On the night of February 23, 1991, Indian Army units carried out a search and interrogation operation in the twin villages of Kunan and Poshpora in Kashmir's Kupwara district. However, what followed was a harrowing tale of excesses and human rights violations against the villagers. Under the guise of flushing out terrorists and anti-social elements, the Indian Army allegedly tortured men and raped women in the villages.
The government's inquiry into the matter dismissed the claims of mass rape as "baseless." The police investigation was a token act designed not to yield any results. The investigation was plagued with multiple avoidable delays and transfers of police officers. Even the investigation by the Press Council of India, allegedly conducted in a one-sided manner and aimed at discrediting the women who were brutalized, was touted as a cover-up. The Indian Army and the government claimed that the "myth" of Kunan Poshpora was a hoax orchestrated by separatist groups.
A resistance movement led largely by women pushed for fair investigations, and finally, in 2011, a state human rights report conceded that the rapes did indeed take place, as did the torture of several men in the villages. The case was reopened when 50 Kashmiri women filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court in 2013. The matter is currently in the Indian Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, since 2014, February 23 is commemorated every year as Kashmiri Women's Resistance Day to recognize the resilience and courage of all women in Jammu and Kashmir against state violence. The day serves as a reminder of the need for justice for the victims of Kunan and Poshpora, and to hold the Indian Army accountable for its actions.
The Kunan and Poshpora mass rapes continue to be a brutal chapter in the history of Kashmir. The fight for justice for the victims is ongoing, and the anniversary of the incident serves as a reminder of the need for justice and accountability for the human rights violations committed by the Indian Army.