Srinagar: A 45-year-old woman from central Kashmir’s Budgam district has accused her relatives, including a panch affiliated with the Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party, of mobilising villagers to assault and strip her naked for refusing to transfer her property to a male family member.
The resident of Suryasar village in the Chadoora area, Mughli Bano, said that she has not only been forcibly removed from her home but also banished from the village. On 9 November, this year, Ms. Bano alleged that her step-brother and nephew, Bashir Hajam, along with dozens other villagers — including panch Maqbool Hajam, who is also related to her — barged into her house. “They barged into my house at 7 in the evening and I was beaten up by my step brother, my nephew and about 100 villagers including Mr Hajam’s family. I could only see the faces of 17 people,” she said.
“Before I was beaten up, the sarpanch of our area had come along with other villagers and insisted that the dispute be resolved but these people [the men who later attacked her] were about to beat me in front of him. The sarpanch told me that they [the village men] will kill you and you should rather take this case to higher authorities,” said Ms Bano. “They [the attackers] claim that I file complaints [of illegal felling of trees in the forest] against the villagers and I am a frustrated woman. But all I do is ask for my property.”
An anganwadi worker for the past 33 years, Ms. Bano alleged that the men “pulled my hair and tore off my clothes. By the end of it, I was left in the room, just like a newborn — naked. I don’t have a family and there was no one I could seek help from.”
In 2019, a local court evicted her step-brother from illegally occupying her property, five years after filing a complaint. However, since then Ms. Bano said that male members of her extended family were forcing her to transfer her property — inherited from her father, who passed away 14 years ago — to either Mr. Bashir Hajam or her husband.
Ms. Bano’s husband has long abandoned her and stays with another woman that he is married to. Ms. Bano, however, also accused the village men of robbing her home. “They told me to transfer my property in my husband’s name but he doesn’t care about me, he hardly comes to see me. Why would I transfer my property in his name?”
Ms Bano said that Mr. Bashir, her nephew, of making threats against her. “He told me that he has to kill me eventually, that he has seen the inside of jail before and that it doesn’t scare him,” she said. Mr. Bashir was jailed under the Public Safety Act for timber smuggling. She added that Mr. Maqbool “keeps calling and threatening me, he says that if I come back to my village they will kill me. But I just want to go back to my home and live a normal life. I have a pregnant cow, she is my family and I don’t know how she is doing and if anyone is feeding her food.”
Mr. Maqbool denied Ms. Bano’s accusations but admitted that he had been pressuring her to transfer her property. “She is a frustrated woman and you can ask even the children of our village about her nature,” he said, further blaming Ms Bano for antagonising villagers by filing complaints over illegal felling of trees by them. “We tell her to transfer her property in her husband’s name or in her nephew’s name because she lives alone. In a society like ours, it is not right for a woman to live alone like that.”
Wearing a donated pheran, Ms. Bano stood outside the Tehsildar’s office in Chadoora on 12 November, carrying just a few belongings in a jute bag and a copy of an application she had attempted to file at the police station two days before. According to Ms Bano, the local police demanded a bribe for registering a case. “They [the police] accused me of lying and threw away my torn clothes [that she presented before them as evidence], saying that I tore it off myself.”
Ms. Bano said that she waited at the police station, on 10 November, from 11 am till 5 pm when a police man allegedly told her: “Give us 1000 rupees and we will see what we can do.” Ms. Bano added that the lower rung officials at the police station “did not even let me meet the station house office (SHO). They kept asserting that they have seen the application and will register a case but I have to give them 1000 rupees first.”
Amod Nagpure, senior superintendent of police in Budgam, referring to Ms. Bano’s accusation of the police demanding bribes, said that “this is a concocted story”. He added that a First Information Report (FIR) was registered in the incident.