After struggling for life for almost a week, when mother of two kids felt that she may not survive, she gave graphic detail of her burning to police, hours before she breathed her last, reports Shams Irfan
On November 3, 2019, Aqib Rasool Zargar got a call from his brother-in-law Mehraj-u-din Trag, who lived a kilometre away from his house in Kousarbal, Tral. Without exchanging any greetings Mehraj-u-din told Aqib to rush to his house and take his sister, Nusrat to the hospital. He didn’t tell Aqib much and disconnected the call abruptly. Confused, Aqib quickly rushed to his sister’s house.
Before calling Aqib, Mehraj-u-din had called his father-in-law Ghulam Rasool Zagar, who didn’t pick his call as he had gone for prayers in the mosque.
“I found my sister lying in the middle of the lobby at the first floor of their house,” Aqib said. “She had burn injuries all over her body.”
She asked her brother to save her. Aqib put her in Mehraj’s car and drove her to Sub District hospital, Tral. All the way to the hospital Nusrat kept cursing her husband and her in-laws, according to Aqib. Her husband came in another car along with their two kids: son Ayaan Mehraj, 5, and daughter Kaifa Mehraj, 3.
At Tral hospital, on quick examination doctors told Aqib that Nusrat has around 90 percent burn injuries.
After initial first aid, doctors referred her to Srinagar’s SMHS hospital. There, doctors told the attendents that Nusrat smells of kerosene.
However, Nusrat told doctors that she got burn injuries when she was working on a gas stove. It malfunctioned and she caught flames. “However, doctors were sure her injuries were not because of gas as claimed by Nusrat but kerosene,” said Aqib.
Nusrat was married to Mehraj, a land broker, since 2012. For their relatives, it was a happy marriage. In her 7-years of marriage, Nusrat had never complained to her parents or her three bothers about any issues with her in-laws or husband. Everything was going smoothly. “Mehraj was working in Saudi Arabia for three years. Nusrat was there with him for a year where he used to torture her as well,” alleged a close relative.
As the news of Nusrat’s condition spread her parents and other relatives rushed to Srinagar. So did her in-laws.
For next three days, till Nusrat’s husband Mehraj, her mother-in-law, and brother-in-law stayed with her at the hospital, she told everyone that her injuries were outcome of her own mistake. Her in-laws also said the same story.
On November 4, Nusrat’s maternal uncle, Mohammad Shafi Naik, 65, came to see her at the hospital. Nusrat’s father was there as well. Naik sat by her bedside and asked her about the incident. Naik could sense Nusrat was reserved in her words. She was giving sketchy details only. As Naik got up to leave, Nusrat gestured him to come closer.
“Bury me in my parental graveyard. I don’t want to be buried in my in-laws graveyard,” she whispered in Naik’s ear so that her father couldn’t hear anything.
Instantly, Naik suspected wrongdoing and informed other family members of what he was told by Nursat.
“We were already suspicious but had no proof other than her clothes that smelled of kerosene,” said a relative. “Also, Nusrat’s elder son had murmured something in front of us outside Tral hospital that had added to our suspicion.”
After Naik left, Nusrat’s parents, brothers and cousins decided to probe her further and get to the bottom of the truth.
But with her husband and in-laws around, Nusrat dodged questions related to the incident. She stuck to her ‘burned with cooking gas’ narrative.
On November 6, Nusrat’s husband and her in-laws left for Tral after staying with her at the hospital for three days. But Nusrat was not aware that they were gone.
The next day when Nusrat’s brother Asif and his friend Khalid Reyaz met her, and tried to convince her to speak, she refused again. They could sense fear in her voice. When they failed to get her talk, they decided to leave. But Nusrat called them back and enquired about her husband and in-laws.
When Asif told her that they have gone back to Tral, she fell silent for a while. Then with tears in her eyes, she told her brother Asif that she was hit by her husband on her head. After that she fell unconscious and when she woke up, she was in this state.
This was enough proof for her brother to report the matter to police. They quickly went to the police post located outside the SMHS hospital.
There, the officer in-charge told Asif that it is a serious case and they should file a formal complaint at Tral police station.
The next morning, on November 8, one of Nusrat’s cousins visited Tral and filed a formal complaint at the local police station. Within no time the police dispatched a party to SMHS hospital in Srinagar.
Another police party was sent to Nusrat’s in-laws house to arrest her husband, mother-in-law, brother-in-law and her father-in-law. They were charged with attempt to murder.
Once in Srinagar, the police party from Tral in presence of doctors treating her recorded her statement.
When Nusrat finally opened up, her painful ordeal shocked everyone present there, according to her relatives. She told police how her husband poured kerosene on her and set her on fire with a match stick.
“She was set on fire in presence of her mother-in-law. Instead of saving her from being burned alive, she began abusing Nusrat till she fell unconscious,” said one of Nusrat’s relatives.
It was only after Nusrat passed out, that her husband called her father and then her brother Aqib.
In her over twenty minute video statement Nusrat narrates how her husband threatened to kill her kids if she reveals what has happened. That was why she kept quite till her husband and in-laws were at the hospital.
“Her husband has told Nusrat that if she will keep quiet, he will bear all her medical expenses. But if she tells anyone what has happened, he will kill their two kids and then kill himself as well,” said one of Nusrat’s relatives who has seen her video statement.
But when Nusrat knew her time is limited and she will not go home alive, she decided to spill the beans.
Her statement shocked her parents and brothers who knew nothing about her painful ordeal at her husband’s house.
Nusrat told police how her husband and her mother-in-law used to torture her and abuse her all the time. She would bear everything for sake of her two kids. Her entire jewellery was taken by her husband.
Later her family came to know that Nusrat’s mother-in-law used to tell her son to divorce her, so that she could remarry him. “She never said anything to anyone in her family about her situation. She was going through hell but told no one about it,” said her relative.
A few hours after recording her statement, Nusrat passed away at the hospital at around 3 AM. Amid tears and anger, Nusrat was buried at her parental graveyard as per her wish.
Her husband’s family is now formally booked for her murder. “We have registered a case under section 302 and investigation is on,” said Deputy Superintendent of Police, Awantipora. “We have already arrested her husband, mother-in-law and brother-in-law. They are yet to confess but we are talking to people to get to the bottom. We have her dying declaration with us.”
Efforts to get the other side of the tragedy failed as the entire family, excepting her father-in-law are in custody.