Suicide rate in Kashmir has been alarming. But in many cases after thorough investigations suspected ‘murder’ intentions and evidence of abetment by individuals has emerged. Kashmir Life reports the phenomenon to be as much a consequence of difficult circumstances as of criminal intent.

It is well over four years now that the police in Samba had opened a sensational case of ‘suicide’ in Bari Brahmana by Anjana Sihag,an undergraduate student of Dogra College. She belonged to Rajasthan and probably that was the main reason why there was no immediate follow up in the case.

Sihag was a close friend of an army ‘Captain’ Aman Kumar. They had been meeting and may have had plans for a future together. At some point in the relationship Sihag discovered that the ‘Captain’ was a lowest rank soldier. The relationship strained and the two stopped meeting. Sihag, according to her friends, was under intense pressure from Aman to meet him ‘one last time’. She obliged him on September 20, 2007 when she left the hostel and met him somewhere.

Sihag returned to her hostel that evening and her friends saw her in a bad condition. She did not talk to anybody and simply locked herself inside. By the time the hostel staff and her friends opened the door, she had died after consuming poison. Police hurriedly wrapped up the case, concluded the investigations and termed the death a simple case of suicide. Police did not take cognisance of the autopsy report that said the girl was tortured and gang-raped.

It was after the family insisted that Samba’s new police chief Israr Ahmad Khan agreed to reopen the case. Within days, the case seems to be heading towards a solution. Army’s Southern Command had written to the Northern Command to cooperate with the police in the investigation of the case.

As the police sought Aman Kumar from the Northern Command, his antecedents were shocking. The army said they have traced the accused to be Naik Abdul Gaffar who was faking his identity as ‘Captain Aman Kumar’ to deceive the young lady. The army ordered an enquiry against a Lt Colonel rank officer who had signed a fake ‘dependent card’ of Gafar showing Anjana Sihag as wife of Aman Kumar No 15174560-H/GNR/CLK of 103 MC,MF, DET Unit.

Gaffaris now in police custody facing murder charges. Army arrested him from his posting at 158 MED Regiment of the Southern Command and presented him before the police. It is finally turning out to be a ‘date gang-rape” that promoted her to take the extreme step.

Suicide used to be as rare in Kashmir as a murder was, but not anymore. The life style seems to taken a drastic turn and there is rarely a day when somebody in J&K does not attempt a suicide. Taking the extreme step of end one’s life is illegal and all those who survive the attempt have to face the law.

Investigations are mandatory in all suicides but there are instances in which the characters who abet suicides somehow managed to skip the long arm of the law. Abdul Gaffar alias Aman Kumar is just one such case who could save his skin for the last four years. Cases involving law and order make police make certain arrests and once the issue fades from public memory the accused somehow manage to live honourably.

The case of Rahida Banois the latest one. This 20-year-old young lady from remote Bhalessa was pursuing her Bachelors in Education (B Ed) in Islamia Education and Research Institute at Kishtwar. She was on her way to Jammu and her classmate Najab Dar – a resident of Ukhral in Ramban, was too on his way to Kishtwar from Jammu. Their buses stopped at Pul Doda, a small highway hamlet connecting roads to Doda, Kishtwar and Bhaderwah, for a routine halt and the two decided to have tea on a roadside stall.

They were interrupted by a Special Police Official (SPO), an extra-constitutional appendage of the state police that is already over 25,000 persons strong. As the SPO was humiliating Dar, the in-charge of the Puldoda Poice post, ASI Mumtaz Hussain also reached the spot. Both of them jointly beat Dar and threatened the girl that her parents would be informed about her ‘activities’. They were taken to the police post. The girl rang up her father, narrated the entire story and then ran away from the police post and jumped into the river as cops and a crowd of around 100 people were watching. Witnesses said the young lady could not bear the humiliation and jumped into the Chenab River. Her body is yet to be recovered.

The broad-day-light death triggered massive reaction in the area and people came out on the road. In order to prevent the situation from getting worse, the police registered a case against the two cops and arrested both of them for the abetment in suicide. After a magisterial probe was ordered, a magistrate has now ordered reinvestigation of the case on scientific bases.

Rahida’s ‘suicide’ is not an isolated incident. In July 2010, in Kishtwar’s Paddar area two girls Sangeeta Devi and Sapna Devi jumped into Chenab after being embarrassed by the police when they were sitting on the banks of the river along with a boy. The Dalit girls’, studying in class XI and X, bodies could not be recovered.

On July 12, 2010 when the SHO Atholi Farooq Ahmad Wani “detained” the two girls from the banks of Chenab with their classmate Pradeep Kumar alias Ramu. All the three were residents of Gulabgarh near the Gulab Singh Qilla on the confluence of Chanderbhaga and BhootNallah. They were shifted to police station Atholi wherefrom the girls were set free within an hour and the boy some time later. Their Families alleged the two girls were not traced afterwards.

Newspaper reported that the girls said one of them was getting engaged with the boy so they were meeting to understand each other. As police launched a hunt to trace them, they only got their sandals and scarves from the riverbank they were arrested from. Locals accused the police of murder.

The situation deteriorated as angry locals attacked the police station and the local civil administration office. At least five persons including some policemen were injured in the protests. Police opened fire the district administration rushed to the area and finally IGP Jammu had to also fly to Padder to assure the locals that justice would be done. The residents were seeking registration of FIR against the police officer saying the two girls were humiliated to the extent that they committed suicide.

Finally, the police registered as many as four FIRs regarding the series of incidents starting July 13. One of them (FIR 15 of 2010) was against the SHO and his men for wrongful confinement and three other (16, 17 and 18 of 2010) against the mob for the violence. Most of the accused in the three cases are the government employees of the region.

Tragically, as newspapers reported after the Rahida ‘suicide’, the police are yet to record the statements of the two families. Even the Rs 50,000 interim relief that the divisional commissioner Jammu announced is yet to be disbursed to them. Not satisfied with the pace of investigations, the families have finally taken help from an NGO in approaching the NHRC. The petition has been referred to the SHRC and police are offering their version to the commission.

In many cases, the only option victims see in situations of humiliation and despair is suicide. On May 19, a girl in Darvari village committed suicide after a relative Ghulam Qadir allegedly raped her. Police have taken cognizance of the incident but it is immediately not known if Qadir was rounded up. He had gone to see his brother-in-law who was not home. He stayed there for the night during which committed the offence.

On March 17, 2009, Shahnaz Begum, who was in her early twenties set herself afire and was admitted to a hospital with 90 percent burns. She died a day later. Resident of Lohie Malharbelt of Kathua, Begum in her dying statement accused two Special Police Officials (SPO) of exploiting her. SPOs – Gul Mohammad and Mohammad Lateef, were rounded up and investigated. The last report from Kathuaa year later said the police were preparing to file a charge sheet.

Bhaderwah reported a sensational attempted suicide case in the summer of 2009. It involved Anayat  Hussain Khan, a 35 years old resident of Green Colony. In the first week of July, Khan was summoned by the local SP (SOG). That day he took his daughter  Seerat to her school and later consumed poison to end his life. A resident of remote Bachara-Chirallaarea, Khan’s ordeal started in 1995 when his father Ghulam Hassan was killed on sides of a gun battle between suspected militants and government forces.

His mother Shafiqa and a cousin who survived bullet injuries were rendered disabled. A PHE daily-wager, Khan migrated to Bhaderwah for living closer to his in-laws and in 2004. He was rounded up by the police for alleged affiliation with militants, and interrogated many times only to be set free for lack of evidence. Then, according to newspaper report that quoted his family, Khan was routinely summoned to camps by various security agencies. Frustrated, when he got another call to present himself before the local police unit, he thought of ending his life. He was hospitalised and the doctors cleansed his stomach. It made yet another case, that ofwhat he wanted to hide by attempting to end his life.

Once a person commits suicide, it becomes very difficult for the investigators to round up the abettor because the primary evidence is already gone. Sometimes, the accused in absence of clear evidences gets the benefit of doubt.

Habibullah Khan of Panzala in Rafiabad has been fighting a long battle to get justice for his 18-year-old daughter who committed suicide in July 2009. Police first registereda case of abetment to suicide but within months it was wrapped up and closed.

After waiting for 19 months for justice, a dissatisfied Khan finally petitioned the high court seeking re-opening and reinvestigation of the case. His contention is that three brothers (Names not revealed to public by Khan) of a well-connected family were after her daughter. As the young lady, according to Khan proved elusive to the three exploiters, they finally secured a photograph from a cameraman that pertained to a marriage party, morphed it and started blackmailing her.

Fully aware of the developments, Khan had approached police apprehending his daughter might be pushed to commit suicide and sought intervention. The trio who used to bother his daughter was allegedly threatening Khan’s family. Within days the young lady committed suicide.

As the investigation started, the cell phone call records suggested she was a victim of blackmail. While police were supposed to register a case under section 306 RPC pertaining to abetment in suicide, Khan said in his petition to the high court, it registered a case under section 309 RPC which is attempt to suicide. After initial directions of producing the case diary, the court is expected to see if there is any nexus between the exploiters and the investigators as Khan has alleged and has accused police of suppression of facts in the case.

In another similar case, on March 2 this year, Shabeena of Lalipora in Islamabad district, who was residing with her adopting parents in Hussanpora Bagh [Bijbehara Islamabad] for three years was allegedly raped and murdered by her lover whom she had gone to meet in a shopping complex in Bijbehara town. According to a representation addressed to State Human Rights Commission, Shabeena’s father Ghulam Hassan Lone has alleged that the concerned police officers are trying to shield the culprits from being brought to justice and have changed the murder case of his daughter into a simple case of suicide.

“She was raped and then killed in a brutal manner and still there has been no arrest so far,” alleged Shabeena’ Uncle Ali Mohammad Lone who was present during Shabeena’s post-mortem examination. “Both her knees were broken and there were violence marks all over her body. The lady doctor [Dr Aliya Vaid] who conducted the autopsy mentioned in her report that ‘fresh hymen rapture exists’, which clearly suggests rape.”

But, the next day when Ali visited police station Bijbehara to collect a copy of the report, “I was shocked to see that there was no mention of rape or fresh hymen rapture as mentioned earlier by the lady doctor in my presence. The police maintained that Shabeena committed suicide and they have already registered a case under section 309. When I protested, I was beaten by the Police and thrown behind the bars for a few hours till Shabeena’s body was buried.”

According to Ali, on that day [2nd March] Shabeena left her home at Hussanpora Bagh at around 10am in the morning to meet her lover Shamim Ahmed Reshi in the neighbourhood. Finding him not there she accompanied his elder brother Bilal Ahmad Reshie to Bijbehara where she was taken to a shopping complex [owned by Bilal Ahmad Reshie] and allegedly raped repeatedly.

After that with the help of motorist named Javed Ahmed Ganie, the girl was then taken to an isolated spot, about two Kilometres away from her village and murdered. Her body was recovered from the spot in the evening. “Shabeena managed to persuade the biker to let her call her father from a PCO that she is going to be late for home. She then narrated the whole incident to her father that how Shamim and his brother raped her in his commercial complex,” said Ali. “But she was not aware that the biker is not taking her back home.”

The medical report clearly mentioned that no organ of Shabeena contained any poison thus rubbishing the Police claim that she ended her life by taking poison. Ali blamed the Bijbehara hospital staff for mishandling the bio-evidence. “Instead of sending the slides to FSL Srinagar, they [Bijbehara hospital staff] destroyed the slides containing Shabeena’s vaginal samples as part of the conspiracy to shield the culprits.”

After it was established that Shabeena has not committed suicide and it is a case of murder the Police have registered a case of murder but no arrest has been made so far.

But, police says, they follow the case as per the leads that unravel during investigations. Neyaz Ahmad who heads the Kakpora police station in south Kashmir has dealt the most recent case of suicide that apparently has political overtones as well. It revolved round an adult unmarried girl Niloferaka Urfi who was told by her father Ghulam Qadir Bhat not to move out of her residence for voting in the Panchayat elections while the rest of the family voted. However, Urfi also voted without caring for the her father’s wish. While the family supported the PDP, the daughter polled for the NC.

In the evening Bhat asked Urfi why she went to vote. After being told that she voted for NC, he was angrier. That was it. After Bhat and the rest of the family went to their fields for work, Urfi consumed insecticide and killed herself. Initially, said Tanveer, when we heard the complete story, the family was summoned. “They honestly told every bit of what had happened and then the entire village came insisting that scolding children is just a routine but nobody from the family had actually asked Urfi that they will kill her,” Tanveer told Kashmir Life. “We lack an evidence that would tell us that the young lady was threatened to be killed so the case is closed.”

Even in Sopore where a school teacher committed suicide, there was nothing that police could do. Sabreena Qadri of Model Town Sopore was teaching at a local school. The school management summoned her father Ghulam Mohiuddin, a class-IV employee in agriculture department and scolded her for her bad performance. She started shivering and went home. She barely told her parents of her plans to visit her uncle. By 3.30 pm, however, she was fished out of Jhelum. The family says the school management for one or the other reason was torturing her. An FIR was registered after protests broke out in the area. But there is nothing much in follow up. Well before the police could make an arrest, the accused were on bail!


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