How Indian forces turned a woman’s wedding into carnage
An soldier stands guard at the fenced Pakistan-India border | Reuters
Tucked into the hills of southern Kashmir’s Anantnag district, Lisser-Czawalgam is no different from any of the other villages that dot the landscape of this picturesque region. A shrine, a graveyard and modestly built houses populate the silent hamlet.
It was a cool summer afternoon when we drove into the village and reluctantly knocked at the house of Mubina Gani. A frail, middle-aged lady emerged from a dimly lit corridor and welcomed us in. “You are no different than my own children. Let us talk inside,” she said, showing us to the living room.
那是一个凉爽的夏日午后，我们开车来到村子里，虽然不忍但还是敲开了穆碧娜加尼（Mubina Gani）的房门。一个虚弱的中年妇女从昏暗的走廊里出来迎接我们。“你们就像我自己的孩子一样，进来里面谈吧” 她说着，带我们去了客厅。
Twenty-eight years ago, on May 18, 1990, Mubina, then 25, of nearby Mohripura village, was set to get married. Her hands hennaed, hair scented and wearing an orange-pink dress, she was ready to begin her new life with Abdul Rashid Malik, a farmer by profession.
But, as has happened with infinite others in Indian-controlled Kashmir, Mubina’s dream was snuffed out by personnel of the Border Security Force (BSF).
As armed insurgency raged across the valley, Indian armed forces operated under a carte blanche. Undeclared curfews and checkpoints were a norm. “We had received curfew passes beforehand from the local administration,” said Malik, now in his 50s. He, along with many of his friends and relatives, left by bus at 8:00 in the evening for the wedding in Mohripura.
After dining and celebrating for a few hours, the procession, along with the bride and few of her relatives, boarded the same bus and left Mohripura and headed back towards Lizzer-Czawalgam. Barely three kilometres into their journey, the vehicle was intercepted by a BSF patrol and ordered to halt. “They first scolded the driver and told him to dim the lights,” recalled Malik. “While my brother tried to show them the curfew pass, they shot the driver.”
What happened afterwards can only be explained as an act of collective punishment, enabled by the systematic legal impunity that the Indian armed forces enjoy in Kashmir. “The BSF personnel indiscriminately opened fire on the bus with a machine gun,” said Mubina. “All of us ducked for cover but couldn’t escape the bullets,” she added.
Around 10 passengers in the bus were hit, including the newlyweds. The bride and groom sustained seven gunshot wounds in total. Fragments still remain lodged inside their bodies to this day. One of Malik’s cousins, Assadullah Malik, was killed on the spot while five others were critically injured. However, the ordeal was far from over.
After the guns fell silent, while blood was still oozing from her wounds, Mubina, along with her pregnant aunt, were carried to the nearby fields and gang raped. The bride was raped by at least four BSF personnel. “No one else can comprehend the torture that was inflicted on my body and soul during that night,” Mubina told us, her eyes swelling up. “I spent at least a month recuperating in the hospital.”
All the while, the passengers in the bus lay injured in pools of blood, screaming. But the bride’s nightmare didn’t end there: she was then taken away and kept under detention for at least 48 hours, says Mubina.
The horrific crime spurred such fear across southern Kashmir that for decades wedding ceremonies were only held in broad daylight. Though a complaint regarding the incident was lodged at a local police station and an official inquiry confirmed that rape had occurred, none of the perpetrators were convicted. “Our statements were recorded multiple times but no one was punished,” Malik said in a resigned tone.
Systematic legal impunity for the armed forces, even with respect to crimes of a sexual nature, is a norm in Indian-controlled Kashmir. According to a reportby the Human Rights Watch, the use of rape as a weapon of war by Indian forces started in the early 1990s as soon as the government adopted a heavy counterinsurgency approach to crush the popular armed rebellion against Indian rule in the region.