A former government official who investigated allegations of mass rapes by Indian soldiers in Indian-administered Kashmir has said that he was “threatened” and “offered promotions” to change his findings.
Syed Mohammad Yasin made the revelations at a seminar on Sunday organised to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the alleged rape of more than 30 women by men from the 4th Rajputana Rifles – which the army denies.
Yasin, who was then deputy commissioner of Kupwara district at the time of the alleged attacks, said: “The incident was shocking. I must say I felt ashamed while recording the victims’ statements. A woman told me that she was kept under jackboots by the army men while her daughter and daughter-in-law were being gang-raped.”
Yasin was the first government official in 1991 to visit the villages of Kunan and Poshpora to take the evidence of 32 women who had accused the Indian army of gang-rapes.
Various human-rights groups, including the US-based Human Rights Watch, have reported that the number of raped women could be higher.
Speaking in the capital city of Srinagar, Yasin said that he was warned he was on the army’s hit list after filing a report stating that “the armed forces behaved like violent beasts” and “the soldiers … rampaged through the village from 11pm until 9am the next morning”.
“They tried everything to put pressure on me and alter the findings of the report, but my conscience didn’t allow me,” the Indian Express newspaper quoted him as saying. “I was offered every kind of incentive in terms of political offers, promotion … money.”
The Indian army rejects the the findings of Yasin’s report, which was also contradicted by an investigation by the The Press Council of India, headed by the leading journalist BG Verghese, which found no wrongdoing and said the allegations were baseless.
Colonel Brajesh Pandey, an Indian defence spokesperson, was quoted by the Indian Express this week as saying he had not heard about Yasin’s latest statement.
“We have nothing to say unless we know in what context he has said this,” he said.
The case is however before a local court following a Public Interest Litigation filed by women’s group.
“Mr Yasin didn’t say anything new. Kashmiris know it. But India must reopen this case,” Ifrah Bhat, one of the petitioners seeking an impartial probe in the two-decades-old case, told Al Jazeera in a telephone interview.
“Even though we may confront more challenges in the journey of justice, but we will never allow the perpetrators to get away, or bury their injustices under fake promises and development. We will neither forget nor forgive.”
On January 18, the army’s counsel termed the case as “flogging a dead horse”.
Fresh probe urged
Amnesty International, the international rights watchdog, called for an impartial re-investigation of the case.
“There must be a re-probe into what happened. Yasin’s allegations is one more piece of evidence that shows that the army was more interested in covering up what happened than finding out the truth,” Govind Acharya, Amnesty International’s India specialist, told Al Jazeera from the US.
“It made no sense at the time and makes no sense today. Verghese, as a journalist, should investigate, but not as an official investigator. It didn’t seem appropriate. The Press Council of India should not have been involved in the probe in a quasi-judicial manner,” he said.
“Survivors of rape even in non-conflict situations often have their credibility tarnished by defenders of the perpetrators.”