JAMMU, December 15: It didn’t take a single stroke for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to demolish the allegations of rape and murder in Shopian as a figment of imagination. It took several months to concoct a suitable story in pursuit of a conclusion that was already being gradually and selectively leaked out to the media in the last few months.
The new addition is simply the ‘scientific’ presentation of the medical examination post exhumations, that trashes even the few fragments of evidence pointing to rape and murder in Shopian and jumping to the conclusion of ‘drowning’.
Hypothetically, if the drowning theory is deemed as gospel’s truth, unlike the state high court’s observation, it does leave much to be explained. Assuming that there was no rape and no murder, two women of a kin, Neelofar and Asiya go to the orchards, overlooking three security camps as does a part of their route from the orchard to their home; they subsequently disappear and are untraceable even till their family members begin a search for them. The family finally approaches the police and the latter joins them in the search, but the two women remain untraceable till 2.30 A.M. The police abandon the search and ask the family members to resume it next morning, unless the CBI wants to trash these simple facts also with another ‘scientific explanation’.
The next day: Viola! The body of Neelofar is found at exactly the same spot that police and family of the two women searched in the dead of the night in an area that is well lit by the flashlights of at least two of the three security camps. Asiya’s body was found a kilometer or so away closer to the army camp. Interestingly, despite the posts overlooking the stream and manned by security men of the army, CRPF and the police round the clock, nobody sighted these two women drowning, between 2.30 A.M. and 6.30 A.M. even though there was a massive search operation going on in the area till 2.30 A.M.
If one goes by the drowning theory, the two women decided to hide themselves somewhere on their way from the orchard to their house and decided to choose that particular time period to drown themselves. Interestingly, they chose not just that odd timing but also the odd water body to drown. The Rambi Ara nallah in Shopian where the women’s bodies were found, mostly dry, according to eye-witnesses, has only ankle deep water. The spot where Neelofar’s body was found too had ankle deep water even at the time of the recovery of the body when the summer had not really set in Kashmir; the snow had not fully begun to melt and the flow of this seasonal nallah was sluggish and the water level still lower.
Two women, not even one, are believed to have drowned in that ankle deep water. Did they both walk hand in hand and suddenly got swept by ‘high tides’? Or did they drown one by one? Did one of them watch the other one drown and made no effort to even scream or call out for help and then followed suit? Both of them drowning in that trickle of water just unnoticed. Proverbially, one needs only ‘chullu-bhar paani’ to drown. Perhaps, the CBI can demonstrate that better with its pre-meditated conclusion of drowning. And how does this premier investigating agency explain that one of them had severe injury marks on her face and head? It only leaves it at: the injuries were lacerated and not ‘incised’.
The women also decided to take the path from the stream, even though there was a bridge and road right next to that spot.
But they are supposed to have taken the additional risk of crossing the path from a point closer to the militarised Police Lines area in the dead of the night, which no sane person in Kashmir would do, especially when it wasn’t a feasible short cut, it was just full of too many obstacles, being a rocky and stony area in comparison to the well metalled road and perfectly decent bridge. Perhaps, the next explanation would be that the women were adventurous and went out for that midnight sojourn to regale themselves and to satisfy their adventurous spirits.
But the CBI is fully convinced, on basis of post exhumation medical examination which took place after four months of the death of these two women, that this is a case of drowning. It seeks to explain this ‘medically’ and ‘scientifically’, trashing bit by bit the medical evidence that had earlier been gathered and make a simple statement that every thing done in the first two post mortems on May 30 was ‘fudged’ and ‘fabricated’. For the offence of fudging, six doctors have been charge-sheeted by the CBI and for fabricating evidence and creating ‘fake eye-witnesses’, five lawyers and two civilians including Zahoor Ahangar, brother of Asiya and brother-in-law of Neelofar have also been chargesheeted.
13 people in all have been held guilty by CBI for fabricating evidence. The ‘unquestionable’ policemen have, however, been given a clean chit, even though they conveniently forgot to collect evidence at the spot or from the bodies of the two women.
They not only forgot to do all this, they even took the trouble of wiping off tyre tracks from the spot and cleaning the area where the bodies were found, even flattening a small mound where Neelofar’s body was found. They conveniently even forgot to lodge a basic FIR even in the face of massive allegations and protests and decided on the very first moment, without any investigations, that the women had drowned in a nallah, which had no history of any drowning cases. Thirteen people are charged with fabricating evidence but the police are deemed innocent as a lamb. CBI also makes a mention of constable Yasin, who it maintains was the creator of a letter casting aspersions on the character of the two victims. The letter led to several rumours. But at whose behest was Yasin working? His seniors? Interestingly, Yasin is also the same cop who accompanied Shakeel on the night as they searched for the two missing women. He is also reported to have received a phone call at 2.30 A.M. after which the search was called off. But the man did not even figure in the list of accused when the Special Investigating Team was probing the case. He was not even among the four arrested. Even though CBI now mentions his dubious role, he hasn’t been charge sheeted. It is pertinent to mention here that even the state high court had on an earlier occasion observed that either the accused policemen knew who they were shielding or they were guilty themselves.
The CBI followed suit and dished out its findings with ‘scientific’ presentation and explanation to a group of media persons, mostly people with no science background and who would be in no position to question the authenticity of the ‘science’ behind the CBI’s investigations, late on Monday evening, after the high court finally lifted the embargo on CBI sharing any information pertaining to investigations with media. (Not that the embargo stopped it from leaking this out selectively). But it takes a little common sense and response of some forensic and medical experts to understand the ambiguity of the ‘scientific’ explanation.
The people are expected to believe that post mortem conducted post exhumation four months after the death, when bodies began to decompose, could be more accurate and precise than the ones conducted within few hours of the deaths. But they have simply trashed all of them. The second argument is that Asiya’s hymen was absolutely intact even four months after the death. Many forensic experts would opine differently on that. And many more would argue that an intact hymen still does not rule out rape.
The CBI says that the doctors who conducted the first two post mortems on Day 1 cannot be relied upon. But is there enough reason to repose faith in the CBI? Not only does is not provide a plausible argument in concluding the Shopian rapes and murders as cases of drowning, the CBI has a history not only in Kashmir but also elsewhere in the country which may not sound too appealing. This premier investigating agency has earned notoriety as an ‘agency that specialises in burying truth’. Nithari case, Arushi murder case and Malegaon blasts are just some of the many instances in the recent past.
As for the credibility of the team of doctors that came from AIIMS to miraculously find the ‘intact hymen’ in a body buried four months ago, the forensic department of the AIIMS figures too prominently in ‘fudging’ medical evidence in Arushi murder case.
One of the doctors, who seems to have discovered the ‘intact hymen’ is not even a medical practitioner. She is a scientist with a specialisation in DNA fingerprinting. The senior most of them and head of the department of Forensics in AIIMS has several cases pending against him. He is accused of paper leakage and of facilitating backdoor enrollment of a police officer for a PhD in Forensics, even though the candidate only had a Masters Degree in History, Culture and Archaeology, according to a report in Times of India (January 23, 2009). So much for credibility!
And these scientific experts were especially flown in to give the much required scientific presentation to the media soon after the court hearing on Monday. Interestingly, these doctors, one of them Kashmiri speaking with a greater ability to strike an emotional chord with the locals, had arrived days in advance of the exhumation and accompanying the CBI officials during their interrogation of some of those accused in the CBI charge-sheet went interrogating some of the accused. Perfect masala for a botch up!
How else does one analyse a version that is so bizarre? It may even have been amusing, if it were not so tragic.