September 03, 2010

Mubeena Gani Tragedy

Just before midnight on 18 May 1990 a bus carrying 27 members of a family wedding party approached a roadblock manned by soldiers of the Border Security Forces (BSF) near Badasgam village in Kashmir, India. As the bus rolled to a halt, the soldiers opened fire, killing the bridegroom's brother and wounding at least nine others, including the bride - 18-year-old Mubina Gani - and her husband. "We lay down under the seats and pretended to be dead," she said. "After the shooting they came inside and started to beat everyone." Some of the soldiers dragged the new bride and her heavily-pregnant aunt into a nearby field. "We were crying bitterly. I told them that I had not yet seen my husband. But they didn't listen. They took off our clothes...and then we were raped. Four to six men raped me, I think." Suffering from shock and gunshot wounds, Mubina Gani was taken away and held in military custody for 48 hours. Indian officials initially claimed that the bus had accidentally been caught in a cross-fire. However, the Superintendent of the Anantnag police later confirmed that the BSF had fired on the bus indiscriminately and that the two women had been gang-raped. Four BSF soldiers were apparently suspended from duty, but no further legal or disciplinary action appears to have been taken.

The most unusual thing about this incident is the fact that it has been publicly reported. In countries around the world, government agents use rape and sexual abuse to coerce, humiliate, punish and intimidate women. When a policeman or a soldier rapes a woman in his custody, that rape is no longer an act of private violence, but an act of torture or ill-treatment for which the state bears responsibility. International law obliges governments to protect all men, women and children from torture and ill-treatment, and requires that allegations of torture be promptly and impartially investigated. Thorough investigation and prosecution of those responsible sends a clear message that human rights violations will not be tolerated and that those who commit such acts will be held fully accountable.

Marriage is mankind’s oldest institution, marked everywhere with jubilations, gatherings and celebrations. In Kashmir, it is an elaborate affair. The brides are brought home late in the nights. But in the 90’s, the situation forced a change. Deep in South Kashmir, in May 1990, the BSF intercepted a marriage party. The bus was fired upon without any reason and looted. One person was killed. The bride, Mubina Ghani, and her chaperone aunt were separated from others, taken into the fields and gang-raped. It should have shocked everybody, but barring the incident forcing a change in Kashmiri marriages, nothing changed. Many years later it was revealed that after failing to hush it up, a court martial by the BSF sentenced two constables to five years imprisonment and dismissal from service, while two head constables were punished with forfeiture of seniority and reduction in rank!!

Source:Amnesty International & Greater Kashmir

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