While all eyes were on Home Minister Shivraj Patil’s peace mission, news of the alleged rape of a woman and her 10-year-old daughter by an Army officer in this remote village on Saturday night pushed tempers in the Valley to their familiar brink.
When the issue was brought up by reporters at an Iftaar party, Patil was visibly disturbed. ‘‘If anybody is guilty, we will take action,’’ he said. But his displeasure was directed at journalists as well. ‘‘Some people are creating terror, others are creating terror by spreading news,’’ he remarked. Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who came to Patil’s rescue, said his government had already ordered a probe.
‘‘It is a shameful act,’’ said Kupwara deputy commissioner Abdul Majid Khanday, adding that one case of rape had been confirmed by the doctors. ‘‘The police have filed an FIR against Major Rehman of 30 Rashtriya Rifles and a magisterial inquiry has been ordered,’’ said Khanday, who visited this village today. ‘‘I spoke to the women and the little girl. It is a tragedy.’’
The Army too promised stern action. ‘‘We have ordered an inquiry and anybody found guilty will be dealt with sternly,’’ Defence spokesperson Lt Col V K Batra said.
But the statements offer little consolation for this hamlet in Handwara, 85 kms north of Srinagar. The villagers were asleep last night when the troops of 30 RR raided, looking for the house of Abdul Rashid Dar, who plies a horse-cart for a living.
‘‘It was 11 pm. We were sleeping. There was a sudden knock at the door,’’ recalled Dar’s younger brother Abdul Majid, a 26-year-old labourer. ‘‘Before I could unbolt the door, the Armymen kicked it open. The officer didn’t even let me open my mouth and started hitting me. He was asking for guns. Then he threw me out, saying he wanted to question my wife. He asked my wife to undress but she resisted and rushed out. I pleaded with him. I told him she’s a heart patient,’’ he said.
According to Dar, the officer said he was looking for Rashid. ‘‘I told him I am Majid and showed him my brother’s room. He went in, pushed my brother out and asked his men to keep a watch on us. Then, all hell broke loose on our family,’’ he said. The Major allegedly took Rashid’s wife, a 35-year-old, to the kitchen. ‘‘He was asking for guns. I told him, we are poor people and there are no guns,’’ she said.
‘‘He pointed his gun towards my chest and asked me to undress. But I resisted. He tore my clothes. He pulled me out and took my daughter inside the kitchen.’’
The ten-year-old girl lay on the bed, her face bruised. She is unable to walk. ‘‘He asked me to undress. I didn’t know what to do... He did bad things to me.’’
The officer left the house, but returned after an hour. ‘‘We were crying. My daughter had told me everything,’’ said the woman. ‘‘The second time, they came in without even knocking. There was again only one man. The others were waiting outside,’’ she alleged. ‘‘He took me to the kitchen and..,’’ she trailed off, unable to continue.
‘‘He hit me and asked me not to tell anyone,’’ said the girl. ‘‘He said, we will kill your father, if you say anything.’’