A Father’s Battle

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Domestic abuse results in killings and in all cases, police does register cases. But there are quite a few cases in which the families of the slain fight a protracted battle to get justice for their daughters. Saima Bhat meets an old man from Tral who ensured the killers of his daughter do not go unpunished

Mohammad Rafiq Beigh

It was testing his patience when Muhammad Rafiq Beigh saw his five-year-old grandson Ruhaan Lone outside a courtroom in Pulwama. He resisted from hugging him or giving any feeling that the kid belongs to his dead daughter.

Ruhaan was living in jail with his father, grandparents and aunt, all accused killers.  Knowing that the accused family kept Ruhaan with them in jail to play an emotional chord and seek bail, Beigh did not want the emotions to come in between his year-long struggle to get justice for his daughter. Shugufta, his daughter and Ruhaan’s mother, did not die a natural death but was hit in her head and killed.

Until January 15, 2018, when the Police in Tral announced publicly that they have solved the murder case of Shugufta, 31, Beigh was unsure of his struggle. Thoughts about Sajad Ahmad Lone, his son-in-law walking out of the police lockup would frighten him. But the bigger satisfaction came when the court rejected the bail plea of Lones’.

“It took me almost a year to prove my daughter was murdered,” Beigh said. “After court’s decision, I am satisfied that justice will be given to my daughter. I am a bit relaxed now.”

Shugufta and her brother John Muhammad were born blessed twins after seven years of their parent’s marriage. The couple married in 1979, was living a modest living in Ponzoo Tral, and was later blessed with four more children.

Muhammad left his studies early so that he could help his labourer father, in meeting the demands of their big family of eight. He first picked the art of bakery in Srinagar’s Hawal area but later became a JCB operator, which earns him Rs 8000 a month. Beigh says it is mostly this money, his family is dependent upon. “I used to earn by working on the inherited land of around four kanals. I work for two crops yearly: rice and mustard oil.”

The only thing Beighs’ still cherish was they were living a satisfied happy living. As children grew up, Shugufta’s marriage became a priority. “Believe me it was impossible for me to get any of my children married because of the costs,” Beigh said. “But it was made possible by a few well-wishers.” In June 2011, Shugufta was married to Sajad Ahmad Lone, living 5-km away. It was an arranged marriage.

Sajad, a cab driver, and only son of his parents had one sister. “They were living a better living than us. They had around 25 Kanals of land as well,” Beigh said. “They had a good family of five members: two grandparents, parents and Sajad. His sister was married and settled.”

Shugufta and Sajad were living happily till they became parents of Ruhaan in November 2013, and good relations continued even after a year or so of that. “I can’t say why Sajad lost his interest in his wife and started having illicit relation with other women,” Beigh said. “My daughter was shy and would hardly share her conjugal problems with us.”

In 2016, Shugufta started facing torture. At the peak of unrest after Burhan Wani’s killing, Sajad had started asked her to demand a bike from Beigh.

Beigh, already struggling, refused. This led to Shagufta being tortured by the entire family. In February 2017, Shugufta was unwell and she started living with her parents. After a month she was taken back and supposedly Beigh thought everything was normal now.

On March 15, when Beigh was planning for the marriage of his second daughter with her cousin, he received an unexpected call from Shugufta’s husband at around 9 am that she had suddenly fallen ill and was taken to the hospital. “But he did not call from his own number,” Beigh remembers. “When we reached the hospital, was not around, he had fled.”

In the hospital, Shugufta was not around. She had been referred to Srinagar. “We boarded a sumo and were on the way to Srinagar. Once near Awantipora shrine, we got another call informing us not to go to Srinagar. We saw an ambulance coming back from Srinagar side and they stopped on seeing us. When I went inside I saw my daughter pale and dead. She had died on way to Srinagar. That moment I was like a blind. I could not see anything.”

Victim along-with her son.

The ambulance drove to Sajad’s house where the last rites were done. But Beigh’s brother called him and asked if they really want to bury Shugufta at her in-law’s graveyard to which he had replied yes because he had not thought otherwise.

Later, Beigh got to know when Sajad had left his home, his mother had shouted at him: “Hata Sajaa. Gowyaa gaiylee. Yeh Thawthan Maarieth Te Magar Teiman Kar Phone (hey Sajad, why did not you faint. You left her dead; at least you should call them).”

Beigh says neither he nor anyone else from his family could bear the dead face of his daughter. They could not be a part of her last bath but the people who were present there saw everything. “For next three days, only our relatives were there for condolences, but none among their neighbours,” Beigh remembers.

When the family was preparing Shugufta for burial, Sajad’s grandmother had cried: “Shubai (nickname of Shugufta) tell me if you were hurt in your leg, or arm or your head.” And one of Beigh’s nephew had his mobile out to record it but immediately there was a scuffle to stop Sajad’s granny from saying things like this.

After three days Beighs’ went back to their home and soon a police party from Tral police station reached their home. They asked them to give in writing if the death was natural or their daughter was killed. But Beigh informed the police personnel they will talk about the issue only after the mourning was over.

Once the mourning was over and the police could begin second round to Beigh’s family, at least ten village elders from Sajad’s side reached Beigh’s house. Sensing foul, many neighbours assembled too. Elders wanted Beigh’s to give in writing that Shugufta died a natural death and ‘forget’ what happened. “In addition to that they told me out of their 25 kanals of land, they will transfer twenty kanals to Shugufta’s minor son including all cash in the family,” Beigh remembers as if it happened yesterday.

Beigh’s neighbours agreed and suggested they must ink a Tehreer. As they sat in a room of a neighbour’s home, an untoward thing happened. An octogenarian lady threw a stone on the window panes of the room, breaking it to pieces and shouted: “We won’t allow you to decide it in a closed room. Come out and let us discuss it in front of all,” recalls Beigh, not remembering her name. “Suddenly one of the village elders from Sajad’s side got a call from his home and he lifted his cap and dropped it on my feet and asked for forgiveness,” Beigh said. “Some youth our locality had gone to his home and threatened with burning their house. With this rest of the people also left.”

Sajad Ahmad Lone

Next day on March 21, 2017, Beigh finally decided to visit the police station where he submitted his application and soon Sajad was put in the lockup. “But they are influential people and had spent money so he was released after three days.”

Sajad’s purchased freedom gave Beigh sleepless nights. Two days later, on Sunday, he went to Khanabal, where he met the DIG south Kashmir, SP Pani, present IGP Kashmir and then to DC Pulwama at their official residence. “DC Pulwama was quite generous that he gave me in writing that Shugufta needs to be exhumed from her grave for post-mortem and informed all related offices.”

On April 17, when different teams from the administration and GMC Srinagar exhumed Shugufta’s body. “I could see my daughter after 33 days. One side of her head was still oozing fresh blood,” Beigh said. The body was taken to Tral hospital where the post-mortem was done and later Beigh drove Shugufta’s body to their ancestral graveyard.

For next six months, Beigh was on tenterhooks visiting every office for post-mortem report and requesting DIG Pani and administration for justice. “I used to leave early morning and reach home after dark moving from one office to another,” Beigh said. “I was feeling like my daughter was restless.”

Sajjad’s family tried its best to purchase the Beighs’. His sister’s offered them Rs 20 lakhs for omitting her name from the case. But Beigh’s rejected these offers. “How can I forget that she was part of Shugufta’s sufferings? She had even undressed her, once,” Beigh said.

On October 25, finally, the post-mortem report, revealing that Shugufta died because she was hit by something hard on her head, reached Tral police station. “Still they were not proceeding fast even after receiving the report. I was worried if they really wanted to help. Only DIG Pani was quite generous to me.”

Finally, on January 17, 2018, Sajad was arrested and police gave a press conference that they have solved the murder case with the arrested of Sajad, his parents and sister.

On March 03, 2018, all the culprits were shifted to Srinagar jails and a police officer handed over Ruhaan to Beigh. “That presser boosted my faith. I don’t know what courts are going to decide but I am satisfied that I was able to prove that my innocent daughter was murdered.”

Presently, the case is going on in the district court Pulwama. But Beigh now wants the court to decide the custody of Ruhaan.

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