Srinagar: The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) on Wednesday asked the Jammu and Kashmir government to start a fresh probe into the case relating to the alleged mass
gangrape of women by Army personnel in Kunan and Poshpora villages of Kupwara district twenty years ago.

Announcing its recommendations on the case, a division bench of SHRC asked the state government to constitute a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to reinvestigate the alleged mass gangrape of at least 31 women by army personnel in 1991.

Dozens of women from Kunan and Poshpora villages, around 110 km from here, had claimed that they were gangraped by army troopers during the intervening night of February 23 and 24 in 1991, leading to outrage across Kashmir.

"The SIT should be headed by an officer not below the rank of Superintendent of Police," the bench comprising SHRC Chairman Justice (retd) Syed Bashiruddin Ahmad and Javaid
Kawoos said.

It also asked the state government to prosecute the then Director Prosecution who had sought closure of the case as the perpetrators were "untraceable".

"The then Director Prosecution had overstepped his brief...prosecution proceedings should be initiated against him and those officers who had approved his report," the SHRC bench recommended.

Reading out from the report of the then District Magistrate, Kawoos said 31 women, who claimed to have been victims of gangrape, had been sent for medical examination, which confirmed that they were subjected to atrocities.

"In the course of hearing the case, statements of 18 women were recorded and during which they testified that they were subjected to the atrocity," he said.

The Commission asked the state government to pay compensation of Rs two lakh each to the victims of the incident. The then Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Wajahat Habibullah, who visited the villages following the allegations, had filed a confidential report in the same year about the incident.

"While the veracity of the complaint is highly doubtful, it still needs to be determined why such complaint was made at all. The people of the village are simple folk and by the army's own admission have been generally helpful and even careful of security of the army's officers," a part of Habibullah's report, released later, read.

"Unlike Brig Sharma, I found many of the village women genuinely angry... It is recommended that the level of investigation be upgraded to that of a gazetted police officer," it said.

In response to the criticism of the government's handling of the investigation, the army had requested the Press Council of India to investigate the incident.

The Press Council team, which visited Kashmir in June that year, claimed that "such a delayed medical examination proves nothing" and that the medical findings were typical among villagers.

The team concluded that the charges against the army were "well-concocted bundle of fabricated lies" and "a massive hoax orchestrated by militant groups and their sympathisers and mentors in Kashmir and abroad".