The Zahida Case : Preferring Death Over Rape

LKH DeskJuly, Killings Comments

Zahida D/O Muhammad Akbar Dar lived in Choong ( Shamsabad) Dooru of Islamabad district in South Kashmir. Zahida was killed by a Rashtriya Rifles soldier masquerading as a militant, whom he intended to rape, in the intervening night of 13th and 14th July 2005 at around 11pm.

The soldier had entered the house through a window after the inmates refused to allow him into the house. When the inmates raised clamor, he fired at and stabbed Zahida, and fled from the house while spraying bullets at the chasing villagers. CRPF troopers manning in the paddy fields thought he was a militant and gunned him down. Later the dead soldier was identified as Baljinder Singh of 49 Rashtriya Rifles.

The family members said that at 11pm on Wednesday night, they heard someone knocking at their door. “We heard a knock at the door but did not respond to it. For we knew that at this point of time no civilian would dare to move out of his home and having five daughters of marriageable age at home, its not the safe thing to do. However, he climbed a walnut tree adjacent to our house and jumped into our compound. His face was veiled. He was in civvies,” said Muhammad Iqbal, 14, younger brother of Zahida, his testimony punctuated by incessant sobs and copious flow of tears. Iqbal was the first person to identify the veiled intruder as the RR personnel. “I told my father that he is not a militant but a soldier who was stationed adjacent to our house on 12th July when RR troops had cordoned off the whole village”, he added.

While recollecting the whole incident, Muhammad Akbar Dar, Zahida’s father, said, “jumping over the wall into the second floor, he identified himself as a militant and wanted shelter for overnight. I refused to oblige. Immediately he flung out a pistol pointing it at me and then press-ganged all of us except my wife and daughter to move into a room before bolting it from outside. He stepped upstairs where Zahida was sleeping”.

“Sensing his intentions we screamed to aware them. Hearing our screams, they rushed downstairs. However, on seeing him, they ran shrieking to save their honour but he grabbed Zahida, in the scuffle fired her in chest, and then stabbed her with army knife in her abdomen, killing her instantly.”

On hearing the cries, villagers came out of their houses, went to Dar’s house, and began arrangements for the funeral of 25 year-old Zahida.

Family members informed Unheard Voices that shockingly there was power failure in the part of the village; they live in, just after the echo of bullet.

Fearing that he might be caught, Baljinder Singh fled and just after fifteen minutes the villagers heard sound of three bullets fired, which they later came to know were fired by the CRPF patrolling party, instrumental in killing the soldier.

Early morning on Thursday, people found dead body of the murderer in rice fields along with one AK-47 rifle, a bag containing army uniform, some keys and army knife. Villagers did not have any clue about the death of the soldier. Locals quoting police sources said that a patrol party of troopers of 143 Battalion of CRPF signalled the soldier to stop but soon fired presuming him to be a militant. However, the KNS said, when they identified him, they left his body in the field. The villagers kept the killer’s body near a mosque.

“I know he has been killed but I am sure there were other persons accompanying him, how come he could have moved out of the camp on his own that too in the dead of the night when they even don’t move alone during the day”, Zahida’s mother Haleema said.

According to the family, the murderer was after the girl for the past 13 days. “On July 2, the troops belonging to 49 RR launched a search operation in the village. During the searches, the killer, who was posted near our house along with his colleagues, ordered us to make tea and Zahida prepared and served them tea. What else could we do? He passed obscene remarks towards her and had been coming to the village since then. Today when I saw his body I recognized the devil,” said agitated Ruby, Zahida’s sister.

The villagers informed that the RR personnel had visited the house of Ghulam Hassan Wani, Sub Inspector in J&K Police, prior to his forced entry into Zahida’s house. “While using abusive language he demanded shelter and even told inmates to have their daughter for the night”, villagers said. Ghulam Hassan chased him outside the house.

“We wont stop in the middle, we will fight until justice will be delivered. I lost my daughter but such incident must not happen to any other Zahida. There are many Zahidas living within the terror of Indian forces”.

Police had registered a case vide FIR No. 87/05 under section 302 RPC and 7/27 Arms Act, dated 14-7-2005. Post mortem indicated death by sharp edged weapon and district police had filed a similar report on the incident.

PS: There are such countless incidents wherein the armed forces have succeeded in violating the modesty of Kashmiri women but then there are cases like that of Zahida, who chose death over rape. The sentiment, thus, lives on.

– Data Source: Voices Unheard

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