Wednesday, June 3, 2009

How long world will remain silent?


Rape, murder and killings in Kashmir

Text by Gowhar Bhat, Naseer Ganai, Showkat Ahmad

Pics by Aman Farooq 


Two young women who were found dead on May 30, in South Kashmir’s Shopian district triggering massive protests across Kashmir for last four days as their family and local people alleged that the duo were raped and murdered by the armed forces. The authorities clamped undeclared curfew across Kashmir which the protesters defied. Over 350 persons were injured when police and paramilitary forces fire.

The bodies of Neelofar Jan wife of Shakeel Ahmad Ahangar and Aasiya Jan daughter of Abdul Gani Ajangar, both residents of Bungam, were found near Rambiara nullah around 6 am at some distance from a CRPF camp on May 30. According to locals, Aasiya, 17, and her 3-month pregnant sister-in-law, Neelofar, 24, were missing since May 29 evening after they had gone into their orchard at Degam, Batpora across the nullah.

Neelofar’s husband, Shakeel Ahmad said, “They had left for the orchard at 5 pm on Friday. When they didn’t return till late in the evening, I went out to search them. I could not find them any where and a neighbour told me that the duo had left for home just when a patrolling party was passing through the area. I then approached the police. At 10 pm, I along with a police party led by the station house officer, went out in search of Neelofar and Aasiya but couldn’t locate them till 3 am after which we returned.”

On Saturday at 5 am, Shakeel said, he along with the police party again went in search of the duo. “I saw Neelofar’s body in the nullah and Aasiya’s body one kilometre away from her,” he said.

BROTHER’S STATEMENT

Asiya’s brother, Zahoor Ahmad, who lifted the bodies, said Neelofar’s body was lying on the left side of the bridge in the nullah. “There were injury marks on the right side of her neck while her clothes were in tatters. It seemed she had been strangulated to death by her scarf… her trousers were open.”

 He said Asiya’s body was found one kilometer away Rambiara nullah. “There were injury marks and scratches on her face. Her body was naked and I covered it with my shirt and shifted the bodies to hospital.”

 Describing as baseless and fabricated the police version that the bodies had no injury marks, Zahoor said Neelofar’s body had been kept in water near a boulder about 50 feet away and her body bore scratches on the right side. Her neck had visible strangulation marks and her clothes had been torn. The body of Aasiya was located in a stream flowing near Arahama shrine. She had a deep wound on her forehead and scratches on the right side of her face. He said she had no undergarments and he put his own shirt over her body. 

 Zahoor and another relation, Muhammad Amin, said they were present during the post-mortem when the doctors confirmed that both the deceased had been raped. “In our presence, the doctors confirmed rape,” he said, adding that during the post-mortem, which was three doctors, a police havildar entered the room and told the doctors that in case rape had been committed, they should hand over the bodies immediately to the family as the situation in the town had become explosive.

 “A little later, the same police havildar entered the room and conveyed the senior police official’s message for the doctors that their report should be negative,” Zahoor said, adding they ran out shouting to inform the people about it after which violence broke out in the town.

 Zahoor said he and other family members, including Muhammad Amin, Ziauddin and a women, were present during the second post-mortem conducted by a team of doctors from Pulwama. “During the second post-mortem, in presence of the DC and SP, I urged the doctors to say on oath whether rape had been committed. When the doctors replied in the affirmative, the SP told us that it was a rape case. He reprimanded the doctors why they had revealed it to the relatives. However, he consoled us and assured us of his full support,” he added.

 Incidentally, the first post-mortem was incomplete due to the violent incidents outside the hospital. Declining comment, the deputy chief medical officer, Dr Sofi, who led the doctors’ team, said the post-mortem report would be ready within two days.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

 Eyewitnesses said a group of migratory shepherds with their flocks were camping overnight at the spots where the bodies of the two were located this morning. This was confirmed by a police official, Muhammad Yaseen, who had accompanied the search teams till 2.30 a.m. today. “When I and the SHO, Shopian, went in search of the women, the shepherds were missing. I would ask the administration where had they vanished,” Neelofar’s husband, Shakeel Ahmad, said, adding he had come to know in the morning that the shepherds had heard the screams and shrieks of the women because of which they were forced to leave the spot.

 Asked about it, the police official, Muhammad Yaseen, said he had seen the shepherds during night. “Where had they gone by the morning, he did not know,” he said, adding the bodies were found at the places where the police team carried out the overnight searches.

SPONTANEOUS PROTESTS

 As soon as the news about the incident spread in the area, the entire area was rocked by spontaneous protests. Hundreds of people, including a large number of women, took to streets shouting anti-India and pro-freedom slogans. They alleged that the duo were first raped and then murdered by the troopers.

 Police and CRPF swung into action and baton charged the protesters firing repeated teargas canisters to disperse them. However, protesters retaliated by pelting stones triggering clashes which continued throughout the day. 

 While the bodies were taken to the District Hospital, Shopian, where a team of doctors conducted post mortem on them, a large number of people thronged the premises and ransacked the hospital by stoning the window panes and damaging its property. They demanded that the post mortem should be done again by a team of “neutral” doctors from outside the district. Police fired dozens of teargas shells to disperse the protesters. Several people including two doctors were injured during the protests.

 The angry protesters later attacked the office of the deputy commissioner and the Police Station. While the protesters pelted stones on the government buildings, police retaliated by lobbing teargas shells and firing several rounds in air.

June 1:

 

Inhabitants of Bonagam and the family of the two young women, who were raped before being murdered, today set a deadline for the government to produce the guilty before the public by Tuesday failing which they would launch an agitation.

 “Till Tuesday, when Neelofar and Asiya’s fourth day ceremony would be observed, we are busy with the last rites and by then the government should make public the post mortem report and identify those who raped and murdered the duo,” Neelofar’s father, Syed Abdul Hai said.

 “If the government fails to produce the rapists and murderers before us, we will launch a massive agitation and start an indefinite strike,” he said. “We will commit self-immolation. It is better to die for the honour and dignity of our women than to live a life of disrespect and disgrace,” he said. Syed said the family members were aware of the fact that their daughters were first raped and then murdered. “The team of doctors who conducted the second post mortem on them told us that the duo was gang raped and then murdered. We want to hear this officially and see the guilty being hanged,” he said.

 Syed contested the police claim that the duo had drowned in the Rambiara nullah. “The water in the stream is just ankle deep. Moreover, there were violence marks on the body of Asiya which showed that they were murdered after being gang raped,” he said.

 Neelofar’s husband and Asiya’s brother, Shakeel Ahmad, said the police was maintaining a criminal silence over the issue. “When I approached the police and started to look for my sister and my wife along with police in Rambiara nullah, they were nowhere till 3 am. Wherefrom did the bodies came at the very spot at 5 in the morning,” he asked.

 “Who could ferry the bodies when the CRPF camp and police lines is located adjacent to the spot. Police and the civil administration have to come clean on the issue,” he said.

 He said the nomadic shepherds who were camping near the nullah, where the bodies were found, had suddenly vanished from the spot. “They could have been witness to the whole incident that’s why they were shifted from the area.”

 “My life is ruined… My sister and wife have been murdered. Now I won’t care if I am killed in the process of unearthing their murders,” Shakeel said, as he held his two-year old son, Suzzane, in his arms.

 Muhammad Shafi, imam of the local Masjid, said that Friday’s incident had sent shock waves among the locals as the incident was the first of its kind in Shopian. “This incident has shocked one and all. If we remain mum, these incidents will recur. We will raise our voice against this outrage so that no one will dare to think of indulging in such a shameful and inhuman act,” he said.

 He said the panic-stricken women of the area were now feeling insecure and were scared of venturing out of their homes. “Yesterday’s incident will haunt them for a long time. And it’s now the duty of the men to stand up and deliver.”

 

Greenland school loses its topper

Asiya Had Scored Distinction In Matric Exams, Was Studying To Become A Doctor

June 2

Asiya Jan, 17, who was allegedly gang-raped and murdered in Shopian on Friday was a meritorious student who secured distinction in her matriculation exams last year. She was studying hard to become a doctor, her family says.

Asiya Jan was a pre-medical student of the New Greenland Higher Secondary School in Alialpora, Shopian. After passing her matriculation examination with a distinction, she chose science subjects at higher secondary level.

“She was a brilliant student. She always topped examinations,” Asiya’s elder brother, Shakeel Ahmad told Greater Kashmir. “Among us brothers and sisters she was the most brilliant in studies, and spent most her time with books.”

“Her brothers worked hard to support her so that her dream was realized,” said their neighbour, Muhammad Shafi, “but all their dreams have been shattered and buried.” He said Asiya, being an orphan, was everybody’s darling in the neighbourhood. “She was so loveable and a sweet child… her death has shocked all of us,” he said.

The principal of New Greenland higher secondary school, Asif Hussain said in Asiya’s death, the school has lost one of the brilliant students it had produced. “She made us proud by securing distinction in matric examinations last year,” Hussain said.

“I knew her when she was a toddler. From primary classes she has had her education in the school. She was like my daughter and I had taught her from the early childhood days,” he added.

Asiya’s neighbours said that her 3-months pregnant sister-in-law, Neelofar, who was also raped and murdered, was her best friend.

“They would always spend their time together and whenever they would need to go the marketplace they would go together.” They died together, too.

 

 

Geelani speaks

The chairman of Hurriyat Conference Syed Ali Shah Geelani rejected the inquiry ordered by the government into the alleged rape and murder of two young women in Shopian and called for a complete shutdown against the incident till June 3.

“Hurriyat rejects the government inquiry. Apparently it seems that troopers are involved in this heinous act. Asking a police officer to head the Special Investigation Team doesn’t make any sense. Doctors who conducted the post mortem had categorically said that Neelofar and her sister-in-law, Asiya, were gang raped before being murdered brutally,” Geelani told a news conference at his Hyderpora residence this afternoon.

He said that government was “trying to hush up the case.” “Yesterday divisional commissioner and inspector general of police presented the facts in such a way as if nothing had happened,” he added.

Geelani said that Asiya, had spoken to her brother, Shakeel on phone at 6.45 pm on Friday when they were on way to home. “They had informed him that some troopers were teasing them. When Shakeel called them at 7.00 pm they didn’t pick up the phone which means that the incident has occurred between 6.45 and 7.00 pm,” he said. “This is a shocking and a dastardly act. The chastity of our women and daughters is being outraged. It is an assault on our customs and values and we won’t sit silent. We urge people to hold peaceful protests and observe strike till June 3.”

He said the patron of the Muslim Khawateen Markaz, Zamrooda Habib would take out a procession against the rape and murder of the duo on Tuesday and said the day would be observed as Tahafuz-e-Khawateen (Women’s safety). The Hurriyat chairman, who is under house arrest, said the people should understand the gravity of the situation and protest against the incident which has sent shock waves.

“We understand that the tourist season is on and traders and daily wagers suffer due to the strike calls. But the matter is so grave that we need to look beyond the business interests,” he added.

He, however, said that the protests should be peaceful so that tourists don’t get scared. “Tourists are our guests and they need to be taken care of. Youth should hold protests without scaring the tourists,” he added.

He urged the school, college and university students to raise their voice against the onslaught on the modesty of their mothers and sisters.

He said people had lost all the belief in all government agencies and no probe would be acceptable. “We want the amnesty international to probe the incident. Also we urge the High Court Bar Association to probe the matter at their own level so that the people could know the truth.”

Chief Minister too Speaks:  

Stating that initial findings had ruled out rape and murder of two women in Shopian, chief minister Omar Abdullah announced a judicial probe into the incident by a retired judge of the High Court. The family of the women and residents of Shopian are accusing the troops of raping and murdering the duo.

Addressing a press conference here, Omar said the government machinery was working to find out the truth behind the incident. “People have deep mistrust over the institutions and even if the government comes out with facts about the incident, they would not trust the findings,” he said.

Different people give different interpretations. Some say they were raped and murdered. But no one is waiting for the factual report. Once the factual report comes to the fore then only the government should be condemned,” he said, adding that initial probe had ruled out rape and murder.

He said Justice (retired) Muzaffer Jan had been appointed to probe the incident and the  government would abide by his findings. Justice Jan, he said, would probe the circumstances leading to the death of the women and submit his report in less than a month. He said the report would be tabled in the Assembly to make the facts public. He said the government would have no objection if the inquiry commission asked for fresh autopsy and exhumation of the bodies. “The government would take action on the report and not shield anyone even if he belongs to the security forces,” he announced.

The chief minister claimed that the women’s bodies were not naked and their jewelry was not stolen. He said one body was 900 meters away from the other and it might have got bruises due to drowning.

Omar said his government enjoyed credibility among the people and he would prefer to lose power then to lose credibility. “This government would not hide facts and shield guilty and would not tolerate any misuse of power.” He said the government has transferred the deputy commissioner, Shopian, and would look into the conduct of the doctors as well.

ON ALOCHA BAGH KILLING

 In reply to a question whether the SOG still existed, the Chief Minister said the group was never disbanded.

 “When I took over as Chief Minister of the state, I did not change anything,” he said, adding, “The SOG was functioning as it was before my government.”

 Referring to the custodial killing of a civilian of Alochi Bagh, the CM said it was a case of blatant misuse of power by an SOG official for his own personal interest. “The deceased person owed the SOG official Rs 40,000 for which he called him to the SOG camp,” the CM said, adding he had recommended the dismissal of the official from service.

CM UNHAPPY WITH MEDIA

 The chief minister expressed his unhappiness over the media coverage of Shopian incident and said that certain elements were ‘misleading the people and even trivial issues are blown out of proportion.’

 The chief minister pointed out to one English news channel which carried a ticker– Bandh call against rape and murder of two women by security forces. He said the channel should have at least used the word “alleged” and it was not known whether security forces were involved in the incident.

 

Kashmir continues to be on boil

Violent protests continued for the third consecutive day Monday in the twin districts of Shopian and Pulwama against the alleged rape and murder of two women on Friday. The authorities had sealed the Shopian town and imposed undeclared curfew which was defied by angry protesters. Police used force against the protesters injuring scores of them.

Hundreds of people, including a large number of women and children, took to streets at Bonagam, near the residence of the deceased women, and other neighbouring villages including Alaipora, Arahama, Shirmall, Tukroo, Zawoora and Habdipora and tried to march to the Shopian town. Police and CRPF deployed in large numbers chased them away by resorting to cane charge. Police also lobbed teargas shells and fired several rounds in the air to disperse the protesters. At least 40 persons were injured in the police action, many of whom were later shifted to Srinagar in a critical condition.

Locals said at Bonagam, police and paramilitary troopers barged into residential houses, ransacked properties and beat up the inmates. “They (policemen) broke the window panes of residential houses and beat up women. This is for the third consecutive day that police is beating up people including the mourners who had assembled at the residence of the deceased,” locals told Greater Kashmir over phone.

They said police kept lobbying tear smoke shells into the houses and firing in air without any provocation.

The aged father of one of the murdered women, Syed Abdul Hai, was also beaten to pulp by police when he was entering the graveyard where his daughter was buried. “The troopers beat him and dragged him in the drain,” eyewitnesses said.

Protests were also staged at Malik Mohalla, Baba Mohalla, Largam, Keegam, Pinjora, Memandar, Zawoora, Shirmall, Kareva, Kapran and Mangloo where people attempted to take out processions.

People alleged that the troopers barged into residential houses and ransacked properties. They said the troopers also thrashed the window panes of vehicles parked on the roadsides.

While police used force to quell the protests by firing dozens of teargas canisters and firing in air, angry protesters reacted by pelting stones. At least 20 persons were injured in the ensuing clashes.

At Rambiara, angry demonstrators attacked the forest protection force building and torched heaps of timber logs in its premises.

Meanwhile, life remained crippled in Pulwama town and its adjoining areas  for the second consecutive day today. Heavy deployment of forces was made in the town and restrictions were imposed on the civilian movement.

 

June 2:

Kashmir valley observed complete shutdown Monday in response to the strike call given by Hurriyat Conference (G) chairman, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and endorsed by several pro-freedom groups against the alleged rape and murder of two young women in south Kashmir even as widespread protests were held throughout the Valley. At least 150 persons, including several policemen, were injured in the day-long clashes at several places.

Police sources said authorities had decided to clamp an ‘undeclared curfew’ all over the valley, including the summer capital, on Tuesday. Heavy deployment of police and paramilitary troopers has been ordered for its enforcement.

In Srinagar, authorities had imposed severe restrictions in old city areas. However, in the uptown areas of  Maisuma, Batamaloo, Hari Singh High Street, Rambagh, Natipora, Chanapora, Hyderpora and Bemina, hundreds of people shouting anti-India and pro-freedom slogans, took to streets and tried to take out processions. Police and paramilitary CRPF troopers intercepted them and resorted to cane charge and fired teargas canisters injuring scores of them.

The youth, who had come out in large numbers, retaliated with stone pelting on the troopers triggering clashes throughout the day. Several vehicles also came under stone pelting during the clashes.

Hundreds of women employees held protest demonstrations outside the Civil Secretariat and demanded action against those guilty of raping and murdering the two Shopian women.

Late in the evening, two youth were critically injured during clashes in Barzulla, when police lobbed teargas canisters to disperse the protesters. The youth, identified as Nisar Ahmad Mir and Muneer Ahmad, were critically injured when teargas shells hit them. Mir was shifted to the SK Institute of Medical Sciences where doctors described his condition as critical.

In the old city areas, authorities has imposed curfew-like restrictions as a result of which people stayed indoors. From Khanyar to Eidgah and Soura, huge deployments of police and CRPF troopers were made and armored vehicles guarded the major streets. The troopers didn’t allow people to come out of the houses.

All the educational intuitions, shops, business establishments, banks and government offices in the summer capital and elsewhere remained closed while the public transport also remained off roads. Only a few private vehicles could be seen plying on roads.

 

ISLAMABAD

Several persons were injured here after protests rocked against the Shopian incident. Amid heavy deployment of police and paramilitary forces, groups of youth assembled at several places of the town, including Reshi Bazar, Cheeni Chowk, Malakhnag and Janglat Mandi and held protest demonstrations. However, the troopers chased them away even as additional deployment of troopers was made later. Locals alleged the CRPF troopers barged into several houses in Cheeni Chowk and thrashed the inmates injuring several of them.

Reports of violent clashes were also received from Dialgam, Bijbehara and Kulgam. Meanwhile, a complete shutdown was observed in the entire South Kashmir district amid strict restrictions.

Ganderbal

The complete bandh was observed here today amid protests against the alleged rape and double murder of two Shopian women. Scores of people took to streets in the morning at Main Chowk in Duderhama, Beehama, Sagapora, Nagabal, Pandach and Tawheed Chowk. Shouting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans, the protesters tried to march towards the deputy commissioner’s office. However, police swung in action and chased away the protesters injuring 12 persons.

The protesters, however, gave greeted devotees who were coming back from Tulmmula after participating in the Kheer Bhawani festival on Sunday.

All the shops and business establishments remained closed throughout the day.

Baramulla

Protests rocked the old town amid a complete shutdown. Youth, shouting pro-freedom and anti-police slogans, held demonstrations against the Shopian incident.

The protesters tried to attack the police station following which policemen fired several rounds in the air. Police also fired teargas shells to quell the protests.

Kupwara

Life remained crippled in the border district of Kupwara due to the strike as all the educational institutions, government offices, business establishments remained closed on Monday. Youth staged protests at Drugmalla and Kulangam and demanded action against the murderers of Shopian women. The traffic remained off the roads. The Traders’ Federation here had vowed complete support to the strike.

A strike was also observed in Bandipora even as protests were held at several places.

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