By Mohammad Irfan
A winter’s night, dark, although bright with snow. It is February 23, 1991; the time is exactly 12:00 a.m. Wish me good health, it’s my birthday night. Yes, in villages, you need not expect gifts and well wishes on your birthday, our Mulla Sahab says so. But believe me, tonight God gave me the most beautiful of his gifts: snowfall. It’s snowing in our paradise. Should I explain? OK, I am a Kashmiri from village Kunan of Kupwara district. It’s a remote village. My name is Asmat Hayat. I am a high school girl. I am writing my dairy for my special birthday as a piece of beautiful memory for my beautiful future. I am a little introvert and I talk less to people, but I am quite open to my diary. Writing a note, late at night, in front of a yellow black lantern creates in me strange feelings. I celebrate my birthday this way every year…got to go: bye; love you all…happy birthday to me.
I planned to visit the holy shrine the next day and prepared myself to sleep. I could hear the silence of falling snow, resembling the sound of kissing one’s beloved. It was snowing in ‘Bali Maran kotcha’. I prepared my bed and put my head softly on the pillow, which smelled of my feelings and memories and dreams. I was staring at the mud wall of my room and flashbacking all the memories and plans of my birthday. I was gradually descending the stairs of sleep when I heard some snow trampling sounds; it opened my eyes like the full moon. For a while I thought it was the sound of dogs running on the virgin snow, but no they were not dogs but beasts in the garb of humans. In an instant, the entire village was loudly wailing. I jerked up and heard a gun knocking the almost broken wooden door. I could see the clock mourning the occurrence of this moment. It was 12:50 a.m. All of my family sweated with panic within seconds, they broke door and trespassed into our home.
Here’s the story’s aftermath in the hospital…
Reporter: What’s your name and what happened to you and who did it to you?
Me: My name is Asmat Hayat and I remember the Indian army broke into our house. They were almost fifteen in number, with fewer guns and more alcohol bottles. We were six family members, now we are five; my father and two brothers were beaten ruthlessly, I could see Aqib bleeding, his ears oozing blood. They took all the male family members outside. The military said that they were on a search operation and had cordoned our home off. Later they all came back to our house, which consisted of three female members and mud walls as witness. All the army men were drunk; they took my sister and mother to the next room-kitchen. Some of the military men remained in the room where I was; and instantly they got hold of me, and threw me to the floor. Two men held my arms and two grabbed my legs. They tore my clothes and took off my trousers. The shocking thing is I was not naked in front of them; I was naked in front of me. My naked wretched fragile body was a lamb to those hungry wolves. One army men put his pants down and started kissing me in my mouth, cheeks, chest, and what not.
It was night and dark but the torch lights they carried lit up the room brightly. They used those torches to scan my naked body and passed lewd remarks. They started plucking my breast with anger and lust. They screamed and forced me to take alcohol, threatening to kill my mother and sister if I didn’t. I refused to open my mouth but they forced it open and poured almost half the bottle inside me, burning my throat. They also showed me porn clips, so that I could “make it easy” for them. I kept hitting them with my hands, but they started abusing me and calling me, “A harsh fortunate sweet tight cunt of a sister of mujahids as a sacrifice for India.”
Somehow, I managed to slip out of their clutches but they caught me again and threw me down, and I found myself on a prayer mat (jaaie namaz). I resisted, begged, and cried for mercy when an army man removed my underwear, I begged and made swears on his mother and sister and daughter but the alcohol had gotten the better of him. He abused me – I remember his words, “In 1989, I was shot in the leg by mother****** terrorists in an encounter in south Kashmir. Since then, I have my motives. I even raped your dead mujahid once and here you are a virgin waiting for my penis, how can I let you go, you bitch sister of terrorists. I’ve never tasted the Kashmiri apple; sweet as sugar.” The army men burst in coarse naked laughter. They flipped my clothes; the two started a mock fight for who would rape me first and they tossed a coin. The tragedy is: the coin stood erect on the torn old mat and they laughed; and both of them raped me in a single instant. The army men raped me on the prayer mat where I was once free to pray to God. I was like the Eve of Eden being raped by the Satan of same Eden; so wretched. I remember once I took zam zam water on this prayer mat, and now I took alcohol on the same mat The blood from my vagina was oozing and I could feel tonight the prayer mat was making ablution of my blood; oh, the horror! One after the other they raped me over and over again. Almost eight army men raped me twice or thrice on the mat. I was alive, hearing the cries and sobs of my sister and mother. I forgot my own misery and cried for the mercy of my family as I thought the state my mother and sister would be in. The army men even mocked my religion; while raping, me one of them said ‘Bismillah’ in his broken accent and another black dog cried ‘Allah hu akbar’ in a sneering tone.
It was my birthday, yet ironically it was the military that received gifts from the country’s government in the form of AFSPA and alcohol. The worst part is: as I was being raped, the man who raped me was kissing me constantly. Imagine being raped and kissed at the same time.
My genital organs were completely damaged and I could bear no more pain; yet the army men started to rape me again, maybe to death? I was alive and I could see “4 RAJPUTANA RIFELS” stitched on the shoulders of their uniforms. I seared in pain when they washed my blooded and injured vagina with alcohol and came over me again. I could see my numb wrists under the shoes of the men. I could not bear the grip of military on my legs, could not bear the bites of the men on my breasts and their harsh slaps on my thighs and buttocks or the wounds on my shoulders and the gun slamming my head.
Here in Kashmir death and RR (short for Rajputana Rifles) count as the same metaphor. I lay cold and motionless; what energy would you expect someone to have after being repeatedly raped by eight or ten army men. The men spitted on me and called me names before they too were exhausted. As I lay on the prayer mat, they were debating their experiences with my body. “Really, this place is paradise on earth and we are here f******g with virgin hoors.” They finally left the room but I heard the same soldier who was shot in his leg a few years ago speaking obscenities about me. The other men laughed and turned me upside down with kicks and pushes. They pounced on me like wild animals, but I fought back. I was no longer an introvert or shy girl, I cried and screamed…and here I am, in the hospital, where the doctors stitched my anus. They raped me but let me live – thank you God, I was raped on a prayer mat; in your authority and you didn’t help me. Have I paid off my sins now? Hope the show was worth my sins?
I remember how I lay in my room. From the next room, I could hear the sobs of my mother. I crawled for I could not stand on my legs after being raped by the AFSPA. I saw my mother shattered naked. My sister was beaten ruthlessly and instantly raped and was knocked to death with a gun. She was seven months pregnant. In place of a baby, she got rape, death, and a dead child. For some queer reason, I didn’t cry or react. Perhaps my emotions too were raped. I was like an empty cinema hall, playing the rape flashbacks involuntarily. The blood in my vaginal passage and anal passage got frozen and led to more injuries.
I felt as empty as the grave of Afzal Guru. Crawling like a half-dead snail, I came out of my house, the snowflakes were coming down dancing and hiding the blood painted grounds; the snow, our witness to miseries, hid the marks and impressions of shoes and rapes well. Under the naked walnut tree, I found my aunt naked like a silent sea; the blood had painted the snow apple red. There were cries all around the cottages of Kunan. No woman had been spared rape on this unfortunate night of 23rd February. Habba, an elderly lady of 65, was brutally raped until she died fighting her honour in the winter of her life. She was a mother of five daughters, no, five raped daughters. Does it mean heaven lies under the feet of raped women?
I don’t know how I reached hospital and who brought me here.
Reporter: What’s your name and what happened to you and what do you know about the night of the 23rd of February?
My name is Abdul Aziz Bhat, and I am an elder from the village #Kunan #Poshpora. On that night, while I was sleeping, I heard cries and even a few gun shots. I came out rushing thinking it might be an encounter between the army and rebels but, no, I found myself in the midst of 4-Rajputana Rifles of the Indian army. The army men were drunk when they barged into our houses. The men of village were collected in a ground and brutally tortured in the chilly winter snow. Young boys were made to stand naked in cold waters and the elders were left helpless in the snow all night. They abused us and charged us for hiding terrorists, a baseless charge. They brutalized us; I and some of the villagers who resisted were stripped, and our anus injured with chili powder and our buttocks clobbered with canes. They smashed me down with a gun that hit my arm, and here I am in hospital with my arm stitched all over.
We rushed back to our houses hoping to reunite with our families. Instead, they were like things played with and thrown away after pleasure; like eyeless dolls of no worth. We found our females naked and shattered like raped dreams; some were killed and some died. Our families and homes were raped. We were not worth our houses now and our houses not worth us any longer. As the morning light entered our village, men from other villages came rushing to help; they took us and our women to hospitals. Any constitution can conclude that this wasn’t merely sexual abuse but a well-plotted revenge for unknown sins. The nature also played games with us the next morning. Snow covered the entire village, as if nothing had happened. The snow, conspiracy from God, hid the criminal faces and their marks of terror.
Four women died in the #Kunan #Poshpora mass rape revenge tragedy, but more than a hundred females were raped that night. Fifteen uteri were completely or partially damaged and fifteen women can never be mothers, for their uterus had to be removed. Even now, many of the women have to go for regular psychological and gynecological checkups. More than twenty-five anal rapes were recorded and another twenty-five women lost their virginity. Even the little ones weren’t left; five minor girls were also raped, one of whom died of the abrupt shock and repeated rape. Women of our village are ill talked about even today. We live with the abuse of a raped village. Do you expect any father would take any of my daughters as a bride? This is what rape subjects one to.
The irony is that none of the rapists and criminals was arrested, apparently, the case wasn’t solid. The raped women were pressured to give statements that the Indian army never came to the village that night. In fact, every rape, every injury on the faces, legs, arms, chest, necks, waists, bellies, breasts, vaginas, and anus reflect the incompleteness of the constitution of India and the emergence of evils like AFSPA. The military men were masked with “special” powers; the army were wearing the laws of defence. The girls here aren’t porcelain-skinned, good at dancing and singing, sexily clad…no, we were raped for just being from Kashmir. Yes, we Kashmiris want nothing but freedom any more.
Mohammad Irfan studies at the Department of English, University of Kashmir. Email: Mohammadirfan2155@gmail.com
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