Rt Hon William Hague MP
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Foreign & Commonwealth Office, UK
12 June, 2014
Time to Act: End Sexual Violence as War Weapon and End Impunity to Indian Armed Forces in Kashmir
Dear Foreign Secretary,
As the world looks to the Global Summit on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict as a ‘pioneering’ movement, we must speak against rape as a weapon of war in Kashmir, and foreground the survivors whose suffering you have neglected throughout the two-year high profile global campaign.
We are writing to ask you to support an independent international investigation into the rapes and sexual violence that continue to take place in Kashmir since 1989 as a weapon of war. Crimes of sexual violence and sexual torture against Kashmiris have been extensively documented by international human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Médecins Sans Frontière (Doctors Without Borders). According to one such report, “Rape in Kashmir: A Crime of War” (by Asia Watch of HRW and Physicians for Human Rights), Indian Armed Forces have used rape in Kashmir as a weapon of war to punish, intimidate, coerce, humiliate and degrade Kashmiri women and men. The Indian State grants its military forces occupying Kashmir legal impunity so that they cannot be prosecuted for rape and other violent crimes including murder. It is time for the international community to break its long and unconscionable silence over rapes in the internationally recognized disputed region of Kashmir.
The most infamous case documented is that of Kunan Poshpora where on the night of 23-24 February 1991, around 30-70 women between the ages of 13 and 80 were gang raped by the Indian Armed Forces. Not only have the Kashmiri people suffered physically and psychologically but are abused further when the Indian State refuses to acknowledge these war crimes. In this context, it is impossible to forget Aasiya and Neelofar. These two young women, from district Shopian in South Kashmir, were found raped and beaten to death by the Indian Occupation Forces, in May 2009. In an insult to intelligence, the Indian State claims to date that Aasiya and Neelofar had drowned in a stream merely ankle-deep.
The Kashmiri people are calling for more international pressure on the Government of India to end sexual violence in Kashmir and the launch of an independent international investigation. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines rape as a war crime and a crime against humanity. In international law, there is no statute of limitations on war crimes and crimes against humanity.
There is an urgent need to end sexual violence in Kashmir and hold the perpetrators to account. To cite from the campaign, it is “Time To Act” and “Shatter the Culture of Impunity” enjoyed by the Indian Armed Forces in Kashmir. Despite the revision of rape laws in India in 2013, nothing changed for the areas categorized as “disturbed,” i.e., areas under military occupation. The Indian Armed Forces in such areas remain immune from prosecution for rape, sexual assault and murder under protection from the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Rape as a weapon of war is thus legitimized and legalized, making it impossible to end sexual violence in Kashmir.
As the campaign for Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict forges ahead, in good conscience, you can no longer remain silent on the issue of Kashmir and the rapes and sexual violence its people have suffered for at least 25 years. To maintain the credibility and moral integrity of the campaign, it must support the rape victims and survivors in Kashmir who continue to struggle for justice.
We urge you to use your office to help ensure that the rape survivors of Kashmir obtain justice and to support an independent international investigation into the brutal sexual violence committed by the Indian Armed Forces.
Aaliya Anjum, Researcher
Alex von Tunzelmann, Historian, London
Dr. Amrita Ghosh, Lecturer, Seton Hall University, USA
Ananya Jahanara Kabir, Professor of English Literature, King’s College London
Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal, Executive Editor, Kashmir Times
Aruni Kashyap, Novelist
Ather Zia, Anthropologist
Aamir Bashir, Actor, Filmmaker
Ania Loomba, Catherine Bryson Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania
Dibyesh Anand, Head of Department of Politics and IR, University of Westminster
Fahad Shah, Editor, The Kashmir Walla
Farah Bashir, Independent Researcher
Farha Bi, The Theatre Collective, Producer, London
Gautam Navlakha, Civil Rights Activist and Author
Gayatri Spivak, University Professor at Columbia University, NYC
Goldie Osuri, Academic, University of Warwick
Huma Dar, Department of Ethnic Studies, University of California at Berkeley
Idrisa Pandit, Academic, Canada
Jaibeer Ahmad, Advertising Professional
Khurram Parvez, Human Rights Defender
Kamila Shamsie, Writer
Mirza Waheed, Novelist and Journalist
Mona Bhan, Associate Professor, DePauw University
Meena Kandasamy, Poet, Writer and Activist
Mohamad Junaid, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
Mansi Sharma, Civil Rights Activist, New Delhi
Malati Rao, Filmmaker
Neha Dixit, Independent Journalist
Dr. Nitasha Kaul, Novelist and Independent Scholar, London
Parvez Imroz, Human Rights Lawyer, President of Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society
Rafiq Kathwari, Poet and Photojournalist
Sanjay Kak, Film-maker, New Delhi
Support Group for Justice for Kunan Poshpora Survivors, Kashmir
Suvir Kaul, A.M. Rosenthal Professor, Department of English, University of Pennsylvania
Syed Mujtaba Rizvi, Managing Director, Kashmir Art Quest
Shubh Mathur, Anthropologist
Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Artist and Writer, Raqs Media Collective
Shanker Raman, Cinematographer
Sanaah Sultan, Activist and Spoken Word Poet
Victoria Schofield, Author and Historian
Wajahat Ahmad, Syracuse University
Zaid Ahmad Ashai, CEO, Nexamp