SRINAGAR, May 26: A feature film based on the horrific rape and murder of two women in Shopian was screened at St Lawrence Art Centre in Portland, US, highlighting the grisly crime that took place on May 29 three years ago.
Chris Giamo and his partner Kelsey Kobic made the film, simply named In Shopian, following an exhaustive interview with Shakeel Ahmad, whose wife Neelofar Jan (22) and sister Asiya (17) were the victims of the controversial Shopian incident of 2009.
Shot in 2010, In Shopian presents a firsthand account of the incident. Its trailer begins with a long caption that immediately reflects the story.
‘On May 29, 2009, Shakeel Ahmed Ahangur, a Kashmiri man living in the town of Shopian, returned home from work to find his wife and sister missing. After notifying the police and searching through the night, he discovered their battered bodies in a nearby river.
Although the initial postmortem stipulated that they had been gang-raped and murdered, the Indian government’s Central Bureau of Investigation later changed the ruling to death by accidental drowning. The incident immediately sparked massive strikes and protests.’
Shakeel rejected the CBI report and described it as concocted.
‘I don’t remember the exact date when the filmmakers interviewed me for the film. But they promised to highlight the truth,’ Shakeel said about Giamo’s movie. A postgraduate in documentary film and history from Syracuse University, Giamo is wellversed in south Asian studies and the Hindi language. He is also known for his strong human rights activities.
The film also features interviews with separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq as well as moving scenes of street battles between the youth and the police.
The filmmakers told the Portland Press Herald that ‘there are an estimated 6,00,000 security personnel, and the population is about 12 million. The general public is not as well informed about Kashmir as they are about, say, the Palestinians or Tibet’.
‘The film is about drawing attention to the struggle of ordinary people. As to the Shopian incident, there have been thousands of similar incidents over the past two decades, with huge numbers of disappeared people, people executed extra-judicially, and rape cases,’ Giamo said.
A day after Neelofar and Asiya went missing, their bodies were found near the banks of a stream in Shopian town in south Kashmir. People accused the Jammu and Kashmir Police and central security forces deployed in the trouble-torn Valley of ‘raping and murdering the two women before throwing the corpses into the stream’.