Newsletter Sep - Dec 2010

Lest the active role of the CBI in protecting and therefore abetting state-sponsored violence is forgotten, a protest march was organized on 13th of December 2010 to mark a year of the sham report that the CBI filed on the Shopian case of rape and murder of Asiya Khan and her sister-in-law Neelofar. The CBI report had claimed that Asiya and Neelofar had drowned, denied the rapes, victimised witnesses and acquitted officials for the cover-up of the case. Hence, the network of Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression had initiated the “Cover-up” Campaign for which bedsheets and messages came in from all over the country.

Consequently, on the afternoon of 13 December 2010, over a hundred women and men marched from the busy Lodhi Road crossing to the CBI Headquarters, displaying bed-sheets with graffiti that made a mockery of this so-called investigative body and criticized the ongoing violence in Kashmir. Although it was a silent march, the frustration and anger painted across these sheets could scarcely be ignored. Amongst other concerned people, participating in the demonstration were father of Neelofar, Sayed Abdul Hai; her husband Shakeel Ahmed, and their three year old son Suzain, who had come to the city to express their disappointment in the CBI’s investigation, and to draw some energy from the protest that had been organised.

Although the Justice Jan Inquiry Commission and the High Court had clearly established that Asiya and Neelofar were sexually assaulted and possibly murdered, little was done to bring the culprits to book. If anything, the investigation was systematically obstructed due to gross mishandling by civil administration, police and doctors. Against the backdrop of this failure to deliver justice as well as growing political turmoil in the valley, the Shopian case was handed over to the CBI for fresh investigation in September 2009. It published its report three months later, and its so-called ‘findings’ have seriously called into question credibility of CBI and exposed its complicity in furthering state sponsored violence.

To begin with, the CBI built an extra-judicial case and used the media to discard earlier investigations as motivated or incompetent. These news leaks included ‘findings’ of an intact hymen in a body that had been buried for as long as four months; accusations regarding substitution of vaginal swabs by the gynaecologists; and allegations that the victims had drowned by accident. Overall, its so-called ‘investigation’ declared that there was no rape or murder and that the implicated police personnel were in fact innocent. Needless to add, the report fails to explain how the search team only noticed the women’s bodies by the morning of the next day; how the hymen could possibly remain intact after so long and how these women could have drowned in a nallah which is scarcely two feet deep. If anything, the report makes a mockery of CBI’s supposed impartial character, and highlights its role in covering-up for the state.

Given this, the protesters who had gathered on the 13 December marched with sheets criticizing the CBI, and finally gifted them as metaphors for their next ‘cover-up’. This symbolic act of shaming met with endorsements from across the country, and the sheer weight of the sheets revealed our collective faithlessness in the CBI. The delegation, consisting of Shakeel Ahmed as well as several representatives of the network Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression met the Director, CBI and also gave him the report of the fact-finding team called of the Independent Women’s Initiative for Justice. Although he heard the delegation patiently and promised to look into the independent findings, he did not offer a timeframe within which he would respond. Given this, it has been decided that the matter must not be allowed to rest with the CBI alone, and the Central Vigilance Commission should also be approached. Already, open letters have been addressed to the Chief Justice of India, the National Commission of Women and the National Human Rights Commission demanding an immediate reopening of the case and justice for Neelofar and Asiya. Although the state of affairs makes it difficult for us to be too hopeful, making ourselves heard through every such channel is perhaps our best bet.