Withered Women: Mystery shrouds Afroza’s death


While the police investigation into the alleged abduction of 23-year-old Afroza Rasool of Maloora, Shalteng followed by the recovery of her body from river Jhelum on June 20 is still underway, the sequence of events leading up to her disappearance and death leaves many unanswered questions.
According to the girl’s relatives, on June 11, Afroza returned home from Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) Awantipora where she studied Arabic and after offering evening prayers she received a phone call from one Ayoub Wagay of the same locality.

“She left home at 8.30 in the evening and never returned alive,” Afroza’s uncle, Ghulam Muhammad Mir told The Kashmir Walla.

Afroza, he said, was in talking terms with Ayoub who was helping her in the legal settlement of dispute with the girl’s previous fiancé Muhammad Rafiq Rather, who after meeting an accident was left handicapped.

“In 2008, we put off her engagement with Rafiq and both parties agreed that we’ll pay them Rs 50,000 for calling off the engagement,” Mir said.

This year on April 15, Afroza was engaged to a police constable, Mohammad Altaf Bhat, son of Jabbar Bhat of Maloora.

Mir said that immediately after five days the family found that Rafiq’s family had pasted documents of their engagement agreement in their lane.

“One day a relative of Rafiq, Asadullah, who had earlier accompanied Afroza as a witness to the court to settle the agreement documents with Rafiq took Afroza to meet Rafiq for signing documents after paying him Rs 50,000.

“Afroza went to Rafiq to get his signatures on the documents after paying him Rs 50, 000, but she was beaten up by Rafiq’s mother Nazira. She was told to pay one lakh rupees and to marry Rafiq’s younger brother Imran, which Afroza denied,” Mir alleges.

Recalling the evening of June 11, Afroza’s paternal aunt, Rafiqa said she was searching for her cow when in the evening she saw Ayoub outside their lane near the road which leads to Bandipora.

“I noticed two boys and a grey colour Santro car with black tinted glasses moving slowly. One of the youth was Ayub,” she recalled, adding, “I went up to Ayub but he ignored me. He was behaving differently. As I went close to him, he walked briskly and disappeared behind the curve next to a bridge.”

Afroza’s uncle says the family also went to Ayoub’s home when Afroza didn’t turn up for long.

“At his home we saw Ayoub talking to someone on phone and he told us that he called Afroza some time back and she was complaining of headache. Ayoub also told us that he needed some money and he had asked Afroza for Rs 500. He even asked us not to worry and offered to accompany us to look for her outside. He suggested that we look for her near Nadaaf Medical Shop,” Mir recalled.

The family said that while talking to Ayub on phone Afroza had told him to meet near the same medical shop while Ayub was insisting her to meet at Brimjibal, a nearby place.

Meanwhile, a sumo driver, Muhammad Shafi Sheikh who is an acquaintance of Afroza’s family says he also noticed the grey colour Santro car that evening near Brimjibal at around the same time when Afroza went missing.

“We couldn’t do much till we heard that Afroza’s body was recovered from river Jhelum,” Mir said.

Meanwhile, police while filing a case of kidnapping under FIR 157/10 on the request of Afroza’s family had launched a manhunt to trace her.

However, officials said that they are now investigating the case under section 364 RPC.

“Some suspected persons have been arrested according to eyewitness accounts and clues found so far. However, everything will be clear after the autopsy report comes,” SHO Police Station Sumbal, Muhammad Ashraf said.

The official said when police found Afroza’s body “she was wearing clothes with no signs of injuries.”

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