In Deadly Dilemma

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A Uri baker married twice, and in August, his minor daughter went missing and was recovered dead later. Police arrested his first wife and their eldest son along with three others for gangrape and murder. Now the family is in a dilemma whether to support the prosecution or the defence, reports Faheem Mir

Grandmother, Father and Mother of Uri victim.

It takes 34 km drive from Baramulla to reach Boniyar’s Lari hamlet that gave Kashmir the painful headline after a missing 8-year old girl child was found dead in the woods. Police solved the case saying she was gang-raped and brutally murdered by five people, including two of her family members.

August 23, was the second day of Eid and the minor was with her family. By around 3 pm, she left home to play with her friends. When she did not report back, the family started searching but found her nowhere.

The next morning Mushtaq Ahmad Ganie, 42, her father went to the Boniyar police station and reported the missing. FIR No 43/2018 under section 363 RPC was registered. Police launched a manhunt but found her nowhere.

On September 2, Ganai was informed by a neighbour that his daughter’s corpse was found in the woods. SDPO Uri, Mehrajudin Raina, and SHO Boniyar, Iqbal Ahmad, visited the spot along with the forensic team. The body was highly decomposed.

After the sleuths were convinced that the girl was murdered, they set up a special team under Raina to investigate the crime. They interrogated a few suspects.

The first to be picked up was victim’s stepbrother Sahil Mushtaq, 14. He spilt the beans, saying his mother Fameeda had hatched the conspiracy. When Fahmeeda was questioned, she gave more names: her neighbour Adil, 14, Kaiser and Naseer Ahmad Khan. After investigating all aspects of the crime, police revealed the bone-chilling story.

The crime is rooted in family history. Ganie has married two women. Fahmeeda (accused in this case) is from Tarkanjan village and has three children. They had an arranged marriage in 2000. Two years later, Fameeda gave birth to Sahil.

While in Srinagar, Mushtaq met Khushboo and fell in love with her. Khusboo who belonged to a poor Jharkhand family was working as a labourer. Their affair ran for two years and eventually, they married in 2009. A year later, the couple was blessed with a baby girl. She was barely six months old when Mushtaq left his job in Srinagar and came home permanently. He started his own bakery shop in Boniyar. Now, he has three children with her, including the girl who was raped and killed.

Police said the stepmother of the deceased was nourishing a long-standing grudge against Khushboo, and her children. She had the perception that Mushtaq was spending more time with her second family and the little girl was dearest to him.

Police investigations suggest on the instance and in presence of Fahmeeda, Kaiser raped the little girl and then others followed. “Fahmeeda strangulated the girl and Sahil hit her head with an axe, killing her on the spot,” police investigations revealed. “Kaiser gouged out her eyes with a sharp knife and then acid was sprinkled on her body parts.”

Kaiser and Naseer dumped the body in the bushes and covered it with twigs and branches of pine trees, police said. The corpse was literally thrown in such a way that it would roll down to a gorge but somehow the bushes stopped it in between. Since the spot is rarely visited, the actual detection occurred only after it started smelling.

Mushtaq’s family was prone to tensions after his second marriage. For more than four years, both his wives were not talking to each other and used separate kitchens. But after Mushtaq’s father died, joint family resumed.

“Initially, the family would suffer fighting quite often,” one of Mushtaq’s relatives said. “But the quarrels stopped and then they lived happily in a joint family.

“I personally don’t believe that this inhuman and barbaric act was hatched by Fameeda,” Mushtaq’s elder brother Wali said. “Though both his wives were happily spending their lives, I knew, they had some issues with Mushtaq. There was a good understanding between the two women now.”

Bakhti Begum, 70, Mushtaq’s mother, lives with the family. “Both my daughters-in-law were good and caring to me. Khushboo would remain at home and prepare food for the family and Fameeda used to bring cattle to the jungle for grazing and in the evening she used to serve us the dinner that Khusboo would prepare”, she said.

Even Khushboo is shocked and lives in disbelief. “I don’t know who did this to my daughter,” she said. “Fameeda was very kind to my children, whenever she visited nearby market she used to bring fruits and other things to them.

“Sahil used to give pocket money to her and other siblings when he himself would get it from his father,” Khushboo said. “On this Eid, Sahil gave Rs 10 rupees to her and asked her to bring a toy for herself.” Sahil was in seventh grade in Trikanjan and the little girl was in the second primary in a local school. He would help her with the schoolwork.

Mushtaq is in shock too. “If Fameeda really wanted to kill my daughter, she could have done it earlier when she was the only child to Khushboo,” Mushtaq said. “She has now two sons, who are equal partners to my inheritance.”

Interestingly, Fahmeeda and her son Sahil were leading the protests against police inaction. They were part of search operations too.

Residents appreciate police for solving the case but they are unable to convince themselves on various accounts.

Police said Fahmeeda, the stepmother, took the little girl to a nearby jungle to graze the cattle at 7 am and used a sharp knife to kill her. But the victim’s mother said she has evidence to prove that her daughter was with her till 3 pm.

“She helped me in the kitchen and left home at 3 pm, she stayed at home with me and police says Fameeda took her along at 7 am,” Khushboo said. “How can I believe it?” Police says they recovered acid container but the residents said it was a cane-carrying battery acid.

But residents give full credit to police. “Police did a great job within few hours after recovering the dead body and put the criminals behind bars,” Hafizullah said.

A retired government official, 65-year-old Hafizullah said he felt pained because the girl would frequently visit his shop. But why is the family not accepting the police investigation? “Maybe, they do not want to lose more people from the family now.” While the little girl was killed, two of Mushtaq’s family members are amongst the five accused and in detention.

A video leaked from the Boniyar Police station shows Fahmeeda saying: “Yes, Muskan cried, her mother didn’t allow her to call me Mama instead she used to call me Fama”.

Apart from Fahmeeda and her son, there are three more accused.

One of them is Naseer Ahmad Khan aka Gudu Raja, 46. With grey hair and a clean shaved face, he is unmarried and homeless. A chain-smoker and ‘mentally unfit’, Gudu Raja lives in Hundi mohalla. Residents said his elder brothers didn’t allow him to stay with them. He used to work as a labourer in Boniyar and adjoining villages to earn his meals. “He stays for the night where he works for that,” Hafizullah said.

Most of the residents believe he may be involved in the crime.

The other accused Kaiser Ahmad, 28, is a resident of Gogaldara locality of the village. He resides with his family including his children and wife. Years before, probably in 2008, his father Sikander Ahmad Khan was arrested by police when his daughter in law (Kaiser’s wife) filed a complaint in Boniyar police station.

“In her statement, she said that Kaiser’s father attempted to rape her and molested her”, a resident said. “Court sent him to jail for four years.” After he was bailed out, police again arrested him on the court orders for not attending the trial.

Kaiser works as a labourer. “He owns a small piece of land, where they produce some vegetables seasonally. Except it, they don’t have any other source of income,” a resident, Abdul Rashid, said. Some neighbours said Rashid is a drug addict and can do anything for drugs.

There are two juveniles among the accused: Sahil, victim’s stepbrother, and his friend, Adil Ganai, 13, who is also his second cousin.

Adil’s father is a car mechanic. He buys and sells second-hand cars. The ‘acid’ that police said was used in the crime is basically the ‘acid’ that is used in car batteries.

Mushtaq’s family is in a dilemma. They have lost their member and the accused are part of the family. Mushtaq visits Fahmeeda in the police station quite frequently. Kaisar and Adil have been shifted to Central Jail Srinagar. Police have not finalised the final charge sheet yet. And when it comes, Mushtaq will have to face the biggest question of his life: Will he and his wife become part of the prosecution or the defence?

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