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Husbands murdered for blood money

Srinagar, Dec. 18: Muheena Begum, a 28-year-old mother of two, is accused of plotting the murder of two husbands within four years and passing off their deaths as militant attacks to claim compensation.

Tariq Ahmed Sheikh, an army soldier, died in 2002 in what was described as a militant attack.

His widow got Rs 13 lakh ó Rs 2 lakh that the state government gives families of servicemen killed by militants, Rs 8 lakh from insurance that the army provides soldiers in militancy-hit areas and Rs 3 lakh as gratuity. She also inherited a house Sheikh owned in Jammu.

The same year, Muheena, who had a one-year-old daughter with Tariq, married ex-serviceman Tasveer Hussain Malik who left his first wife for her.

Police at Sopore in Baramulla, 55km north of Srinagar, where Sheikh was killed, meanwhile filed a case against the couple for the murder of Tariq. The trial is on at Baramulla sessions court.

Then Malik, who had been attached to Rashtriya Rifles during his stint with the Territorial Army, was killed on June 3, 2006.

“In June last year, her second husband was killed by some unidentified gunmen who barged into his house in Handwara and opened fire at him,” said Haseeb Mugal, police chief at Handwara, 80km north of Srina-gar.

Again, the death was described as a militant attack and Muheena, who had a son from the marriage, applied for compensation.

But before she could get the money, police in Handwara, probing the death for the past 18 months, found evidence of her role in the crime.

Muheena, a farmer’s daughter who lives with her parents and two children, now six and two, had applied for anticipatory bail a couple of months ago fearing arrest for Malik’s murder. The petition was rejected.

This week, the widow was arrested along with two men who had allegedly helped her kill Malik ó Charanjeet Singh, who like Muheena belonged to Handwara’s Chogul village, and Mohammad Amin Bhat from a neighbouring village.

“The two were regular visitors to her house and during investigations we found she had an affair with Charanjeet,” Mogul said.

The police have seized an AK-47 rifle which, they said, was used to kill Malik.

“After interrogation, it was revealed that the lady had paid Rs 70,000 to Charanjeet for executing the murder,” he said.

Muheena, Charanjeet and Bhat have been arrested and booked for murder. Police sources said two other locals have also been arrested.

There have been attempts in the past to cash in on militancy, even by soldiers themselves.

A few years ago, a colonel was dismissed in Assam for “ketchup killings” ó he made civilians pose in photographs as dead separatists by splashing their bodies with tomato puree in the hope of winning a gallantry award.

A major tried the same in Siachen, only he made his colleagues pose as dead Pakistani soldiers. But blood was not spilt in either case.

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