Shopian rape and murder case: Nine years on, justice still elusive

Over the past nine years, time has brought many changes in the life of Shakeel Ahmad but it has not changed his unflinching resolve to fight for the justice of his sister and wife

Photo courtesy: PTI
Photo courtesy: PTI

Gulzar Bhat

His hair line has considerably receded. Multiple furrows have appeared on his forehead. The light of the sole electric bulb in his room accentuates his crow’s feet as he talks to his 11-year-old son.

Over the past nine years, time has brought many changes in the life and appearance of disarmingly simple Shakeel Ahmad Ahanger but it has not changed his unflinching resolve to fight for the justice of his sister and wife, who were raped and murdered allegedly by government forces on this day nine years ago.

“I will not give in to any pressure. I will fight for the justice of my sister and wife tills my last breath” says Ahanger.

On May 29, 2009, Ahanger’s 17-year-old sister and 22-year-old wife had gone to their small orchard across the ankle deep Ranbir Ara river in south Kashmir’s Shopian district. When they did not return till late, the family sent out frantic search parties before finally reporting to police. Next morning their lifeless bodies with tattered clothes were retrieved from the area. The family and locals alleged that they had been raped and murdered by the government forces. The incident had triggered widespread protests across the valley. While the valley remained closed for sixteen days, Shopian town observed a 47-days shutdown.

Nine years later as the justice for the victims is still elusive, Ahanger has lost faith in the state institutions and demands justice from independent international justice forums.

“I have no faith in Indian institutions. Be it judiciary or any investigating agency they are all biased and subservient to government. They do what the government of the day wants them do,” said Ahanger.

Ahanger blamed the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti for having played politics with the issue. He said that during the 2014 assembly elections she made justice for the two victims a main issue in the whole of south Kashmir and promised she would bring the culprits to book if she came to power.

“She forgot everything as soon as she came to power. She has failed to redeem her election pledge,” said Ahanger.

“On every death anniversary of these two victims, she along with her party activists would throng the press enclave to demand justice for the victims. Where has she vanished now,” asks Shakeel.

Ahanger’s son

Ahanger’s 11-year-old son Susan, who was just two when the tragedy struck, is now rather aware about what had happened on the fateful day. Sitting in the lap of his father, he stares onto the ceiling as his father narrates about the ordeal he goes through.

“Now, he knows everything about her mother but does not say anything. He talks very less and prefers to stay alone,” said Ahanger, adding that his teachers always complain he does not mingle with other kids in the school.

“This is not only the story of Susan, hundreds of such children are going through similar psychological trauma in the valley,” says Ahanger, as he prepares for a sit-in protest on the ninth death anniversary of his wife and sister.

“Justice denied in such cases are one of the several reasons why youngsters are drawn towards militancy in the recent years. Even some militants from the area openly conceded that they did sign up for various militant groups after government failed to bring the culprits to book in the Shopian rape and murder case,” says political analyst Shanawaz Ahmad Mantoo.

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