Habibullah breaks silence: Govt deleted key portions of my report on J&K mass rape case
Wajahat Habibullah, chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, has said that the government “deleted important portions of his confidential report” on the Konanposhpora mass rape case in which he had recommended a police probe, upgradation in the level of investigation, entrusting the case to a gazetted police officer and seeking an order from the 15 Corps Commander to ensure Army cooperation in the probe.
Habibullah was Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir when troops of 4 Raj Rifles allegedly raped 23 women in the village during a cordon-and-search operation on the night of February 23-24, 1991. The government used his report to give a clean chit to the Army.
More than two decades later, the mass rape case reared its head again last month after a Judicial Magistrate in Kupwara refused to entertain a police case closure report and ordered “further investigation by an officer not below the rank of a Senior Superintendent of Police” and its completion within three months.
“The Deputy Commissioner, Kupwara had received reports from the villagers of Konan that a mass rape had been committed in the village on the night of 23/24 February during cordon-and-search operations conducted by elements of the 4 Raj Rifles. He (Deputy Commissioner) had visited the spot on 5th March and according to his preliminary investigations, it appeared to him prima facie that an offence of monstrous proportions had been committed,’’ Habibullah’s confidential report stated.
“Consequently, on being approached by the DG, Police, J&K, the Corps Commander deputed Brigadier H K Sharma, Commander 19 Arty Brigade, to visit the village and report. The Brigadier made some local enquiries on 10/3 and came to the conclusion that the report (of mass rape) was baseless. His report does not, however, discuss in detail why he has altogether dismissed the statements made before him by a number of village women,” the report stated.
Habibullah said he visited the village on March 18, 1991, accompanied by Lt Col Naeem Farooqi, Commandant of the 76 Battalion of BSF Tyagi, the Deputy Commissioner and the Superintendent of Police.
“I found the allegations of mass rape exaggerated because the women of the entire village were saying they were raped. But I didn’t say nothing has happened. I thought perhaps the entire village had decided to say they were raped so that the victims do not have to live alone with this blot,’’ Habibullah told The Sunday Express.
“The paragraphs of my confidential report where I had recommended that the level of investigation be upgraded to that of a gazetted police officer so that this case is probed efficiently were taken out of my report. I had also asked that the Corps Commander should issue orders to ensure that the Army cooperates with the investigation because SP Kupwara had indicated that in other cases, he was not getting the required cooperation for investigation from the Army. That paragraph was also deleted.”
Habibullah said he had also recommended several measures that the Army needed to take during operations.
“When the report came out in the public, I did protest. I called up the Governor (G C Saxena). But I was already posted out of Kashmir by then,’’ he said.
But Habibullah’s explanation has not gone down well with human rights groups pursuing the case in Kashmir who question his role.
“His silence of 22 years makes him culpable of the cover-up. The contents of his report that were made public earlier prove he was actively trying to obfuscate the truth,’’ Khurram Parvez of the Coalition of Civil Society said. “He has always been pretending to be sympathetic to the victims of human rights atrocities in Kashmir. This report shows how he himself was hand in glove with the perpetrators while holding an important position in the administration in Kashmir”.
Habibullah’s confidential report is controversial because he said the veracity of the complaint was “highly doubtful” though the Deputy Commissioner and Station House Officer concluded that mass rape had taken place.