Shabnam— the woman who was raped twice


The gruesome gang rape that happened recently in capital city New Delhi of India has knocked off the imagination of Indian Nation. The college going ‘girl’ was gang raped in a private bus. Six men, reportedly in a drunken state, are involved in the crime. The barbarity of the incident of shoving iron rod in the private organs of the girl has sent jitters down the spine of conscious young people in the country. This news perturbed me quite irately. I went on to pour condemnation messages all over social media, very emotionally until I remembered Shabnam.

In north of Kashmir, a hamlet, Konan-Poshpora known for the ‘mass rape’ of some 62 women in early 1990’s by the Indian army, Shabnam was standing near the bus stop, when I arrived . Although in her late thirties, she was dim, her face pale and wrinkled. Every woman in the hamlet has a gruesome spine chilling story to share, but, Shabnam is a symbol of ‘existence’. She exists, quite plainly and different from the rest of the ‘mass’.

She escorted me to her tiny house by the edge of the green fields that belong to the villagers. As I entered, a strange sense of apathy overwhelmed me. The room was cold, dark and a repugnant smell engulfed it. This is a room, where Shabnam has lived all her married life, her best and probably the worst moments happened under this roof. As I was sensing it, Shabnam intervened, “I hate this house, I never want to live here. Last year, I had a terrible fight with my husband and first thing I wanted to do is burn this house down.” “I almost did”, she laughs and continues, “Just five minutes by walk from here is an army camp”, and she abruptly fell silent starring at the road from a hole in the wooden window. I didn’t know how to progress the conversation in such a situation and I asked, ‘you fight with your husband’. She said in an irritated way, ‘of course, men never understand what happens to us’ and in the same breath, she added, ‘but my husband is an angel, if he was not there for me, I would have killed myself’. No man can accept his wife back, after she is ‘raped’.

I was silent for a while, trying to imagine, what must have happened in this place, when in late hours the Indian army men entered each and every house, when there were shrieks of women coming from all the corners. Women were calling all the higher spiritual forces to come to their aid, as I am thinking now of the helplessness of a Delhi girl clutched by barbarians in a moving bus.

Shabnam continued sharing her ordeal, ‘how can a man be happy with a woman who can no-longer satisfy his sexual urges, a woman whose genitals are electrocuted’. This detail surprised me because in the mass rape there were no reported instances of such extreme physical torture. She continued, “I was interrogated and raped again, a year after the mass rape happened in this village, they arrested me because my husband’s brother was a militant. Twelve army men raped me and after that gave electric shocks in my genitals. Even after this my husband took me back, for me, isn’t he a prophet? But, I am no longer an able person; he earns little and pays all for my medical treatments.”

I was speechless. This was first time for me to face the reality of our political situation as well as my feminine self. I had by now forgotten all lessons of research and knowledge generation that my university prepared me with. I sat still, thinking and listening.

She continued, that year “when the mass rape happened, it was my second year of marriage, a day before that my husband brought me some gifts and we were still in love, now perhaps I don’t know what we mean by love, it has become such a grave realization.” That night “they dragged all the men of the village out in a crackdown to hunt militants fighting them for freedom, and they dragged my husband out of the house, it was winter they made him sleep on a six feet high heap of snow. I was watching from the window, I could not see my husband in this condition. I came out of my house and told the army men to leave my husband. My husband became furious and shouted at me, “don’t you see what they are doing to women? Get inside and lock the door. Let me die”.

“A strange realization dawned on me, my sister who was still unmarried was in the house, I asked her at once to leave the house from the window. This irritated the army men. I ran inside and closed the door, they broke open the door, they were ten or twenty or more,  I have no consciousness of that, I just remember, I was bleeding all through the way to hospital. I wish, they assaulted my memory too. I did not have the burden to remember it or narrate it,” she said

I slowly made my way out of that room, which was beginning to appear a hole of dingy darkness; I walked slowly, leaving behind Shabnam with her constant struggle with her memory.

Like Shabnam, Delhi incident will remind the victim that rape is not merely an assault on a body. It is an assault on memory that forces women to shift from ‘living’ to merely ‘existing’. Today, the conscious young women of India must ask questions for Shabnam too because uniform does not remove the barbarity of neither the masculine militaristic state nor the patriarchal mind. In fact, Uniform furthers just these very aspects of cannibalistic colonialism

(Inshah Malik is a research scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.)



0 #37 #peace 2013-12-07 12:59
Stop maligning indian army's image. No one more then me could be aware of indian army and i know what this is .... a pure malfunction of your right to freedon of speech and expression. The army has no contact with the civil as long as the situations are worst to be handled by police. they are diciplined and have self morale . Even inquiry was held and it proved their innocence which was fair . Even if the reports are held corrupt then why the girls refused to come out for justice.?
+4 #36 Nadeem Aslam 2013-02-12 14:02
My Comments will not Heal Up anything but what i can say Sister is i Salute your Courage and and i Salute your Husband for being with you always and not letting u fell Apart...As my Eyes are full of Tears after knowing what you have gone through,but my Soul is feeling a great Respect and Honour for you and your Husband for Not Giving Up ....ALLAH will surely punish them in this world itself and hereafter...I Feel Useless,Helpless and Coward after knowing All this And I Am Still Not able To Do Anything...May ALLAH Heel-Up all your Sorrows and Make your Life full of Happiness
0 #35 aparna gupta 2013-02-07 11:58
terrific......when will we become enough to fight each and every monster right in front of the innocent victims......
0 #34 Faheem 2013-01-15 09:06
Quoting Asahmat:
Why don't these people raise their voice when "Freedom fighters" rape Kashmiri women? If something like that happens these same people say that the "freedom fighters" would never do that it's the Indian army disguising as "freeddom fighters". When they drive Kashmiri Pundits out, they say its because Kasmiri Pundits did not support their "freeddom struggle", hence their properties should be taken away, thier girls should be raped.

kashmir freedom fighters do not rape our women simply becoz they are not rotten minded like u and ur army.
-1 #33 S.NAVEED. 2013-01-08 16:26
+1 #32 vishwa 2013-01-04 07:59
It doesn't matter whether it happened last week, month, decade or century ago. A crime as henious as this be condemned wherever it happens irrespective of region, state, nation, continent or world.

It shows the pervert approach of male.(I am ashamed)

How can India be portrayed a democratic country and J&K as an integral part of this nation. If crimes of such stature committed by the government officials are shoved under carpet with complete inaction.

Friends, while I do not like to compare incidences and undermine one or other, I am happy to note that the delhi incidence has been blown manifold forcing govt agencies to work swiftly.

We should never undermine the power of people and protest and if (as narrated above) its not possible in J&K let that be conducted at capital of India like this latest mishap.
0 #31 Luis Carlos 2013-01-02 12:36
I´m so sorry about all of this news. I´m going to India everyears during three months I like it very much and in my oponion and because I saw the terrible increase of rape case in a few years, Indian Government and indian society must to considerer influence that are coming from U.S.A and European "culture" 70% very dangerous and with a lot of immorality, through TV advertising, TV programe and others Western symbols..That indian society are copying on the same way..And of course the access to Internet that come from Western including pornographic and others aberrations possible to see indian teenagers and everyone.Because I´m Spanish and I know very well I´m talking about..So if there is not any way to eliminate this criminal situation, India become the worse Hell on the Earth..If I could do something else about this matter, please somebody could tell me...
0 #30 deepak 2012-12-27 08:47
Do you think, punishment to crime doers can solve this problem?
I think creating fear of punishment in criminal minds is far necessary.
+4 #29 abdul basit 2012-12-26 07:47
Dear India
Rape is not a new phenomenon ...
its happening in Kashmir from last two decades.
Sincerely KASHMIR
-2 #28 Mir Rasool 2012-12-26 02:08
both the cases are very heinous , but in kashmir what Indian army did is shameful and a terrorist act from terrorist force of terrorist country and should be raised at every International forum to show the world real face of terrorist army of terrorist country

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