Munaza Rashid says women of Kunan Poshpora are real life fighters, “readers should learn from the strength of these survivors”
Munaza Rashid is one of five women whose determination in co-authoring the newly released book “Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora?” on Kashmiri Women’s Resistance Day (23rd Feb) has helped break the stigma for survivors of mass rape. Twenty five years ago on the evening of 23 February, 1991, soldiers belonging to the 4th Rajputana Rifles conducted a cordon-and-search operation in the Kupwara district of Indian Occupied Kashmir. Horror unfolded as they allegedly subjected locals to prolonged sexual abuse and torture in the twin villages of Kunan Poshpora. Munaza has helped bring these stories to light and talks of her experience.
1) Please introduce yourself and tell readers where you are based?
I am Munaza Rashid. One of the co-author of the book “Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora”. I am a practising advocate in Srinagar District. I have been a part of the team that drafted the public interest litigation in J&K High Court.
2) When did you first hear about Kunan Poshpora, please explain what happened there?
I heard rather read about Kunan-Poshpora through a local daily. That had published an article on women (survivors) from these villages.
3) How did you and your 4 other co-authors first become involved in exploring this tragedy?
We did not discover it together. We somehow through one or other source knew about it. But yes we decided to work on it together, to ensure it is not repeated again.
4) How did you gain the trust of the victims?
We were the only group (as said by the victims) who had first done something authentic and then met them. This built confidence in them about us. All through people from various profession’s would go to meet them, ensure them, give them high hopes and do nothing.
5) What was your aim in writing the book?
The main aim was to tell the truth. To bring perpetrators to shame. Document our history and struggle of survivors. To tell stories that were unknown to the world about that night, the life after that, struggle of survivors etc.
6) What practical issues did you face researching an incident that occurred 25 years ago?
The official documents we had through (RTI) right to information act and other sources were incomplete and some have even been lost. All though it still didn’t cause much damage. The amount of information we have through these official documents is still legally enough.
7) What reaction have you had from Kashmiris?
So far the reaction is very good. People are appreciating our work. This has also someway brought awareness in people how much important is ‘documentation’ in a conflict zone.
8) How have you been treated by Indian authorities?
They haven’t come out openly rebuking our writing or haven’t taken any hard stand. But knowing how India works through it’s think tanks may be they are preparing a counter ‘fabricated’ argument.
9) You recently launched your book, “Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora?” please describe this event and what you achieved?
The launch was on 23rd Feb. It was on the intervening night of 23rd/24th Feb 1991 the crime of mass rape was perpetrated by Indian Armed Forces. After filing the (PIL) public interest litigation this day is commemorated as ‘Kashmir Women’s Resistance Day’. To remember the struggle and fight of Kashmiri women in this excessively army occupied state including the women of kunan-poshpora. It was this year on this day (23/02/2016) we decided to launch the book. The reason for selecting this day is same, as mentioned earlier. The event was very good and the most appreciating thing was the number of female audience that turned up was beyond expectation. The reason being is obviously the kind of patriarchal society we live in we don’t expect women to come out openly and speak about remembrance and struggle.
10) How has the book helped the survivors of Kunan Poshpora?
The book has helped in many ways one of which is that they don’t have to go out explaining to every one how and what happened. The documentation inform of book will prevent them from the ordeal of going through that trauma again and again while narrating the stories of that night and after that night.
11) What do you hope readers will take-away from reading your book?
The readers will come across the stories of real life fighters. So the readers should learn from the strength of these survivors. They should derive courage from these survivors and their stories.
12) How will you continue your fight for truth and justice?
We will continue by documenting not just this crime but every crime perpetrated on our generation and generation before us. Our occupier’s consider rape a weapon to win war but we consider pen the best weapon against them.
13) What would be the best outcome for survivors of this tragedy?
Nothing can replace the trauma they went through in these 25 years. But the best outcome is the strength and unity they derived out of it. The best out come for others will be the lesson they learn from the long tiring battle fought by these survivors.
Thank-you for your time
“Kunan, Poshpora women question world’s silence”
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”