ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Culture of Impunity

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On 30 May 2018, the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) police filed a status report before the chief judicial magistrate of Srinagar regarding the sexual favours that Major Gogoi of the 53 Rashtriya Rifles had sought from a local Kashmiri woman on 23 May 2018. The police claimed that it was a case of “consenting adults” as the woman was 19 years old and because neither she nor the hotel staff, who had prevented their stay, had filed a complaint. Against this official inaction, the Peoples Union for Democratic Rights draws attention to the facts of the case that suggest it to be one of abuse of power by an army man in a “disturbed area.”    

The police’s emphasis on the absence of a complaint as evidence of consent is questionable, as it fails to address the fears that civilians have of men in uniform in a conflict area where, under
the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the military enjoys enhanced powers and immunity. The circumstances of the present case, as reported in the press, illustrate this impunity. Using a fake identity on social media to solicit her company, Gogoi and his driver, Sameer Malla, had, on two occasions, made unsolicited visits to the woman’s house in Budgam in civilian dress. The driver, a renegade, had barged in and the family maintained that he acted as a “pimp.” The girl was not aware of the real identity of Gogoi when she interacted with him over Facebook, and her silence over her subsequent interactions is disquieting. The family has not filed a complaint as they feel vulnerable and fear the consequences.

This will not be the first time that security forces have been guilty of sexual malpractices, aided by their positions of power. While custodial rape and human trafficking are one end of the spectrum, it needs to be remembered that the power of the uniform makes refusal impossible, more so if the woman is a local person, and in a war zone. In this context, it is important to note the Central Bureau of Investigation’s verdict given on 30 May 2018 regarding the infamous sex scam case that exposed the widespread sexual exploitation by powerful persons in J&K, including senior officers engaged in counter-insurgency operations.

What is worrying about the police’s arguments about consent is that it has failed to pay attention to the power and influence of Gogoi, a man known for his brutality against civilians, and the army’s reward to him for using Farooq Dar as a human shield on 9 April 2017. Hence, the question is not whether Gogoi is guilty of violating the Army Act’s code of conduct, as the army chief suggests. It is a case of how a culture of impunity is being normalised, in which army men have the right to make sexual claims over civilian populations. For this reason, it is imperative to bring armed forces personnel serving in disturbed areas under the jurisdiction of criminal courts to ensure civilians’ access to justice.

Shashi Saxena, Shahana Bhattacharya

Peoples Union for Democratic Rights

Updated On : 8th Jun, 2018

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