A year after the Shopian deaths have transcended their narrow criminal definition and come under an overarching political context of the Valley
POINT OF VIEW BY RIYAZ AHMAD
CBI might have ruled out rape and murder of the two women in Shopian but the deaths remain a major emotional issue in Valley. The complete shutdown over the anniversary of the alleged crime was a reminder that the issue is not going away anytime soon. In fact, it already has assumed a certain symbolic significance in the history of the atrocities in the state over the past two decades. The deaths have become one of the most recognizable piece of Kashmir story, something that people in Kashmir relate to despite the controversy surrounding the incident.
But Shopian is unique too. It is not about an exceptional alleged crime. In fact the facts of the case are immaterial now. The only absolute truth about the incident is that the deaths have taken place and bodies have been fished out from the stream. The debate whether the deaths were by drowning or a case of homicide will not be settled for eternity now. CBI by rushing through the investigation and making an open and shut case of drowning has only created more questions than answers. What has further complicated matters is the way the national media went along with CBI story, treating it for once as a gospel truth.
It would be OK if the media didn't take CBI work in all other cases with a pinch of salt and didn't subject these to harsh scrutiny. As for example in Aarushi, Ruchika and Rizwanur Rahman case which are still followed with huge interest with a relentless focus on CBI's investigation methods. In fact, in all these cases media has been running a parallel investigation, checking and cross-checking CBI's questioning of witnesses, arresting of suspects, collecting incriminating material etc. So has been the investigating agency’s handling of various other high profile cases - Bofors, fodder scam, Sikh riots - been a staple news content for the news channels and the print media.
Then why has CBI conclusion in Shopian been so sacrosanct. Why has there never been a single follow-up story about the weak spots of the investigation, when there are many. There has been a reasonable concern in some quarters in Valley about what is seen as a flawed body of evidence built up by CBI to sustain its conclusion.
Here the objective is not to rundown the report, or be cynical of the official investigating system, even though there may be a very good cause to do so. The objective is to ask questions. The questions that appear to be valid to a common man and resonate with the people at large.
Though CBI probe may have had answers for almost every question surrounding the deaths, the answers leave a wide room for more questions. Sure, there will always be questions but when answers in a probe conclude no murder and rape in one of the most polarizing deaths in Kashmir 's history, the margin of questions has to be narrowed to the minimum. But answers in CBI probe seem to be very literal, linear and logical. For example, there are few takers in Kashmir for CBI’s explanation that the two crucial witnesses Ghulam Mohiudin Lone and Abdur Rashid Pampori had been forced by the lawyers to arbitrarily claim having seen a blue coloured Tata police vehicle parked near the scene of crime on the day the two women went missing. The explanation wouldn’t seem so apocryphal if CBI had explained the very origination of the police vehicle theory. Were it the witnesses themselves who first talked about seeing the police vehicle or this was something that was taught to them by the lawyers? Was it all conjured up deliberately, or was it just a random rumour taking on serious colour. Or crucially did this theory have a basis somewhere. Or of course why were the two witnesses not subjected to narco-tests to ascertain the truth or atleast to provide a scientific answer to a tricky part of the investigation prone to several interpretations.
This and other questions have been debated in the local media and in private discussions but have never found space in the larger national news agenda. CBI report ever since it was made public has been the be all and end all of the Shopian story. Why? An honest and objective debate on the report in the national media would certainly have made a redeeming difference to the public perception. This would have kept a sense of the pursuit of justice alive, as is the case with the Ruchika, Aarushi and of course Rizwan case. But instead Shopian has been antiseptically jettisoned as an evolving story with an end. And this in turn has left Kashmir street alone to deal with it.
This is why a year after the deaths have transcended their narrow criminal definition and come under an overarching political context of the Valley. They awaken a collective memory of the excesses that this place has been subjected to over the excruciating course of the past twenty years. And whose latest example is the fake encounter in Machil Kupwara of the youth and immediately before that of a seventy year old beggar in the same part of Kashmir . This is why it is not really important what caused the mystery deaths of the two women in Shopian. It is the endemic public perception of these deaths being executed by the security or police personnel that is important. For this perception is not without basis. It derives from the brutalized history of the past two decades, encounters, fake encounters, custodial deaths, random killings on the street, even killings by the militants which together make up a massive toll of around 80,000 lives. For the people it is the hallmarks of the Shopian deaths, the circumstances surrounding them, that follow a familiar pattern and tell a larger story of Kashmir that is real. If Shopian is not true, there are hundreds of other stories that precede and succeed it. To recall again, the staged encounter of the beggar and the three youth in the north Kashmir . Shopian is therefore not an aberration – either as a crime or a perception of the crime - but just another big story in the continuum of stories that make the present story of Kashmir
Lastupdate on : Tue, 1 Jun 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 1 Jun 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 2 Jun 2010 00:00:00 IST
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