Kashmir in terms of a Human Rights Discourse because that actually helps in bringing forth the demand for Right to Self Determination.
Uzma Falak started by reading out testimonies of women from Kunan Poshpora and went on to talk about experiences from her life in Kashmir, of what the military presence means for a Kashmiri on a daily basis and that the masculinist military gaze that the Kashmiri women face on an everyday basis also amounts to sexual violence. She went on to argue that “it is important to realize that Kashmiri men have been subjected to sexual violence too but it is covered under the issue of torture. But a rape is a rape and must be called so.” She went on to speak about Kashmir’s demand for Azaadi, the resilience that Kashmiri women have shown by standing alongside the male population in the resistance movement and why the movement must not be reduced to one that only sees women as caught between Indian army and the rebels, which is not really the case. “What India calls its security forces are our insecurity. We feel the need to protect ourselves from them”, she argued.
Gautam Navlakha, in his address, castigated the Indian State for refusing to acknowledge its war crimes in Kashmir, stating how the demand of Kashmiris for Azadi was one based on truth and that “Kashmir is an unfinished business of 1947”. He added that “what hurts more is not the bullet but the silence of the good people in India”.