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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Looka Mout

Once upon a time, probably in August 1994, a 28-year-old tailor in Qalamdanpora Nawab Bazar, Srinagar, was accused of raping a three-and-a-half-year-old girl by the baby's aunt. People gathered and the crowd swelled into thousands within minutes. The accused was grabbed and dragged to Kani Mazar in a thick procession where he was stoned to death. Everybody reported what the multitude of the people perceived to be true. 'Rapist of a three-and-a-half-year-old baby girl lynched to death'. In a week, or perhaps 10 days, I from Kashmir Times, alongwith photographer Fayaz Kabli, started an investigation. The girl’s family told us that the tailor had already shut the windows of his room on the 3rd floor where he was cooking rice on a heater. As usual the baby girl went to the neighbour's home and began playing with kids. When she went upstairs, she was seized by the tailor and raped. She came down while bleeding and weeping. She was rushed to SMHS and further referred to Lal Ded where doctors confirmed rape and gave her medication. Meanwhile, angry crowd lynched the tailor to death. The tailor's family said that the girl as usual was playing with their kids. She slipped and fell on a step and began weeping. Her aunt came and took her while shouting that "wrong" had been done with her. Her allegations of "wrong" spread like a wild fire. Within minutes, large number of people gathered and nobody listened to the poor tailor and his family. The tailor was dragged out, paraded and done to death in utter helplessness. During our investigation, a group of 3 Hizbul Mujahideen militants, each armed with AK-47 rifles, walked into the tailor's home and asked us why we were working on it. They asked who had sent us, why we didn't reach there in previous 10 days blah blah blah. Their last word: "Be fair. We will check your report". Another group of the militants of Jamiatul Mujahideen appeared with similar warning when we were at the girl’s home. They said before working further, we must see their commander who had called us to the canteen of SMHS Hospital. We went to see the commander. He had good manners and arranged for a tea for us. He contended that the tailor had raped the girl and brought to justice by the people. He too wanted us to be “fair” and warned that any “wrong reporting” would land us in trouble. With one militant group supporting the tailor's family and another group the girl’s family, we had in fact already landed in trouble. Since we were firm in our resolve, completely neutral---and fortunately both the groups said we should not come under any influence and should work and report according to our Imaan--- we went ahead. When we quizzed the cute little girl, who was now with her mother at maternal home at Zaldagar, she narrated that the 'uncle' (tailor) caught her, pulled off her trouser and did the "wrong" which caused bleeding and she was rescued by her aunt when she screamed. I asked her same question after intervals three times during the course of our taking the tea with all members of the family. All the three times, the baby narrated the same, with no change of punctuations or tempo. All the three times, she began gasping and weeping at the end of the 30-second narration. That made us suspicious that the incredibly smart baby girl had mugged up and rehearsed the narration from someone. Elders said that the girl’s parents rushed her to SMHS wherefrom she was referred to Lal Ded. They said that the doctors prescribed medication and confirmed rape in a certificate. When we wanted to see the certificate, they said it was with the girl’s father who was not present. It took us four days of labour to reach the truth. We discovered that actually there was a dispute on 6 ft. of land between the two neighbours. That particular day's temperature was around 37 degree Celsius and there was a remote possibility of the tailor sitting on the prowl with all the windows of his 10x10 ft. room shut and he being cooking the rice on heater. At SMHS it was confirmed to us that the girl had been brought there, examined and referred to Lal Ded for gynecological examination. We went to Lal Ded and found that the girl had been examined by famous gynecologist Dr Farhat Hameed. She was not present. Next day, we managed to meet her at her residence---well in front of today’s KNS office in Press Enclave. During our interaction, we asked Dr Farhat if she had found the girl sexually violated. She said "NO". We asked her why then she had issued certificate of sexual assault. Was it under the pressure of the militants supporting the girl’s family? She said in such matters no lady doctor would act under any pressure. “She is less than 4 year old. Had she been raped, she would have died or been injured badly”, Dr Farhat said. Thereupon, she pulled out a copy of her examination report of the girl which clearly recorded that her hymen was intact and there was not even the slightest evidence of any physical force or violation on her body. Even her outfits were in order. In the next few days, my 3,000-word investigative story with Fayaz Kabli’s photos---arguably the only one of its kind in post-1990 era in Kashmir----published on first half page and last full page of KT. And nobody of either side, not even the militants holding AK-47 rifles, turned up with displeasure or a threat. It only underscores the need of "thorough probing" which the holy Quran prescribed strictly for such situations. It means that the mass outcry can be sometimes a fact, sometimes a fiction and, more dangerously, sometimes a mixture of both.

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