A human rights panel in Indian-administered Kashmir has urged the government to re-open an investigation into the alleged mass rape of Kashmiri women by the Indian army personnel in 1991 during the height of the insurgency.

Kashmir’s State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) said the alleged rapes occurred in two remote villages of Kunan and Poshpora in the northern Kupwara district.

Reportedly, at least 31 women claimed they were gang-raped by Indian soldiers from the Rajputana Rifles regiment in February of that year. The incidents prompted massive protests across the whole of Kashmir, amidst denials by the Indian military.

Other sources, including Human Rights Watch, allege as many as 100 women might have been raped that night.

In June 1991, a group from the Press Council of India journeyed to Kashmir to investigate the charges and concluded that the allegations of mass rape were a “well-concocted bundle of fabricated lies” and “a massive hoax orchestrated by militant groups and their sympathizers and mentors in Kashmir and abroad.”

However, SHRC now says it had affidavits from some the women who claimed they were victimized of sexual assault at the hands of Indian troops.

“In the course of hearing the case, statements of 18 women were recorded and during which they testified that they were subjected to the atrocity,” the SHRC report said.

Reportedly, Indian soldiers cordoned off the villages, with the men and women separated – the men were interrogated and tortured, while the women were raped. SHRC claimed the women were assaulted without regard to age or health status --ranging in age from 13 to 70.

The SHRC also urges the government to provide financial compensation to the victims.

The offenders have been neither taken to a civilian court nor a court martial was initiated. Instead, the case was closed. The investigation was stopped and the files were shelved. This has benefited the offenders, SHRC said in a statement.

We feel sorry for the victims that the government has ever taken the trouble to approach them and offer help. Right from February 1991, successive governments have been negligent, insensitive and indifferent towards the victims as if nothing happened at Kunan-Poshpora.”