Shopian Panel Even Suspects Victim

11 July 2009
The Indian Express

New Delhi: “On the recommendations of the commission, the government has decided that the four police personnel, already under suspension, are to be arrayed as accused in the FIR 112-09 dated June 6, 2009 registered with Police Station Shopian...A case will also be registered against Javid Iqbal Mattoo, the then SP for giving false evidence before the commission,” The bodies of Neelofar Jan, 22, and her sister-in-law, Asiya Jan, 17, were found in a stream in Shopian on May 30. The government backtracked after claiming initially that the women had drowned. Doctors confirmed that the women had been raped and murdered. This is echoed by the commission: “The only conclusion that can be drawn is that the death of both Neelofar and Asiya has not been because of any natural cause but both girls were murdered with the aim to destroy evidence after rape.” Admitting that the commission failed to gather conclusive evidence to identify the culprits due to “constraints of time and the obstructions caused by the local residents,” the report said that “there is material on file to hold that the involvement of some agency of the J-K Police can not be completely ruled out”. And called for “in-depth investigation” and “sustained interrogation of the Police-CRPF personnel to arrive at a conclusion.” The police isn’t the only target. The report calls for a probe into the “rift” between the family of Neelofar and her in-laws. The fact that Neelofar, a woman from the upper-caste Peer family, eloped with Shakeel Ahmad Ahangar - who belongs to a family of blacksmiths - is also cited as a subject for further probe. The report calls for a detailed investigation into the possible role of Neelofar’s estranged brother, Zeerak Shah, a police constable. “It is required that sustained questioning-interrogation of Zeerak Shah, his associates and relatives, be carried out so as to work out the possibility of their involvement in rape and murder of Neelofar and Asiya Jan”. The commission also puts a question mark on the conduct of Shakeel Ahmad Ahangar, Neelofar’s husband and Asiya’s brother. Claiming that he is “known for his immoral activities,” the report says: “His assets are quite disproportionate to his known source of income, thus requiring in-depth investigation to work out the possibility of Shakeel and his friends-associates in the present incident”. Then the report goes on to even suspect the victims themselves. “Spot inspection of the orchard reveals that the orchard is fenced with CGI sheets from three sides and there is no proper gate for entry into the orchard. There are about 35 small and big fruit trees, without any pruning-cutting and ground is full of weeds. The purpose of their regular and frequent visit to the orchard could not be established so far...It is quite possible that during these frequent visits to the orchard in last six-seven months, they (but more particularly Neelofar Jan) might have developed some relation with other persons.” During its month-long investigation, the Justice Jan Commission recorded the statements of 64 witnesses. The report also lists 44 other witnesses who did not come forward to depose.