The Army's image in Kashmir has once again come under question. An 18-year-old girl Shahida Parveen of border village Badlob Tulail in Bandipora's Gurez quarter has petitioned before Jammu and Kashmir High Court that the commanding officer (CO) of Army's 20 Punjab Infantry Regiment camping in the area—Col Ranjan Jamwal has repeatedly raped her mother.
The CO is also accused of threatening the victim to framing her husband and two sons in subversive activities, should she disclose it to anyone, ultimately forcing the family to flee from the village. The family has now taken shelter in Sopore.
Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir, after hearing the case on Friday, issued notices to defence secretary, chief of army staff, GOC Srinagar-based 15 Corps, SDM Gurez, local MLA Nazir Gurezi and in-charge of local police Chowki asking them to respond in four weeks. The court also directed Inspector General of Police (Kashmir range) to give full protection to the family.
The petitioner through her counsels, Mian Abdul Qayoom, ZA Quraishi and SH Thoker told the court that the Army, in 2005, launched a social welfare scheme under OPERATION SADHBAVANA in the area and involved local people in the activity and sought the representation of women representative. "My mother being the only educated woman, the local residents recommended her name," Shahida told the court. "Till November 2005 everything was all right and she did not experience any ill-will or immoral act. But in November 2005 when due to heavy snowfall the members of the SADHBAVANA COMMITTEE stopped visiting the office, the Commanding Officer of 20 Punjab Infantry Regiment sent some troops to the petitioner's house and asked her mother to report to his office. Since that day the officer started exploiting her," the petition said.
The CO is alleged to have threatened the victim that he would frame her husband and two sons in subversive activities if she revealed it to any one. "The whole thing however came to fore in June 2006 when she was asked to arrange some more girls for a visiting team of Army officers," the petition added. The victim is reported to have told her agony to the village elders, who accompanied her to the CO. The CO is alleged to have beaten up the lady in presence of the village elders, after which she complained to the Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) and in-charge of the local police chowki.
The petition further said that the SDM contacted the Army's Brigade headquarters, who assured him of the court martial of the CO and two other soldiers involved in the crime, which did not happen. "Instead, the CO sent some soldiers in civvies to the petitioner's house where they molested the victim and her two other daughters, beat her husband and two sons. They were saved by the ASI Abdul Ahad Khan who visited the house in time," the petition added.
The ASI is reported to have shifted the family to the police chowki and kept them there for three days. The family however returned to their house after local MLA Nazir Ahmad Gurezi intervened. "The CO kept them under house arrest and banned them to move out of their house. The area remains cut off during winter days and what has befallen on the family in the winter cannot be expressed in words," the petition said. The CO is accused of asking the victim to produce her daughter Shahida (petitioner) to him before he was transferred from the Valley.
Meanwhile the Army authorities have outrightly rejected the allegations leveled by Shahida in her petition to the High Court.
Defence spokesperson Lt Col AK Mathur said "the petition is false and baseless". "Basically, father of the girl (petitioner) is a miscreant. He had filed two petitions before the High Court earlier also, which were dismissed by the Court in Army's favour. The present petition has been filed only after the colonel was transferred," he told the Hindustan Times.