Syed Nazakat in Kashmir
What if Mohamed Yousuf Shah alias Syed Salahudin had not been jailed and tortured in 1987? Would he and his supporter have taken weapons? Would there have been armed uprising against India in Kashmir? Would thousands of people have died in Kashmir? In 1987, all Salahudin wanted was to become a member of State Assembly of Jummu & Kashmir.
But when the elections were rigged, he lost not only the election but faith in India’s democracy as well. His polling agents and supporters were arrested and brutally tortured; later he rallied his supporters and launched an armed resistance to wrench Kashmir out of India. Today he is India’s most wanted man in Kashmir. He is the chief commander of Muttahida (United) Jihad Council, a conglomerate of 13 militant groups, which include Hizbul Mujahideen, Laskhar-e-Tioba and Jaish-e-Mohamed.
Two decades later, the lawlessness and vengeance that drove Salahudin into the arms of the Afghan warlord Gulbadin Hikmatyar in 1989 and transformed him from Mohammad Yousuf Shah to the veritable 13th century Islamic warrior, Salahudin, still exists in Kashmir.
According to details obtained from the state government in Kashmir, over 16,000 people have been jailed since 1989 under the Public Safety Act (PSA). Most of these people were arrested on the flimsy charges under the draconian PSA which empowers the government to detain a person without trial for two years. While the government claims that normalcy has returned to Kashmir, the number of people detained under this law in the year 2006 is nearly the same in 1990 when the two-decade long armed insurgency started in Kashmir.
Human rights organisations have been persistently demanding a review of the law. They say that it falls short of the recognised norms of justice, such as equality before the law, the right of the accused to appear before a court within 24 hours of arrest, fair trial in public, access to counsel, cross examination of the witnesses, appeal against conviction, protection from being tried under retrospective application of law and many other such provisions.
“This law is simply a draconian law, says Boloria, Supreme Court lawyer who has handled many cases involving the PSA. “A pattern of harassment, intimidation and deliberate disregard for the civil rights in Kashmir is very unfortunate,” says Boloria.
In Kashmir, people who may or may not be guilty of anything are clearly considered worthless. They tell stories of others losing their land, honour and lives with no recourse. The Jammu and Kashmir Human Rights Commission, a government body, reported that it had received 1,867, excluding figures of year 2007, complaints of human rights violations since 2002.
But the problem of harassment is not limited to Kashmir alone. Even when Kashmiris leave the valley in search of better future and life, their fate follows them. Take for example the case of Pervez Ahamed Radoo. Pervez, 29, a post graduate in Zoology from Baramulla district of Kashmir left home to pursue his PhD at the Pune University. He was arrested in Delhi and was accused of being ‘Jaish Mohamed terrorist plotting a mass murder in the national capital’. In a letter Pervez wrote from the Tehar Jail, he alleged that he was arrested from Delhi’s domestic airport on Sept 12, 2006 and kept in custody for a month and later presented to media as a terrorist. He described how brutally he was tortured in the police interrogation centre—with electrodes on his genitals and how he was forced to write a confessional statement.
His father, Sanaullah Radoo, a public school principal in Baramulla, is at loss to understand why his son was arrested and implicated into false case by the Indian police. “We owe nothing to anybody. But why did they frame my son into this false case?” he asked.
Pervez’s story leads to a raft of cases in which scores of people were arrested in various parts of India without charges and without their names being released. There are cases where innocent people were linked with terrorism and whipped up a frenzy whereby every man could be a suspected terrorist.
In Delhi alone, the special cell of the Delhi police has arrested 13 Kashmiri men in 2006. There were young Kashmiri boys like Gulzar Ahmed Ganai, a second year student; Imran Ahmad Kirmani, an aircraft engineer who was arrested on Nov 16 from South-West Delhi’s Dwarka; brothers Samiullah and Ali Mohamed Shiekh; businessmen like Mushtaq Ahmed Kaloo and Mohamad Iqbal of Baramulla; Mohamad Amin, 29, a junior assistant in Government Revenue Department and a number of other people who were charged under anti-terrorism laws.There was also the story of Tariq Ahmed Dar, a young Kashmiri model who was earlier arrested in Bangladesh as an Indian agent and later was arrested by the Delhi police as a Pakistani agent. He was wrongly jailed for three months and was released only when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh intervened. There was also a typical story of Haji Gulam Mohideen Dar when was arrested by the special cell of Delhi police on Aug 2, 2005. The Delhi police in its charge sheet said that Dar was working for the Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI. But the documents issued by the police officers in Kashmir revealed that accused was in fact the general secretary of Youth Congress and had contested parliamentary elections in Kashmir. He was given a certificate by the Additional Director General of Police in Kashmir that ‘he is personally known to him’ and was given a pistol by the police for his self defence.
Delhi-based senior journalist Iftikhar Gilani, who was also implicated by the police in a false case says many innocent people are forced to prove their innocence under a punitive and often life-threatening prison regime worse than that faced by convicted murderers.
In jail, Iftikhar Gilani was beaten and abjectly humiliated. In his book My Days In Prison, he tells of how, among other things, he was made to clean the toilet with his shirt and then wear the same shirt for days. After six months of court arguments and lobbying by his colleagues, when it became obvious that if the case against him continued it would lead to serious embarrassment, he was released.
Iftiqar Geelani says India is sending a wrong massage back to Kashmir by arresting innocent people and implicating them into false cases. He further says that if you arrest an innocent man, implicate him in false cases and ruin his life, you would create enormous resentment against the state, in the man, in his family, his friends and his entire community.
You would create a new breeding ground for future Salahudins in Kashmir.
(ANN/ April 2007)