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October 27, 2009

CBI’s Mission Kashmir

Manufacturing consent on Shopian rapes, murders

Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal

The CBI may have succeeded in its mission in Shopian, that of what Noam Chomsky refers to as manufacturing consent about non-existence of any violations in the twin rapes of Asiya Jan and her sister-in-law Neelofar Jan. But this is only as far as the opinion outside Jammu and Kashmir, formed by a consistent over-drive of narration of lies, is concerned.

Within Jammu and Kashmir, especially in Kashmir Valley, the exercise of manufacturing consent, however, has not only met with skepticism but also renewed bout of disappointment and erosion of already fragile confidence of the people in institutions of the State. As Majlis-e-Mushawarat Shopian, spearheading the agitation for justice in the Shopian rapes and murders case for the last nearly five months, has pointed out: “The CBI appears to be completing the unfinished business of agencies previously investigating the crime.”

The observation is not without basis. The previous investigators, from Justice Jan Commission to the Special Investigation Team of Jammu and Kashmir Police, failed to follow the more significant threads in their probes. They instead flourished with pack of baseless stories – from drowning theory to circulating different kinds of post mortem reports – to add to the confusion and topped it up with an extra dose of character assassination of the victims and their family. The CBI has only contributed its own pack of lies and embellished one of the most complex cases of human rights abuse in Kashmir’s recent history with more confusion.

Evidence, other than circumstantial evidence, may severely be lacking in the rapes and murders of the two women, especially with fudged up forensic evidence and botched up post mortem reports, making it difficult to sift fact from fiction very scientifically. Such lapses, however, do not allow anyone the privilege to conclude that no rape or murder ever took place. Infact, sweeping remarks by investigating agencies makes their version of the story not only unpalatable but also reveals that this is being done by design.

The conspiracy is too deep rooted, well planned and systematic. CBI is only a part of that conspiracy; the investigating agency’s role, however, has been more ‘authentically’ performed at least as far its mapping on the national scene is concerned, only because it escapes the temptation of sound just as jarring as the previous investigating agency.

CBI’s role becomes fishy both in the manner of its investigations and its bid to selectively use media as a tool to further its interests, from the theory of ‘virginity’ of one of the rape and murder victims Asiya Jan to the possibility of drowning. In none of the statements any of the officers have been quoted. All the reports based on such theories merely quote the CBI sources.

The only officially doled out statement is the one from CBI Director Ashwani Kumar, on October 12, about abject refusal to interrogate the policemen accused of tampering evidence and instead maintaining that focus of the investigations is whether the FIR lodged in the case was right or wrong. There is something decidedly weird about the obsession of the investigators with the FIR right from the day one. Why should there be an issue over the delay in forensic reports from Srinagar’s Forensic Science Laboratory in the beginning of June this year, even though the formality of FIR, which forms the preliminary basis of investigations, really does not depend on availability of such formal reports? But that is what the state police’s special investigating team (SIT) did.

The CBI has followed the same route, its Director talking about the investigation pivoting around whether the FIR lodged was right or not. An FIR is not the final investigation, it is not even the basic challan presented in the court, which is a more formal shape of the presentation of investigations. The shape and form of an FIR is immaterial. Then why should it invite so much of hairsplitting by an investigating agency touted to be the country’s most prestigious one?

Even more glaringly, like the previous investigators, the CBI has decided to shut its eye to the suspects involved in tampering of the evidence in the case and the cover-up thereafter. The CBI officer has maintained that its investigators are not planning to interrogate the officers and that this aspect of the case does not form part of the investigations. Interestingly, the Indian intelligentsia, which so much wishes human rights abuse to be non existent, has not even questioned the wisdom behind this ‘conclusion’ which at best appears to bail out the culprits, atleast guilty of tampering evidence. Does the CBI deem them innocent and does everybody else fall for that story as blindly as the blind murders of the two women after their rapes. It doesn’t take an exceptionally high IQ to realize that tampering of evidence is not done without design. Taking all the trouble to wash off the blood stains from the spot where the bodies were recovered, wiping off wheel tracks till the place are acts that did not spring from complacency. They were obviously aimed at concealing the truth and the identity of the culprits. That the administrative higher ups would go an extra mile in further botching up facts – SIT with its character assassination theory, the top brass of police including the CID with its multiple circulation of different and contradictory post mortem reports, some that completely obliterated the part about floating test that ruled out drowning as a possibility.

The authenticity of some of the medical reports may also be on shaky ground, especially after CBI’s revelation that the second team of doctors had given in fake vaginal swab slides. This version of CBI’s account may be more credible but appears to be only a fragment of the entire story of how medical tests and post mortem were conducted. It doesn’t tell us why the doctors did what they did. It also omits the details about doctors being asked by Director Health Services to personally deliver the samples at FSL Srinagar, even though that is not the normal procedure. There is obviously much more that is fishy in the story than CBI’s attempt to simply look for scapegoats.

A news report datelined Delhi on October 9, relying on a CBI source, indication of yet another devious bid to plant untruths, maintains, “Tests conducted on the exhumed bodies of two Shopian women whose deaths sparked off protests across the Valley amid allegations that they were raped and murdered are said to be indicative of “death by drowning”. Forensic experts are learnt to have verbally conveyed their findings to the CBI which is now probing the case.” However, in yet another report, a day previous to that, again filed from Delhi and quoting some CBI sources, states, “The CBI rejected doctors’ reports that one of the two women, who were allegedly raped and murdered in Shopian, was not raped……. According to agency sources, forensic reports to establish rape are yet to come.”

The reports are quite similar to the previous ones that CBI selectively leaked out to the media before and after the exhumation of bodies. The ‘broken hymen’ theory, which has not even been substantiated by making public the preliminary report of the doctors, and the interpretation of ‘Asiya’s virginity’ all appear to be part of CBI’s mission in Kashmir this time. The move in no way appears any different from the jarring notes of the SIT-Justice Jan Commission which earlier flung mud at the victims and their family, making sweeping remarks about their character.

CBI only does the same with a little more sophistication. But subtlety does not shrink the shrillness of the motive.

(Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal is executive editor of ‘Kashmir Times’ and a human rights activist. She is a member of the Women’s Initiative for Justice in Shopian rapes, murders.)


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