Hundreds of Kashmiri women have taken to the streets to protest the death of a 32-year-old woman, who died after being allegedly set on fire by her in-laws in the Khanyar locality of Srinagar, on the day of Eid-ul-Adha, for “giving birth to two daughters”. Mahajeebana succumbed to her burn injuries in the hospital. Her case is one of those rare instances where crime against women in Kashmir’s male dominated society is being reported, discussed and protested.
Women protesters from the Ishber Nishat locality, Mahajeebana’s maternal home, have been gathering in the streets demanding stern action against her in-laws, including her husband, for allegedly murdering her. The police said it has filed an FIR and claimed that Mahajeebana immolated herself after facing severe pressure from her in-laws. The police is waiting for the port-mortem report and has arrested four persons, including her husband. They will be in police remand until 6 October.
Mahajabeena’s family members are claiming that her in-laws sprinkled kerosene on her body on the day of Eid and burnt her to death for “failing to give birth to a son”. They are rubbishing the police claim that she committed suicide. They said Mahajabeena’s two daughters, Madiha and Nakida, who are in the custody of her parents, were ignored by their father because of their gender.
A senior police officer told The Sunday Guardian that they had recorded Mahajeebana’s statement while she was undergoing treatment at the SKIMS hospital. “She told us that her mother-in-law and sister-in-law did not stop her from self-immolation and blamed them for torturing her for giving birth to two daughters,” the officer said.
Mahajabeena’s death has triggered a debate in political circles too. Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said on Friday that people should stand up against such crimes against women, especially in Srinagar, adding Islam did not allow such crimes. The ruling People’s Democratic Party and opposition National Conference have demanded exemplary punishment for Mahajabeena’s in-laws.
The State Women’s Commission has recorded 113 cases of violence against women from January to September this year but all these cases are being pursued at a very slow speed, with the victims of violence not getting any justice from the courts, the police or from the Commission. In fact, the Commission is yet to record Mahajeebana’s case.
The J&K police Crime Branch says that they have investigated many cases, especially those relating to dowry deaths and hundreds of cases of cruelty by husband. “In most of these cases, finally there are compromises by the families for the sake of their children under the influence of local mohalla committees,” said a Crime Branch officer, while admitting that very few people have been convicted in Kashmir for such crimes.