Shopian, May 28: It has been almost a decade since the 2009 rape and murder of Asiya and Neelofar, two young sisters-in-law from a village in Shopian, but justice has been denied the two girls despite huge outrage and condemnation by the public, by pro-India political parties and by the resistance leadership.
Shakeel Ahmad Ahangar, whose younger sister and wife were raped and murdered on the intervening night of 29 and 30 May 2009, said that they have no trust in the Indian judicial system and its institutions. “Everyone knows who the culprits were, but despite that, eyewitness statements were forcibly changed after threatening and harassing the eyewitnesses,” he said. Questioning whose judiciary system it is under which eyewitnesses were put behind bars for two months, he said, “Even under Section 64, there is no provision to rerecord the statements of eyewitnesses, but they did that to save the culprits who were involved in this heinous crime.”
Asiya was 17 years old then and a Class XI student, while Neelofar, the wife of Shakeel Ahmad, was 22. The incident, according to the family, took place as both ladies were returning from their orchard in Nagbal village, when forces caught, raped and murdered them. Shopian witnessed almost three months of protest shutdown against this barbaric crime.
“Eyewitnesses first told the court and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) that they saw forces’ vehicles (vehicles of the paramilitary and police forces) near the bridge when my sister and wife where returning from the orchard, which is situated in a nearby village, Nagbal. But they too later changed their versions after being under detention and harassment by the forces,” Ahangar said.
Ahangar narrates that whosoever spoke then about justice was framed in this case. “There were six advocates, six doctors, my elder brother and one of our neighbours framed in the case, who were made guilty by the so-called caretakers of judiciary and democracy,” he remembers. Everyone who put forward a factual report was made guilty, he said.
He said that the protesters didn’t even agitate or demand justice at the level of the protests of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which was then in the opposition. “For campaigning elections in 2014, they (the PDP) played politics on the blood of my sister and wife. When they come to power, they didn’t utter a word about this case,” Ahangar said.
Family members of the deceased girls recalled how present Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti came to their home at the time and assured them that justice would be done. “She protested everywhere she went, to any conference or public gathering, she held protests in Srinagar where the photos and magazine stories of our daughters were displayed, but when in power, she played the same role as the former government of the National Conference and Congress,” said one of the neighbours of the Ahangar family.
Speaking to Kashmir Reader, the family demanded to know, “Where went the commissions which were set for this case, where went their reports? Actually there is no justice for us, not at all. Whenever they (the government) have to save men in uniform, they will make anyone guilty and then, as in the past, they will save the perpetrators,” said one of the family members.
On the role of the resistance leadership, Ahangar said that they are suppressed like every single Kashmiri. “They played their part, but you know they are not in power. There were students, people from all over Kashmir in general and people from Shopian in particular who fought for justice, but the occupation will never let that happen.
“People stood with me on every front, my father-in-law was framed in 2016 for gathering people after the killing of Burhan Wani, he was in detention for 15 days and currently he is contesting three cases lodged by the police against him in 2016,” Ahangar said.
How many examples will I give, asked Ahangar. “When Zubair Ahmad Turay (a slain militant) fled from police custody and joined rebel ranks, in his first video he said that he was framed for demanding justice for Asiya and Neelofar,” he continued, adding that this shows how people suffered more than him in this case.
“Recently a PDP worker come to me and said he wants to reopen the case, but I asked him to meet the lawyer of the case. He (the PDP worker) was the same person who tried meeting resistance leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. His intention was different, he wanted to divert attention from the case of the Kathua girl who was gang raped and murdered in a temple,” Ahangar said.
When this incident took place, both parents of Asiya had died in 2000 and 1992 respectively.
Arshid Aziz, a university student from Shopian town, told Kashmir Reader that the State does these things deliberately. “The State use rape as a war weapon in Kashmir, and in 2009, dual rape and murder was the same weapon used by them. We don’t have trust in their institutions, including their judiciary. I don’t believe this, but the thought does arise that if justice had been delivered then, there would have been no Asifa raped and murdered by men in uniform at a religious place in 2018. Recently, the Major Gogoi case too would not have happened,” says Arshid.
Shahid Ahmad, another university student from Shopian, said that the only tribute and justice for this case is the end of the occupation. “I remember when present Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti come to Goal Chowk of Shopian and said that she will not feel calm till she will hang the culprits. It was all drama what she has done now.”
Muhammad Yousuf Bhat, Member of the Legislative Assembly from Shopian, who was contesting the case of Asiya and Neelofar, is among the six lawyers who were charged by the CBI as guilty of destroying the facts and forcing witnesses to give false statements. “CBI framed me as guilty, I was at Shopian Court on 26th of this month for hearing of the case. Not only me, they framed several advocates, doctors, eyewitnesses and even family members of the slain girls,” he said.
Bhat went on, “My stand regarding this case is same as it was then. I was then on forefront for demanding justice to the family and still I am on my stand, but it was National Conference and Congress who handed over this case to CBI. The CBI not only destroyed everything but framed innocent people in this case and produced a false report.”
Bhat said that he raised this issue even in the Assembly. “Handing this case to CBI was a big policy by former government because state government can’t intervene in it now,” he said.
When asked why this case was closed, he said the case is open and around a dozen persons are still contesting it.
Asked why people allege that the PDP played a card with this case in the 2014 election campaign, and even several times staged protests in this regard, Bhat said, “As I told you, handing this case to CBI limited the intervention of the state government. We still will try our best for delivering justice to the family.
“Nobody asks National Conference why they handed over this case to CBI, we are suffering in this case because we were made accused. Now central government can order CBI to close their case and have reinvestigation on this,” he said.
People from Shopian are left only with questions. Where has the Jan Commission report ordered in the case gone? Why were witnesses made accused? Till how long will the government continue telling lies regarding this case?