The Incarcerated Scholar

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Asem Mohiuddin

“My son was a book worm, a thinking scholar. After he was arrested police fabricated many fake cases on him and ruined his life forever. “In many states, the police had named my son in fictitious cases, Delhi, Kanpur, Lucknow, Agra, Aligarh, Nagpur.  It took us 16 long years to get these fake cases cleared.’’

The Family members of Gulzar Ahmad Ganai at their residence{ Photo Source: The Indian Express

Srinagar: Two kilometres away from the Srinagar – Baramulla national highway close to the Hamray Army base camp at Tapper Bala, a small hamlet, villagers are visiting the house of Phd scholar, Gulzar Ahmad Wani who has been recently acquitted in Sabarmati train blast case. It has been 16 long painful years for the family members of Wani, especially his old father Ghulam Ahmad who retired from the J&K’s Power Development department.

In past 16 years, older Wani left no stone unturned to prove the cases slapped on his son were wrong and fabricated soon after he was arrested by Delhi Police at Delhi Railway station when he was on way to Aligarh. Wani is now hopeful that in next few weeks his son will be back with his family.  

In 2001, Gulzar, then 28 years old was considered a bright student of his area who has been pursuing doctorate in Arabic. He was in his final year of completion of his degree when he was picked up by the police. Since then it has been long painful separation for him with his family.

Belonging to a middle class family, Wani’s also own big apple orchards, being a bright student Gulzar Wani had a dream to achieve something big in education. In pursuance of higher education he left his native place but he never knew that destiny has something else in store for him and leaving his home will prove disastrous for him. After completing his Masters in Arabic, the young man got enrolled in PhD at prestigious Aligarh Muslim University. However, after his detentions he has to leave his doctorate halfway.

 “It was August 2001, when my son was picked from Delhi Railway station. We came to know about his arrest after 15 days through media,’’ said Ghulam Ahmad Wani his father, while receiving guests and neighbours who had come to greet him after they came to know about his acquittal through newspapers. “My son was a book worm, a thinking scholar. After he was arrested police fabricated many fake cases on him and ruined his life forever. “In many states, the police had named my son in fictitious cases, Delhi, Kanpur, Lucknow, Agra, Aligarh, Nagpur.  It took us 16 long years to get these fake cases cleared.’’

 Wani said that had government been sincere all these cases could have been cleared within few years. “Only after Supreme Court intervened last year, the High Court started taking pains, otherwise God knows when my son would have got cleared.’’

Hussain Fazili [ Photo source: Google

Wani is hopeful that his son’s last case at Nagpur will also get cleared within few weeks and he could return home. “For us, it has been a long fight for justice. My only question and request to government is that many Kashmiri’s are fighting fictitious cases and their cases should move on fast track basis, otherwise families get ruined.’’ Wani is again planning to travel to Nagpur and is hopeful his son will be released and there would be no more fresh cases slapped on him. “For my family it has been a testing time and by the grace of Almighty, we faced it bravely.’’

Gulzar’s younger brother Mudasir Ahmad Wani who is a student said that family has seen many highs and lows in these years. “We never lost hope. Our grandparents passed away while my brother was in jail and so marriages took place in our family without our older brother. Now we have nephews and nieces who have never seen their uncle and they keep enquiring about him.’’

Though family is happy over acquittal of Gulzar, but they say that once he reaches home they will celebrate his release. “I am anxiously waiting for the day when Wani will join us and we can sit and chat like the way we used to 16 years ago,’’ said his another brother, Javid who has raised his own family in absence of his brother. He said that in these years many things have changed and it will be difficult for his brother to even recognise the house where they are staying. “When he last left this village, we didn’t have this house. Even many things have changed in our village. The years have passed we didn’t even realise that. Our brother has lost precious years, and nobody is going to compensate those lost years.’’ 

Gulzar is not alone who has suffered long incarceration in the prison before he was cleared from all the charges and declared innocent.  Recently, two Kashmiris, a resident of Alesteng and Mohammad Maqbool were released by the court after a decade after Delhi court cleared them from all the charges. In February, Rafiq Shah of Alesteng and Hussain Fazili of Sir Sayed Colony were acquitted after 11 years in 2005 Delhi blast case. It took 11 long years for their families to prove that they are innocent and their detention was illegal. “When I reached the gate of my house, I saw three people holding a woman,” says Hussain, 41. “It was only when she cried out loudly that I realised I was standing in front of my mother.” He says that in his absence everything has changed in his locality even the family has grew bigger.

On the night of November 21, 2005, Hussain, who dealt in shawls, says that he was picked by the security agencies.

Maqbool Shah with his family children at home [ Image source: The wire

“I had purchased – Shahtoosh, made from the wool of the Tibetan antelope Chiru, is banned in J&K and discussed it with a trader. I thought I was picked for that shawl only and had no idea about blasts in Delhi.’’

Hussain was taken to Air Cargo, the headquarters of the Special Operations Group (SOG), the counter-insurgency group of the J&K police. “It was only when I reached Cargo that I realised I was in serious trouble,” he says. “There, I was beaten up the whole night. Three days later, they put us on a plane to Delhi and from there, straight to the Lodhi Colony police station.” he says.

During the trial that lasted 11 years, Hussain spent his time mostly in solitary confinement in Jail No. 1 of Tihar, it was only he came to know about the detention of another Kashmiri, Mohammad Rafiq Shah who was also fixed in the blast case. They became acquaintances, looking for ways to get themselves out of the prison. “It was painful for our families that we were serving prison in the crime which we have never committed.”

Mohammad Rafiq Shah, now 41 was then a final-year PG student of Islamic Studies at Kashmir University, when he was picked by the sleuths of Special Operation Group of J&K police; he was accused of playing a part in the 2005 Delhi bomb blasts. This spring after 11 years when he reached home, everything has changed.

Rafiq Shah[ Image source: Google

“Everything here reminds me of how long it has been. The trees, these children, my parents, even my room. Everything has changed.”

He says during interrogation, he was subjected to humiliation and torture by the police in New Delhi. “Some things, I can’t even express.’’ Shah who now plans to complete his education says that efforts were made to prolong his case. “I could have proved my innocence within one or two year, but police and court kept on dragging. It took us eleven long years to prove we are innocent.’’ Shah says that who is now going to compensate him for the years he lost in jail.

Before Shah and Hussain, two more Kashmiri’s were released after years of detention when court found them innocent.

Mirza Ifthikar Hussain of the old city who was dealing in handicrafts in Delhi was released after 13 years after serving jail. “I was dealing in handicrafts and arrested in 1996 from my rented accommodation. I was tortured and it was only in court that I came to know I was labelled as the activist of Islamic Front. It took be years in court for acquittal,’’ he says. His brother, Nissar Ahmad was also arrested with him and both were blamed for the 1996 Lajpat Nagar bomb blast, while Hussain was acquitted in 2010, his brother was sentenced to death and two years later he was also acquitted from the case. “Our family had to raise the loan and bear hardships to seek justice for us. We even lost our flourishing business,’’ says Hussain who is now 42 years old.

Syed Maqbool Shah was also arrested in the Lajpath Nagar blast case and when he was arrested he was a teenager and after spending 13 years in Tihar jail he has already lost prime of his life. “Even after six years of my release I found myself in a bigger jail. The prison life has ruined my life and prospects of bright future,’’ he says.

Though J&K government or separatist leadership has been crying hoarse about the miseries of the Kashmiri’s who were accused in fake cases and put in different jails, however, they did nothing to help them. Even J&K government after clear cut acquittal from the courts could have provided them solace by offering them compensation; it could have at least given them a chance to start their lives afresh. But, nobody seems bothered for the future of these Kashmiri’s who lost their prime to Valley’s politics and conflict situation.

The story is from the print edition of June 7 -13, 2017

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