Poetry: Prima Facie nothing has happened

Image Credit: Mir Suhail.

Detailing the horrendous night of Feb 23-24 1991, when the Indian Army subjugated women of Kunan Poshpora to collective abuse, Ather Zia stitches the broken fragments of the case into a poem. On Kashmiri women’s resistance day, Free Press Kashmir reproduces Ather’s commemoration.


Circa 1991.

Doors, once kept the homes warm
now lie open, flapping like
wounded jungle birds, the
Himalayan winter
enters unasked, the
river is frozen, there is no water
blood crusts their lips
daughter, mother,
sister and niece,
the 10 year old whose legs are bare –
grandmother, great-grandmother,
grandaunt, great-niece
dark weaves into
their hearts, now just a mound of broken,
palpating flesh in the ash-filled courtyard
where tunics, and veils
have become rags
shameful flags of hubris
that bled across barriers
age, kinship, young, old nothing mattered
the terror filled night
still hangs onto the doors,
refusing sleep-
a probe,
swift to begin,
as justice has never been,
inside the armored jeeps shiny insignia’s, flags,
guns and painted roses,
stiff men in muftis hunch over papers
some turn the earth, filling little envelopes marked evidence’ with dust,
their glasses reflect the darkness of the blinding light,
their gloved hands, hold newly issued note-pads, shining pens,ready –
their words are hard, and easy to follow,
(depending on you knowing what they mean and don’t),
no forced entry, no witnesses,
not so innocent 10 year old
tea stains, safari suits, bonus,
boot marks,
urine, rape-kit, set-up
daughters (not their own), swabs
military, sputum, semen,
militants, dissidents and traitors,
pleasure, rolex,airfare,
framed, nation,
glance, youth,
virgin, hand-me-downs
newborn born with a broken arm,
(a womb can only offer so much protection),
skiing, royal springs, golf
overtime, vacation
there is much, much to endure
what, where, tampering, nothing
medical eyes, surgical hands, find smudges, marks, scratches
that tell no tale –
clinical ears, hear sobs that must be quieted
pens through a maze of words,
find those that must fit –
prima facie nothing has happened


Circa 2011.

the women lurk inside,
rags hung on ancient nails,
eyes turned inwards,
lips are a thin line of horror and fatigue,
voices that entered into their bodies
are like metal probes with endless thorns,
still echoing
over and over
that night sticks to their doors, hunted
watching over the unseen dead bodies of their husbands,
the ghosts of the disappeared sons haunting only them
the women mourn in an unknown language by the cracked river-bed dotted with bleached bones, and melting plastic shoes,
mother’s must watch over
the children, who are growing up
and resemble no one
the officials come to measure the territory
and to keep the barbed wires in place –
a cog in a square wheel of the sovereign
count the number of souls’ in the bodies,
the alleged rapists’ again deny all charges,
and yes – prima facie nothing has happened.


The poem was first published in BlazeVOX in 2012.

Ather Zia is a political anthropologist working on militarization, gender and Kashmir. Currently she is a faculty at the Anthropology and Gender studies program at the University of Northern Colorado Greeley. She is also a poet, writes short fiction and is the founder-editor of Kashmir Lit at www.kashmirlit.org.


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