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Statistically, the crimes against women have gone down in last two years. But Saima Bhat reports tragic and heart wrenching instances are still making front pages

J&K’s state police records reveal a decreasing trend in the crimes against women: eve teasing cases nosedived from 315 in 2015 to 275 in 2016; molestation cases fell from 1342in 2015 to 1233 in 2016; and kidnappings came down from 1152 cases in 2015 to 805 in 2016. But the crimes against women continue to create tragedies almost on daily basis.

July 28, was Friday. Newspapers reported two horrific incidents. The brutalities sent shivers down the spine as incidents get uglier.

In Shalimar, famed by the Mughal garden, in the periphery of Srinagar, a mentally underdeveloped ‘minor’ girl was raped by someone who was later identified as a local resident. Yasir, a land broker, has confessed to the raping of the girl on July 23.

“Yasir lured the victim saying he will take her to Dargah and will give her ice cream,” Zaffer Iqbal, SHO Harwan told Kashmir Life. “He kept her along for four to five hours and meanwhile took her to his farm house in Friend’s Colony in Shalimar where he raped her in a shed and then he waited for darkness. He dropped her near her house at around 11.30 pm with Rs 400 and his phone number in her hand.”

Her labourer father, who usually remains unwell, could do nothing. He just waited for her return. Her brother, who is de facto bread-winner of the family, searched his sister everywhere. He footed a lot of distance till darkness took over. On way back home, att around 11.30 pm, he spotted her near their home. Anguished, he asked her where she was, and she narrated the entire incident.

The family could not sleep. They wept and cried. They were consoling each other but could not move out to police station during the odd hours. Next morning, accompanied by her brother, victim went to police station and registered a formal complaint.

“She understands things,” Zaffar said. “She is not mentally unfit but it is just that she understands things a bit late.”

Police registered the complaint and then went along with the victim to the spot of the crime to investigate the incident and ascertain if the victim was really saying the truth, says Zaffer. “The land, where this crime occurred and the phone number victim girl had, belonged to the same person.”

Convinced that the land-broker was the real culprit, the police moved quickly, registered a formal case FIR No 36/2017 under sections 366 (abduction), 376 (rape) and 341 (to stop forcefully) of the RPC. “Within five hours, we were able to arrest the accused,” Zaffer said.

It was only after his arrest, the victim was sent for medical examination which confirmed the act of rape. Right now, the police are waiting for the decision of a medical board, set up at Government Dental College, to decided the age of the victim. Police say she looks minor, up to 18 years old. But the family, without any documentary evidence, says she must be 20-year-old.

Once the board confirms the age and then FSL sends its report, the police said they will be able to produce a formal charge sheet before the competent court.

Local residents, however, said the accused was a family friend of the girl. He knew that she was ‘not mentally fit’.

In Pulwamma, Insha Bashir Sofi, 17, died a ‘mysterious’ death after she reportedly complained about a molestation bid by a bank peon. Insha, a resident of Kharbhatpora area of Ratnipora, was declared brought dead in a local hospital which sparked protests.

Earlier that day, reports said, Insha’s family asked her to collect an electricity receipt from Ajaz Ahmad, a neighbour who was working in Ratnipora branch of J&K Bank.

She went to the bank and returned home crying. One of her family member later informed various newspapers, “She told us that Aijaz tried to molest her at the branch. First blood started oozing out from her mouth and then she fell unconscious,” a family member said. The family quickly shifted her to the hospital but she was declared dead on arrival.

What happened at the Bank is not clearly known. In the preliminary questioning by the police, Ajaz has said that he had a collision with the girl inside the bank for which she had slapped him. The family member of the girl insisted that the accused had kicked Insha when she resisted his molestation bid.

Mohammad Aslam Choudhary, SSP Pulwama, said Insha had also complained to the branch manager and after half an hour her mother also visited the bank. The matter on both the occasions was pacified and Ajaz was scolded by his in-charge.

Few hours later, people assembled outside the bank and started protesting. By that time girl had been declared dead. However, police rushed to the spot and took custody of the accused.

Taking serious cognisance of the matter, J&K Bank Chairman Parvez Ahmad, invoked clause 522 (I) of Sastry Award and terminated the services of Aijaz. The Bank is actually raising donations within, to support the family.

On July 30, three men were arrested in Kulgam for allegedly raping two minor girls. The crime, police said, was done five days before the day the arrests were made.

The crime came to fore only after a victim girl filed a police complaint in Kulgam, alleging she and her friend were abducted by three men while returning home. The girl alleged that they were then taken to some unknown building by the men and raped there.

“During the course of investigation, three culprits — Mujeeb-u-Rehman Sofi, Ashiq Ahmad Shah and Towseef Ahmad Zargar — were arrested,” the official was quoted saying. He said medico-legal formalities of the victims were conducted and the statements were recorded. Police have lodged an FIR (108/2017 under section 363, 376 RPC) at Police Station Kulgam and started investigation.

Police says that while they will act against the cases reported to them, protecting womenfolk from crimes is principally the collective responsibility of the society.

Dr Humaira, coordinator at ISK, Kashmir University, says the crime rate against women has tremendously increased. “We are in a transition phase where we are copying other cultures,” Humaira said. “It is not that crime against women is only increasing but overall crime rate has increased.”

She links the increased crime rate against women with the corruption in traditional values system are reduction in generational gap.

Earlier this month, Sumaya Akhter, a mother of two, was found dead in a flood channel near Gung Bugh in Batmaloo.

Sumaya was missing from her in-laws house in Baghat since July 9, and after three days her body was fished out from the flood channel. “Our daughter was killed by her husband and in laws as she had become the target of domestic violence for very long time,” her parents living in Nowgam alleges.

“We have lodged an FIR against her in-law’s in Sher Garhi police station but it is now more than 15 days since this incident happened and police is not taking any step to solve this case,” the family member alleged. “Sumaya’s in-law’s killed her and put acid on her body and when they didn’t find any place to bury her, they threw her into the stream as they were thinking that she will not be identified, fortunately her body was recovered from Gangbugh area.”

One of her close family member said that Sumaya was a case of domestic violence. “Soon after her marriage she was harassed for dowry and during her pregnancy; she was beaten and thrashed by her in laws,” the person said. “Sumaiya’s over one year old son was handed over to her sister-in-law without her consent, which led to the dispute.” They said that even her husband didn’t visited Sumaiya when she gave birth to her second baby. “We tried to sort out the issue repeatedly but unfortunately the dispute between them did not settle.”

Sumaya’s family has alleged that her husband, sister in law, father in law and mother in law must be involved in her murder. An FIR number 37 under section 306 of RPC was lodged and investigations are on.

Khalida Parveen, station house officer, women’s police station, said incidents related to domestic violence or matrimonial disputes are on rise. She received 29 cases in 2016 while as in just seven months of 2017, the case list is already 23.

“In Srinagar district we receive dowry cases more,” Khalida said. “I believe because of the love marriage trend that has picked in Kashmir, we have to face more matrimonial disputes.”

In these marriages, she insists, there is less acceptance and thus violence takes over. “After these marriages, girls find indifferent attitude of their in-laws which results in more problems and ultimately these cases land in police station,” she said.

Shabana Ali is a student of National Institute of Technology Hazratbal. Insisting that it was “collective shame”, she believes women are subjected to violence successively at many stages.

“First a daughter is discriminated against the son, than her education is not a priority,” Shabana said. “Once married she sees another crisis and being mother is where her new ordeal starts.”

She insists on every single word when she says: “When a girl was molested by a soldier in Handwara last year, it created bloodbath but why society shuts its eyes when same crime is committed by their siblings, relatives or neighbours.”

The government says they are aware of the crisis on ground. To facilitate the speedy disposal of cases and ensuring justice, government has step up four fast-track courts to deal with the cases of extreme violence with women. This is as per the Supreme Court guidelines. “These courts will go a long way in speedy disposal and delivering justice in cases of extreme violence against women,” said the Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu.

 

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