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Courage Has Face in Kunan Poshpora

Courage Has Face in Kunan Poshpora

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If courage had a face, it would resemble 50-year-old Bhakti's. In the North Kashmir hamlet of Kunan-Poshpora, where agony and adversity to women was forced upon, on the intervening night of 23rd and 24th February, 1991, through the “weapon of rape”, she stood stoically against the perpetrators of the crime very few are capable of.
The incident that is perhaps written as the night of “oppression and brutality” may also be inked as a night when a mother of six daughters showed unrelenting courage and braved “terror leashing men even when gods turned their shoulders and watched silently”.
If courage had a face, it would resemble 50-year-old Bhakti's. In the North Kashmir hamlet of Kunan-Poshpora, where agony and adversity to women was forced upon, on the intervening night of 23rd and 24th February, 1991, through the “weapon of rape”, she stood stoically against the perpetrators of the crime very few are capable of.
The incident that is perhaps written as the night of “oppression and brutality” may also be inked as a night when a mother of six daughters showed unrelenting courage and braved “terror leashing men even when gods turned their shoulders and watched silently”.

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Published by: Misbah ul Islam Andrabi on Feb 26, 2013
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If courage had a face, it would resemble 50-year-old Bhakti's. In the North Kashmir hamlet of Kunan-Poshpora, where agony and adversity to women was forced upon, on the intervening
night of 23rd and 24th February, 1991, through the “weapon of rape”, she stood stoically
against the perpetrators of the crime very few are capable of.The incident that is perhaps writ
ten as the night of “oppression and brutality” may also be
inked as a night when a mother of six daughters showed unrelenting courage and braved
“terror leashing men even when gods turned their shoulders and watched silently”.
 
In Bhakti’s words, the wintry
silence was broken by the trampling noises as she was attendingher ailing husband who had suffered a heart attack few days back. Then there were cries thatcut through the heart of the dead night.
“I first thought there was some quarrel between neighbour
s and went out to see where the
noise was coming from,” she says.
 
It wasn’t a duel between neighbours. Army’s 4 Raj Rifles of 68 Brigade C/o 56 APO had launched
a search operation in the two villages situated about five kilometers from the KupwaraTownship. A section of troopers, who the locals claim were in an inebriated state, had gone ona rampage.
“Men held at gun points, women fleeing homes,open air interrogations” –
all this happened awayfrom the media glare on that cold wintry night.Women ran abo
ut as if chased by “wild animals”,
she exclaims.Suddenly tentacles of fear gripped, for moments
 
she remained unmoved. “None of my daughters were married then, they were young and whenI discovered what had befallen Kunan, I became numb … my daughters were
sitting around
their father’s bed,” she says.
 Her numbness was broken by a loud knock. A woman who was fleeing from the troopers stood
at the gate shouting for help. “I could not sit and listen to her cries. Somehow I overcame fear
and ran towards the doo
r,” she recalls.
 
Taja (name changed) stood at the door, breathless; she lived over a hundred yards away. “They
(troopers) had barged into our house and caught hold of my sister-in-law and I managed to givethem a slip through the door that leads to our kit
chen garden,” says Taja.
 
Sensing trouble Bhakhti dragged her in and bolted the door quickly. “I asked one of my
daughters to get water for her and then she narrated the story. Instead of making me worried I
somehow lost fear,” Bhakti exclaims.
 With fear written all over her face, Taja sobbed. She was restless till a thunderous bang at the
main door made her stop. “She crouched in my arms as if she was dead,” says one of Bhakti’s
daughter (name withheld).
The troopers had barged into the house compound. “My
mother went to the door opened itand straight away asked for the officer heading the party of troopers, we could hear it from the
room we were sitting in,” says her daughter.
 
She stood at the door and “refused to move tillshe saw the officer”. A call wa
s made on the
wireless. “He came and asked me why I wasn’t
allowing his men to conduct search and I sternlyreplied that I had six daughters and I doubted his
men,” says Bhakti.
 
 
An awkward silence followed and the officer asked his men to move away. Her courage grewand she ventured out to see if she could help more women. Her neighbour, Fahmida (name
changed) recalls, “Many women were fleeing from the troopers and she dared to go out andgive these women shelter,” adding “she stood guard at the gate of her
house and forced backthe troopers while her daughters looked after their ailing father and women who successfully
fled from the clutches of the troopers.”
 Her confrontation with the troopers ended only when they left at dawn. The night had passedwitness
ing the battle between “oppressor and oppressed”. However, the day saw a battlebetween “courage and cowardice”. “When the army left that morning, I went to a clinic to fetch
a doctor. On my way, I noticed that the troopers had installed a video camera and were forcing
men to record statements in their favour,” she vividly remembers. The sight perturbed her andshe yelled at the group of men who were giving out statements. “If I had a gun I would kill all of 
you right here and would hand your widows to the army, do you people have a slightest idea of 
what has happened to your wives and daughters in your homes,” she recalls shouting angrily.
 Ducking their chins in their cloaks in shame, the group of men grew uneasy. Her reminderprompted them to cut loose. Perhaps this was the moment that instigated the people to seek
action. Rhate, her neighbour confirms, “People started to gather immediately after Bhakti
shouted at them and they started to think of 
police action against the army.”
 It was noon, the village heads were in seriousconsultation thinking about the course of action.A senior official from the army walked into thevillage demanding clean chit. Speaking in front of the gathering, the official vouched for his men.While villagers listened carefully, Bhakti, who

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