Army orders probe into rape allegations by Kashmir woman (Second Lead)

July 22nd, 2011 - 6:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, July 22 (IANS) The army in Jammu and Kashmir Friday moved quickly in ordering an internal probe following allegations by a woman that two army personnel had abducted and raped her. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also promised action, saying the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) will not be allowed to hamper investigations.

The army also assured complete cooperation with the local police.

Rukaya Bano, a woman from south Kashmir’s Kulgam district, has alleged that two army men raped her after abducting her when she came out of her home Tuesday.

“She had gone out for ablutions at about 7 p.m. July 19 and after that she did not return. She came back July 21,” her relatives told police. They also said Rukaya had been forcibly detained by the two army men in a meadow hutment for two days.

Following the allegations, massive protests broke out in the area, around 65 km from here, and a complaint was registered at the Damhal Hanjipora police station Thursday.

Abdullah was quick to say the guilty would not be spared.

In a post on Twitter, he said: “The size of army unit in area less than 20 strong, so identification parade won’t be a problem. Guilty won’t be spared either AFSPA or no AFSPA.”

The AFSPA grants immunity to the armed forces in Jammu and Kashmir from legal prosecution. But Abdullah said it would not be allowed to come in the way of legal action against the alleged rapists.

“But unlike most of you I don’t have the luxury of jumping to conclusions, so will wait for the woman to make a positive identification,” he tweeted.

“I want to make it clear that this is an allegation and if there is truth in it, then it is a criminal act which warrants strict action against the guilty,” Lt Gen S.A. Hasnain, general officer commanding (GOC) 15th Corps, said at a press conference here Friday.

“The army is giving full cooperation to police and the state government. We have also ordered our own probe into the incident.”

“There are different versions of the same situation. There are inimical forces who want to create a situation for the state government and the security forces. There are emerging versions of this. There will be many new versions which will come in the next few days. Therefore, we cannot go by a single version. We are not foreclosing any option at all.

“We are aware that not only the army, but terrorists also wear combat uniforms. We conducted an operation against terrorists a fortnight ago in the same area and the terrorists are under pressure. Therefore, this was something not unexpected at all. I was expecting it.

“The possibility of a chink in our armour cannot be ruled out. That is why we are keeping all options open,” the corps commander said.

He said the guerrillas also used radio sets as was alleged by the woman. “It is impossible that two army men will remain out of their unit for 48 hours with weapons,” he said.

The corps commander said certain individual elements were out to disturb peace and tranquility in the valley.

Many of Abdullah’s followers on Twitter suspect the guilty will not be punished as the AFSPA would come in the way, and referred to a case in Kunonposhpora, a village in Kupwara district in north Kashmir, where soldiers were accused of committing rape in February 1992.

Some of his followers, however, responded positively and appreciated his quick response.

Valley-wide protests had also erupted in 2009 when two women drowned in a local stream in the adjacent Shopian district. Massive protests and allegations that the duo had been raped and murdered by security men paralyzed the Valley the entire summer of 2009. The CBI probe finally revealed that the duo had drowned and no rape or murder had taken place.

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