Srinagar: Eleven years ago, on 29 May 2009, two women, 17-year-old Asiya and her 22-year-old sister-in-law Neelofer, went missing from their orchard in south Kashmir’s Shopian district. The next morning, their dead bodies were found in a nearby stream.
Initially, the villagers alleged that the women were raped and murdered by the government forces. In the immediate aftermath, the enraged villagers protested and the government had imposed curfew that went on for at least forty-seven days.
On 30 May, the police claimed that the “post-mortem conducted revealed no marks on the bodies, including private parts”. Later, the then Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah of the National Conference, appointed Justice Muzzafar Jan to investigate the matter. The Jan Commission found in its report that the women were raped and murdered by “men in uniform”.
On 7 June 2009, J-K police filed an FIR for murder, after witnessing widespread protest across the erstwhile state.
Later, an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation claimed that the duo died due to drowning in Rambi Canal. However, their family members continue to deny that the duo “could not have drowned in ankle-deep water”.
The High Court Bar Association also rubbished the CBI findings. Its president, Mia Qayoom, had said, “It [the CBI] report is fraud and a drama perhaps conceived in Delhi…Unfortunately, the report is toeing the same line as of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, which he made in 1 June about the case.”
The then opposition leader, Mehbooba Mufti, rejected the government inquiry into the case and appealed to the then President Pratibha Patil and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) leader Sonia Gandhi to intervene. “I am asking them and appealing to the conscience of the nation to help get justice to the two women killed in Shopian,” Mufti had said at a press conference at her official residence on Gupkar Road.
Since the double murder and rape, Kashmir has been observing a shutdown to remember Asiya and Neelofar on 29 May. Their family members, including Shakeel Ahangar, the husband of Neelofar, and his son, Suzain, come to Srinagar to protest against the delayed justice. However, this time, Kashmir stays locked down under restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19.