Kunan and Poshpora, twin villages, 7 km from Kupwara, have since 1991 been known as one unit, Konan-Poshpora, after reports of alleged rapes during a cordon-and-search operation by soldiers of 4 Rajputana Rifles of the Army's 68 Brigade hit the headlines.
The gruesome reports levelled serious charges against the men in uniform, charging them with forcing the men out of their homes and raping 32 Kashmiri women, ranging from a 14-year-old physically challenged girl to a 70-year-old grandmother.
The controversy refuses to die down after 23 years and has now been revived with Syed Mohammed Yasin, the former deputy commissioner of Kupwara, levelling serious charges against the Magsaysay Award-winning former editor of the Hindustan Times, B.G. Verghese, who headed the Press Council of India (PCI) team to investigate the charges.
While addressing a gathering at a hotel in Srinagar on the ‘Kashmiri Women’s Resistance Day’ organized by J&K Coalition of Civil Society on February 23, the support group for ‘Justice for Kunan-Poshpora Survivors’ to mark 23rd anniversary of the ‘mass rape’ the Kashmir, the Kashmir Reporter quoted Yasin as saying:
“Yasin said the Press Council of India team led by senior journalist B.G. Varghese, which later gave a clean chit to the Army, had asked him to “save the soldiers in the national interest.”
I told him (Varghese) ‘are you not ashamed of what your Army has done in Kunan-Poshpora?’
However, he started threatening me and my family. Even the Special Secretary tried to persuade me to close the case. However, I refused to do so. Later, I was transferred from one place to another but I never comprised over my report.”
B.G. Verghese has rubbished the charges as baseless.
“Yasin’s statement is baseless. The man is a coward. It took him three days to go to the site, that too on the instructions of the then divisional commissioner Wajahat Habibullah.
“I stand by my report. The accusation of mass rape is nothing but an exaggeration. There are just chances of inappropriate behaviour and molestation.”