‘Burqa’ deadline: Militants kill three women in Rajouri
20 December 2002
The Indian Express
Jammu: Within hours of the expiry of their deadline for Muslim women and girls to wear the burqa, militants early this morning killed three women, including two students and a teacher, at Hasiyot in Thanamandi tehsil of Rajouri district. The killings — first by militants over the issue of burqa in the state sparked panic in the Muslim-dominated district with girls and women teachers going to their educational institutions either in the veil or having covered their faces with a duppatta. The veil has never been in vogue among Muslim women in this district as the area is inhabited mostly by Gujjars. Those killed were identified as Nureen Kousar, a first-year student of Government Degree College at Rajouri; Shehnaz, second-year student of Girls Higher Secondary School at Palanghar; and Tahira, a private school teacher. While Tahira was picked up by militants from a wedding function at the house of her uncle, Khalil Mirza, Shehnaz and Nureen were abducted from their homes. The targets seemed to have been selected carefully as all the three belonged to moderate Muslim families who didn’t wear the burqa despite militant threats, sources said. Tahira’s father, Mohammad Akhram, a farmer, had been shot dead by militants in 1996. Shehnaz’s father, Rafiq, had retired from the Army a year ago while Nureen’s father was a BSF head-constable. Shehnaz was continuing her studies even after her marriage to one Abdul Wassad. The police are blaming the group, Al Badr Mujahideen, for the killings but the locals say its the Lashkar-e-Jabbar, an offshoot of Lashkar-e-Toiba, which has been carrying out the burqa campaign. Rajouri SP P R Manhas said Al Badr Mujhahideen had issued a poster in the area 10 days ago asking the locals to keep away from the security forces. They may have suspected the deceased to be informers, Manhas said. He even identified the militants as Zubair Gul, Abdullah Shaheen-ul-Islam and Zahid Badri, all foreigners. The locals say Al Badr Mujahideen has never operated in the district. It was the Lashkar-e-Jabbar that has been been asking the women to wear the burqa and men to wear sherwani for over a month now with little response. The first group had first surfaced in the Valley two years ago when it warned Muslim women and girls of dire consequences if they did not wear the burqa. Following resentment among the locals after acid was thrown on schoolgirls, all the major militant outfits had denied any links with Lashkar-e-Jabbar. Since then, there had been no word from it. What set alarm bells ringing this time was the deadline of December 19. A huge banner appeared at the main entrance of Government Degree College last evening, threatening all those defying the diktat with dire consequences. The CRPF has been camping at the college for the past six months. The militants launched their campaign for burqa at Darhal where they pasted a poster outside the Government Higher Secondary School, asking girls to discontinue their studies. Later, they said they could go wearing a burqa. This morning, the militants first came to the house of Khalil Mirza and called Tahira out of the marriage function. They took her away and killed her. Then they went to the house of Shehnaz and beheaded her. Later, they abducted Nureen and shot her dead when she tried to escape. The police and security forces rushed to the area only after they came to know about the killings this morning. Source said that militants had hanged a banner outside the local Jama Masjid warning people of similar consequences if they defied their dictat. The banner was later removed by the police.