Amid thawed tensions and contradictions, Sumbal rape case heading towards conclusion

The rape incident which almost brought Kashmir to the brink got a breakthrough when JK Police’s Special Investigating Team filed a charge-sheet and officially confirmed the crime. The outrageous incident not only served as a wakeup call, but also brought the larger attention towards crimes against women in the valley. 

A deafening silence prevails in the interiors of north Kashmir’s Sumbal area, so does the palpable gloom that recently befell the place. Some twenty days ago, a village here threatened to become a communal flashpoint and feared to derail its age-old peaceful coexistence.

Since then, CRPF troopers have a new routine in a Sumbal village: guarding the line dividing the Shia and Sunni areas.

The village first fared on news portals early this month for the alleged rape incident of a 3-year-old girl. It almost brought whole of Kashmir to a standstill. In an ensued protest, a youth identified as Arshid Ahmad Dar was wounded. He later succumbed in a hospital. As tempers flew, the father of the accused appeared in a viral video clip, adding a new twist in the case, in the form of “property dispute”.

At the village, both the accused’s as well as the victim’s family lives at a stone’s throw from each other. The sulking courtyard is no more echoing with the child’s giggles and laughter.

“She has become silent and aggressive,” the woman relative of the minor girl says. “She behaves uncanny in presence of strangers. She bites and beats people now.”

To attend to her changed behaviour, a psychiatrist lately paid a visit to her home. “And he suggested that she should not be taken to crowded places or put to any kind of stress,” the woman relative continues.

Inside their glum house, where long faces dominate the scene, the minor girl’s family takes turns to narrate their “nightmare”.

Houses of the victim and the accused are at a stone’s throw distance from each other. (FPK Photo/Afshan Rashid)

“The property is not an issue, as the boy’s family wants people to believe,” the woman continues, in her high-pitched voice. “The so-called land deal was not with the girl’s father, but with her uncle. And we’ve already paid them Rs 7 lakh and land in exchange. Why would we play with the honour of our family for the pending Rs 4.5 lakh? In fact, fearing mob violence, we aided the family [of the accused] to relocate to other place for a while.”

“You’re a woman too, my daughter,” the grandfather of the minor girl tells me. “You might’ve a sister, would you agree to such an allegation even if you’re given millions of rupees?”

Tears trickle down his eyes, as he continues, “it’s better to drink poison, rather than using our own daughter for property issues. Such property and money is of no use if we don’t have morals and character!”

For a moment, silence resounds in the room.

“She is the daughter of the whole society,” another family member adds. “Justice should be delivered.”

Sadly, the family says, some miscreants have used the issue for instigating communal tensions.

“We saw the accused at the site of the crime and handed him over to police, without taking the law and order in our hands,” another family member chips in.

“And if it was about property dispute,” says another relative, “then why would we use a small kid, when we could’ve easily achieved the same motive by using an adult? Why a kid!”

Protesters hold a placard demanding justice. (FPK Photo/Wasim Nabi)

The family of the accused, however, vouches for their son’s innocence.

“The whole plot was hatched when the girl’s family was supposed to clear their land deal balance,” says the brother of the accused.

“Hang my brother if found guilty, but let people know that this family has been harassing us for so long now. They earlier cut our electricity and blamed us for burglary in their home. They’re even doing black magic on us.”

The boy’s mother joins in.

“My son is innocent,” she says, welling up. “It’s just a property issue. I’m ready to accompany you to the victim’s home and counter their claims.”

Struggling to contain her emotions, the mother continues to voice her share of the story, albeit intermittently.

“My son came home few minutes after Iftar on that day,” she says. “He was having a tea when the victim’s family banged our door, barged in, dragged him out and beat him ruthlessly.”

Since then, the mother says, the victim’s family is lying about their daughter’s health condition. “Even politicians have used this incident for their vested interests,” she says.

Listening to his mother patiently, the brother of the accused breaks in, “Abid Ansari, Yasir Reshi and Sajad Lone have used it for their political motives and even media has used it for communal divide,” he says.

But amid these contradictions, JK police’s Special Investigation Team headed by SSP Bandipora has filed a charge-sheet in the case.

The accused has confessed the crime, a top police officer said. “We’ve also recorded the victim’s statement. She has confirmed that accused has been doing wrongful acts with her,” the officer said. “Our investigation has revealed that he is not a minor and is fit, both mentally and physically.”

His date of birth records, however, were not found, the officer said. “But the medical report of the victim is positive. Now, the final decision on his age will be taken by the court.”

Also, he said, the person who circulated the “fake age” certificate has been booked under 505/153 RPC. “Besides, we’ve also identified the persons who were responsible for instigating communal violence in this case and they’ll be soon arrested,” the official said.

The property case, however, has not been included in the charge-sheet.

“We’re purely investigating the case on the basis of the rape charges,” the officer said. “The accused family can play the property card in court.”

While the final verdict is in the hands of court, tensions and contradictions that feared to snowball into the sectarian clashes have rested. And with that, the village is gradually returning to its rugged routine.


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