Fighting impunity

Masooda Parveen does not seek compensation. She seeks justice. The 44-year-old widow is fighting a lone battle to punish the perpetrators of her husband’s ‘murder’. Zubair A. Dar narrates her struggle.

life1High power spectacle lenses cover her scrawny face almost fully. Behind the glasses, the eyes appear diminutive. A narrow and long black cloth wraps her head twice over. In her firan, she appears a small girl trying her elder sister’s clothes. But the frame does not depict her resolve. Deep inside, Masooda Parveen possesses the heart of a lioness.

Masooda Parveen is fighting to set precedence. Like many women in Kashmir, her husband was killed in ‘custody’. She fought to punish the perpetrators for ten long years. But the apex court of India turned down her arguments and the supporting documents. As if her sufferings strengthen her resolve, Masooda Parveen wants to take her case to an international court.

“I will take my case to Geneva,” she says, quenching her fists. “It will be a reference there. May be it helps people like me to get justice,” she says.

As she speaks of her husband Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Regoo, an advocate and a saffron trader, tears swell in her eyes. Regoo was detained from his home in Chandhara village near Pampore in Pulwama district on the chilly evening of February 1 in 1998. He never returned. His body did.

“He was almost six feet tall. When they brought his body home, he has been reduced to this much,” says Masooda Parveen, gesturing with her hands a couple of feet apart.

Masooda recalls the sequence of events of that evening. “We had invited his sisters for a dinner two days after Eid. In the evening, as we sat talking, two Ikhwanis, Khaliq and Bashir, entered our house. Major Punia of 17 Jat of the Army and some other military men were also with them.” She vividly remembers every detail. “They came with their faces covered but I pulled off their masks.”

“They first tortured my husband in a room of our ancestral house,” Parveen recalls. “As they began to leave, I rushed to prevent them from taking my husband along but they pushed me away.”

Masooda says she kept begging for help over the next two days. She says that she wondered bare feet from the army camp to police station to MLAs house. “People took me for a lunatic,” she says.

Two days after his arrest, Regoo’s body was brought home.

Army claimed that Regoo was a militant and was killed when he accidentally triggered off an explosive in a hideout where according to them he had stored it. Masooda says that her husband was framed. “He was killed with an axe. They had slashed his shoulder and then placed his body on an explosive.”

Masooda protested. She even boldly told police officials that she would identify the men who had come for her husband. To pacify her, political leaders and police officials promised her compensation. Within weeks, however, she was denied audience. “As if the wails didn’t reach his ears,” she says.

With the responsibility of bringing up two boys, Masooda Parveen was looking the storm in the eye by planning to take her fight to the Supreme Court. But the pain was refusing to go and options were limited. “Lawyers in Srinagar were discouraging me, telling me to give up,” she says. “The Ikhwanis had robbed us of property, I ignored. But then they killed my husband. I decided to fight,” says the resolute widow.
Masooda thus decided to file a petition and wrote letter after letter to the Supreme Court. None would be answered till one day the apex court entertained one of her applications.

On May 2, 2007 the Division Bench of the Supreme Court of India dismissed her petition saying, “We have the army and police record pertaining to the incident which clearly show that Regoo was indeed a militant. We thus find no merit in the petition.”

Masooda was dismayed. Despite the fact that Army’s version showed February 2 as the date of arrest and the police record put it as February 1, her petition could not persuade the judges. She filed a review petition, only to be dismissed by the Apex court.

But she has not lost hope. She says she would continue her battle till justice was done. Living in rented house in Pampore, Masooda says every evening when she looks back, her own story horrifies her. “But at the same time I want to continue my fight for larger interest.” She says.

The Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), a civil liberties organization based in Delhi, published a report analyzing the judgment.

“In the teeth of an admission that the death took place in Army custody, numerous contradictions and inconsistencies in the state version of events that led up to the death, compounded by the “loss” of the original file containing the inquest report and documents, the Supreme Court chose to believe the assertion of the state that the deceased was a militant and his death was accidental,” the report observed.

The report has not been able to get justice for Massoda, but her fight goes on.


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