Sheikh Uzair/ Junaid Dar
Srinagar: Family members of Asiya and Neelofar, who were “raped and murdered” on May 29th nine years ago allegedly by government forces, marked the day with a silent protest here on Tuesday at Pratap Park. Various political and social organisations also took part in the protest.
The family members included Shakeel Ahmad Ahangar, husband of Neelofar and the brother of Asiya, his 11-year-old son, who was just two when his mother was murdered, and Syed Abdul Hai, the father of Neelofer.
On this day in 2009, Ahanger’s 17-year-old sister and 22-year-old wife had gone to their small orchard in south Kashmir’s Shopian district but went missing from there. Next morning, their bodies were found near Ranbir Ara, an ankle-deep water canal. 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, and Shopian town alone observed 47 days of complete shutdown.
Among the various political and social organisations that joined the family on Tuesday were Kashmir Solidarity Forum (KSF), Muslim Khawateen Markaz led by Yasmeen Raja, Peoples Freedom League led by Imtiyaz Ahmed Shah, Democratic Freedom Front headed by Bashir Andrabi, Muslim Conference led by Shabir Ahmed Dar and others.
The protesters first assembled at Pratap Park and burned candles near the photographs of Asiya and Neelofer and displayed banners and placards demanding severe punishment for those who were guilty of the “brutal rape and murder”. Later, the protesters marched up to Press Enclave.
“When Mehbooba Mufti was in opposition when this incident happened, she was holding protests against the Omar Abdullah-led government of the time for failing to provide justice to the victims. Now she is nowhere in sight,” said Ghulam Mohammad Hai, father of Neelofer.
“She played politics over the issue and used our daughters for her election campaign in 2014 in south Kashmir. Her party even coined slogans like ‘Remember Asiya and Neelofer, vote for PDP’, but after they won elections, she forgot about it,” Syed added.
Accusing the government of “hoodwinking” people, Shakeel Ahmad Ahanger, the husband of Neelofar and the brother of Asiya, said that the family has “lost faith” in Indian institutions.
KSF demanded a probe into the incident like those by international agencies. They said that justice in Kashmir is a “myth” because of “impunity to the government forces”.
“It has been nine years, and justice has yet to be delivered in cases like these. All these cases, including Shopian, have been hushed up every time by the Indian investigating agencies,” said Rayees Rasool from KSF.
“We are also keeping a watch on the Kuthua case and Gogoi’s case. The case against Gogoi clearly denotes a pattern of sex trafficking under the patronage of the armed forces,” Rayees said.
The forum demanded stringent punishment in all such cases, including Shopian, Kuthua and Kunan-Poshpora.
Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Salvation Movement’s women’s wing led by Ruqaya Bhaji also held protest demonstrations demanding justice for the victims of the Shopian rape and murder case.
“It has been nine years, but the culprits have not been brought to justice. Every year we come here to protest, but the government is in deep slumber. They don’t care for the sufferings of these families,” Ruqaya said.
They also condemned the recent forces action in Jammia Masjid and demanded the release of all political detainees within and outside the state by Eid.