Kathua Rape: The True Story Behind ‘Tainted’ J&K Cop Irfan Wani
No one objected to the Jammu and Kashmir government transferring the investigation into the rape and murder of the 8-year-old Bakarwal girl in Kathua to the Crime Branch on 23 January. Nor did anyone question the constitution of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) when the names of its members were made public.
However, as the investigation progressed, leading to the detention of eight accused – all of whom belong to one community – allegations that the investigation was a farce began to float. Amidst these allegations, the name of one particular member of the crime branch that investigated the case was brought up again and again – Irfan Wani (real name Urfan). Past cases of murder and rape filed against Wani were brought back into focus to question the credibility of the investigation and its authorities. These allegations have gone a long way in their attempt to discredit the authorities.
The Quint spoke exclusively to Wani to decode the veracity of the grave murder and rape charge leveled against him.
Wani Faced Two ‘Dubious’ Cases
1. Charged with Custodial Murder of Rishi Kumar on 24 April 2007
2. Charged with Rape of Rishi Kumar’s sister on 25 April 2007
3. In custody from October 2009, Wani got bail in March 2011
4. Wani’s trials for murder & rape started in April 2009 & October 2010 respectively
5. On 11 May 2017, Wani was acquitted of all charges
How Did it Start? 'Framed For Not Helping BJP Leaders'
The Quint found out that charges were framed against Wani when he refused to oblige local and senior leaders of BJP, including two former state presidents. They wanted him to hush up a murder case against members of the Village Defence Committee (VDC) in Swara, Doda.
Wani claims to have recorded phone conversations with politicians where they said they would withdraw both FIRs against him if he agreed to withdraw his investigation into the murder cases against the VDC members. One of the leaders he claims spoke to him is now a BJP MLA from that area. But, Wani says, unsure of their word, he chose not to give in. He decided to continue his investigation into the murder case. This defiance turned the BJP leaders against him.
What Is the Murder Case BJP Leaders Wanted Wani to Stop Investigating?
On 17 May 2006, near Swara village in Doda, militants had intercepted a Tata Sumo car which had only the family of local BJP leader Mela Ram and his personal security officer (PSO) inside it. The militants took the rifle away from Ram’s PSO and allowed them all to leave unharmed.
The PSO went to the nearest VDC guards and complained about the militant stealing his rifle. To avoid any kind of investigation into the stolen rifle, the guards fired indiscriminately into the air to feign a confrontation with militants which they could use to justify losing the rifle. Farooq Ahmad Khan (28), who was grazing his sheep nearby, was fatally hit by one of these stray bullets. He was declared ‘brought dead’ at Public Health Centre (PHC) in Gandoh.
An FIR was filed by Khan's family under sections 302 and 109 of Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) against the members of the VDC at the Gandoh police station. Wani got the case as he was the additional SHO of the police station.
His investigation proved the case against the VDC members. A chargesheet was filed against six accused members of the VDC on 2 July 2007. However, Wani was transferred before the chargesheet was filed. He says that during this time, BJP leaders left no stone unturned in exerting pressure on him. He named a former BJP state President, DK Kotwal, as one of those pressurising him.
The Case That Got Wani Charged for Rape and Murder
The murder and rape charges leveled against Wani stem from the following case.
On 2 April 2007, in a family dispute, a man called Madan Lal was killed. Wani got the case as he was posted as the SHO of the Karara police station, where the incident occurred.
Madan Lal’s father, Fulail Singh, his step-brother, Rishi Kumar, his sister, and other family members were called in for questioning. The trial records categorically state that the sister was questioned while other family, relatives and the sarpanch of the village, Mohammad Ramzan, was present.
Since it was getting late in the evening, Ramzan insisted that the girl and her sister-in-law (wife of the deceased) stay at the police post and return to Chirala the next day. On 19 April, Lal’s father and step-brother Rishi Kumar, along with some more family members, were arrested. Rishi was taken to a judicial magistrate for remand on 20 April 2007. But Rishi fell ill on the same day and had to be rushed by Wani to the local public healthcare centre. He was referred to the District Hospital in Doda and therefrom to Government Medical College (GMC) Jammu on 22 April.
He, however, died on 24 April and Wani was there all along.
Both Charges Framed To Make Wani Bend
After Rishi died, his family filed a case of custodial killing against Wani. And that’s how the first charge was levied on 24 April.
A day after Rishi's death, his sister accused Wani of holding her against her will in his room in the Karara police post. She said he beat her and raped her repeatedly for seven days – he was subsequently charged with rape, and was suspended a day later.
Wani, whose marriage was approaching, fell into depression. He was treated by private psychiatrists and a government hospital for psychiatric diseases in Srinagar from June 2007 onwards. His marriage was called off.
Wani says these charges were levied against him to put pressure on him, as this was also the time that the chargesheet against the six accused in the VDC murder case was being filed. The BJP offered him a deal: They would withdraw both cases if he only shut down the VDC investigation.
Inquiry and Subsequent Acquittal
Wani surrendered on 12 October 2009 and was granted bail on 8 March 2011. Meanwhile, trial in the court of Additional Sessions Judge Doda commenced in the murder case from 8 April 2009 and in the rape case from 22 October 2010.
For the rape charge, the police didn’t find any material or circumstantial evidence of “recent rape”. It was also proved that Wani was at the Karara police post for only six of the seven days during which was accused of raping Rishi’s sister. The complainant in the rape case was repeatedly summoned to court, but she didn't appear even once for about eight years.
Eleven months after April 2007, a Deputy SP got her statement recorded under section 164-A Cr PC before a magistrate in Jammu. The statement given by the woman didn’t identify witnesses. Even the original copy was not provided to the trial court. And, she chose not to appear for cross-examination.
Similarly in the murder case, court documents stated that Rishi had high jaundice levels that contributed to his death, and noted that there were no external injury marks or injuries in his vital organs.
“…I am of this considered opinion that the prosecution has failed to establish the charge u/s 376 RPC (rape) against the accused beyond any reasonable shadow of doubt. The net result of which is that this challan fails and is accordingly dismissed as not proved and accused is acquitted of all the charges leveled against him,” recorded the judge in his final disposal of the alleged rape case on 11 May 2017. In an identical order on the same day, the trial court dismissed the alleged murder case and acquitted Wani of all charges.
The inquiry ordered by former IGP Jammu Dilbagh Singh also exonerated him of all charges of professional misconduct and criminal involvement. He was reinstated with full benefits.
Back in Service
The inquiry was conducted by three successive senior superintendents of police and supervised by two DIGs of Doda, Munish Kumar Sinha and Basant Kumar Rath. IGP Jammu SD Singh Jamwal accepted the fresh report submitted by DIG Basant Rath and ordered Wani’s total exoneration and reinstatement with full benefits.
Munish Kumar Sinha, who was DIG Doda then and now is IGP and posted as Joint Director with CBI, told The Quint:
Rape Complainant Nowhere To Be Found
It was reported that the complainant in the rape case had been staying with some social activists at RSS-run Atit Paristan Nari Niketan in Jammu. Her father Fulail Singh got out on bail medical grounds after he was arrested in a property dispute case. He filed an FIR against the RSS activist Narender Singh seeking recovery of his daughter.
As the police remained disinclined to deliver, Fulail Singh got an order from a judge directing the police to recover his daughter. Subsequently, Deputy SP finally tracked the girl down and produced her before the forest magistrate in Jammu, where her statement was recorded. The trial court has recorded that the original copy of that statement was never provided to him despite reminders to the registrar. In the last 8 years, the complainant has not been spotted anywhere in Jammu and Kashmir.
(The writer is a Srinagar-based journalist. He can be reached @ahmedalifayyaz. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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