India: Gifting the CBI with sheets for their next cover-up, women demand justice for Shopian victims Print E-mail


PRESS RELEASE:

WOMEN’S GROUPS FROM ALL OVER THE COUNTRY GIFT THE CBI MORE SHEETS FOR THEIR NEXT COVER-UPS!

DEMAND: IMMEDIATE RE-OPENING OF CASE OF DOUBLE RAPE AND MURDER IN SHOPIAN

* JUSTICE AGAINST CBI COVER-UP

Today, 13 December 2010 marks one year of the report filed by the CBI on the double rape and murder of two young women, Asiya and Neelofar in Shopian. A report that blatantly covers-up the crime, acquits responsible officials and indicts those who dared to speak out against the injustice.

Tired of trying to seek justice against through the usual channels about 100 women and men from women’s groups, students groups, democratic rights as well as concerned individuals gathered near the CBI Headquarters in Delhi today to gift the CBI some more bedsheets for their next cover-ups. Peppered with signatures and messages like GIFT FOR YOUR NEXT COVER-UP! CBI INVESTIGATE YOURSELF! JUSTICE FOR ASIYA AND NEELOFAR! COVER-UP BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION NOT CENTRAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION!, each sheet was a reminder that from Delhi to Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu to Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh the voices demanding justice in Shopian are still rising.

Also in the gathering was the father of Neelofar - Sayed Abdul Hai, her husband - Shakeel Ahmed and her three year old son - Suzain who had come all the way from Shopian to express their anger and frustration with the ‘findings’ of the CBI.

The delegation met with the Director of the CBI, Mr Singh, and gifted him scores of bedsheets with hundreds of endorsements from all over the country demanding a fresh investigation into the case! The Director, while accepting our sheets, the memorandum, critiques and the report of the Independent Women’s Initiative for Justice, said he would look into the matter but refused to give a timeframe in which he would do so.

The Women against Sexual Violence and State repression (WSS), is committed to following up the case and is demanding a reply from the CBI within a month.

A brief background (Scroll down to read more): On the morning of 30 May, 2009, Asiya Jaan and her sister-in-law Neelofar Jaan were found dead on the banks of Rambiara Nullah in Shopian, Kashmir.

The police did little, refusing to even register the case for five days! Two postmortems conducted immediately after clearly stated that the women were raped and murdered. Even as Shopian town observed a 45-day long bandh, the people of Kashmir put aside all other political demands to join this agitation and the people of Jammu also lent solidarity.

Justice Jan Commission appointed by the Chief Minister indicted the police. The High Court also stated that the police were either implicated in the crime or were shielding the culprits.

Amidst the failure of the local police and political pronouncements of the Union Home Minister giving a clean chit to the armed forces before the Parliament, the case was handed over to the CBI on September 17, 2009.

But the premier investigative agency in the country, the CBI, built an extra-judicial case and used the media extensively to make all earlier investigations in the case seem motivated or incompetent. Some of the news leaks were simply fantastic – like finding Asiya’s hymen intact four months after she was buried and hence denying the rape of both women!

The CBI also concluded that both adult women had died from ‘accidental drowning’ in a nullah that with just six inches of water! It filed supplementary charge-sheets against the State prosecutors, Government doctors, advocates for the complainant, advocates demanding justice and the family members of the women calling them separatists.

Shockingly, the CBI report also states that since there was no crime the implicated and suspended policemen were innocent.

The report does not explain how the bodies of the two women were invisible to the search party the whole night and appeared suddenly at dawn, how these young women drowned in a shallow nullah where no deaths have taken place nor explained eyewitness accounts that Neelofar’s body was wet only from one side when she was found.

We have been following this case from the very start. A demonstration demanding justice was held in Delhi in mid- June, 2009 followed by a fact-finding in August, 2009. A press conference on the findings was held prior to the submission of CBI’s final report to the Courts in December, 2009. In May, 2010, with no justice in sight, we wrote an open letter to the Chief Justice of India, to the National Commission for Women and to the National Human Rights Commission which was endorsed by more than forty organizations from the whole country.

It is clear that the CBI, the country’s leading investigative agency has made a report to suit the political exigencies of the extant governments, whether at State or Union level, and made a mockery of the due rights guaranteed in the democratic republic of India. Hence the Cover-up Campaign!

Through this action we want the Home Ministry and the CBI to be aware that we continue to DEMAND JUSTICE FOR NEELOFAR AND ASIYA, for all women of Jammu & Kashmir and for all women of India, especially in instances of sexual violence against women are increasing either by, or in collusion with, the forces of the state.

Hence, we are demanding an immediate re-opening of the case, and a commitment that as the premier investigating agency of the country, the CBI, and the government will commit themselves to greater course of justice in cases, especially those of sexual violence.

Women against Sexual violence and State repression (WSS), Delhi:

Contact address:
g
Above 105-108 Defence Colony Flyover Market, New Delhi 110024
Telephone: Kalpana: 9212449198. Uma Chakravarti: 24117828.
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Read more at:

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Sunday Magazine ~ Sunday, August 02, 2009

BAREFOOT

Torment in Shopian

By HARSH MANDER

The truth about what happened in Shopian has come to light because its people joined hands for an epic non-violent shut-down. And we still don’t know who the perpetrators were…

There were no acts of violence throughout the protest... only a united demand for justice.

In deep grief: Family members of the two women murdered in Shopian at a press conference in Srinagar (PTI)

The people of the entire valley of Kashmir today are wracked by the anguish of one man, 28-year-old Shakeel Ahmad. His wife Neelofar Jan, and his teenaged sister Asiya Jan, were found murdered, after violent gang rape, at the outskirts of a small tow n, Shopian, on the morning of May 29, 2009.

Shakeel and Neelofar had married just three years earlier. They fell in love when she would walk past his furniture shop on her way to school and college. Both families accepted their marriage just days after they wed. Shakeel doted on his beautiful wife. “I was happy to work hard, only so I could fulfil her every wish.”

Shakeel had lost his mother when he was barely two years old, and his father when he was still in his teens. His elder brothers and their wives raised him like a son. He resolved that he too would bring up his two younger sisters, one 21 and the other 17, and his 14-year-old brother, as though they were his own children. Neelofar shared fully in caring for his younger siblings. Asiya, his younger teenaged sister, was “always different from the rest”. She had topped her class in the high school examinations, and had opted to study to be an engineer, an unusual career choice for women in the valley.

Separate lives
Shakeel invested in a furniture shop. But Neelofar also wanted to own an apple farm; he saved money and bought a small orchard, just across a shallow stream, Rambi-Ara. In the vicinity of their orchard is a small bridge, adjacent to a paramilitary CRPF camp and a police camp. Further ahead is a military camp of the Rashtriya Rifles. Residents recall that up to the year 2003, grenade attacks, cross firing, searches and, on a couple of occasions, even fidayeen attacks on the camps of the security forces were common in the town. It was rare for anyone to step out after dark. But although the town remained fraught with the highly visible and dense presence of security personnel, tensions eased and civil life became more normalised. However, the security forces and civilians led completely separate lives, and almost never did they encounter each other socially.

On May 28, 2009, Shakeel came home from his furniture shop for a late lunch with his wife and two-year-old son, in his usual daily routine, and then returned to his shop. Neelofer waited for Asiya to arrive from school, and they walked to the orchard. When Shakeel returned from his shop at around 7 p.m., he found that his wife and sister had not come back home. He sent his younger brother, but he reported after half an hour that he could not locate them. Shakeel set out on his motor cycle to his orchard. They were not there, and a neighbour testified to him that they had visited the orchard and left a while earlier. Shakeel searched all possible routes to his home, but the young women were nowhere to be found.

He then began to panic. He called his older brothers who all joined him to investigate. It was by then dark. They took a solar light from the home, filled petrol in his motorcycle, and continued their desperate search. At around 10 at night, they went to the local police station. A head constable with around eight other men accompanied them in a police van, and they scoured the orchard and the entire area around it with lights until around 2 in the morning. The head constable received a call on his mobile from what sounded from his tone like a superior officer. After that, he called off the search, telling Shakeel that it was pointless to continue in the dark. They would resume the search after daylight.

Shakeel could not sleep even a moment in the few hours left of the night. Before dawn, he recited his namaaz prayers, and was outside the police station as soon as it was light. But they did not open the gates. The city stirred, shops began to open. He then spotted a police sub-inspector who drove towards him in his gypsy jeep. “Don’t you know?” he asked. “They have found your wife’s dead body.” Shakeel rushed and found the body face down on the bed of the stream. He confirmed that the body was indeed of Neelofar. Her hands were outstretched, her clothes torn, with scratch marks.

Dashed hopes
Shakeel was weeping wildly; and his heart lurched in fear for his 17-year-old sister, his precious Asiya. He hoped desperately that she had been spared the same fate as his wife. But before long her body was also found, in another part of the stream bed, her head fractured, her face bloodied, her clothes torn and stained with blood. The bodies of the two young women were at places that they had intensively searched the earlier night. There could be no doubt that the bodies were transported after their search.

Cover-up attempts
News spread around the town, and by the time the bodies were taken to the district hospital, crowds had gathered outside. They were enraged at the initial version of the Superintendent of Police Javed Mattoo, and the doctors who performed the first post-mortem, that it was a death by drowning (in a stream which even a child could walk through), ignoring and destroying evidence that told another much grimmer story. Shakeel was by now crazed with grief, but the police head thought it fit to walk to him and place his hand on his shoulder with the words, “Don’t take it so much to heart. Such things happen from time to time.”

The crowds were restive, and some began to pelt stones. They carried the two bodies to the office of the Deputy Commissioner, who conceded their demand and ordered a fresh post-mortem by a medical team from another district. A woman doctor emerged from the post-mortem visibly shaken. She beat her forehead, and confirmed gang rape. ‘They were like animals’, she declared.

The charge of gang rape and murder, denied initially even by the Chief Minister, were subsequently confirmed, by Forensic Science Laboratory reports, and a judicial commission of enquiry headed by Justice Jan formed. The commission confirmed that senior police officers had failed shamefully in performing their duties, for which they have been suspended, and the officers were later severely indicted by the High Court.

But all of this came to light only because the people of Shopian joined hands for an epic non-violent shut-down, which continued for 47 days. There were no acts of violence throughout the protest, no slogans in support of separatism or any political party, only a united demand for justice.

Still at large

However, Shakeel and the people of Kashmir are no closer to knowing who raped and killed the women. The circumstantial evidence, especially the cover-up and continuous destruction of evidence, points to members of the security forces. As a report of an International People’s Tribunal including Angana Chatterji, Parvez Imroz and Gautam Navlakha put it, the investigations “failed to focus on the identification and prosecution of the perpetrators”, and “concentrated instead on locating ‘collaborators’ and manufacturing scapegoats to subdue public outcry”. The most shameful of these were remarks in the Jan Commission report, which contained libellous, outrageous insinuations about the character of the two women who were killed, and of Shakeel. Justice Jan subsequently distanced himself from these comments, blaming the police for insertions, but took no action against them.

Shakeel laments that if justice is not done, how will he face his wife and sister when he meets them after he dies. And how will he answer the questions that his son will ask when he grows up.

These are questions that each of us will also need to answer to this young boy.