Srinagar: Asif Ahmad Dar, 25, a resident of Janglaat Mandi in Anantnag, vividly remembers the horror he went through as a prisoner in the local police station. Narrating his ordeal, Dar said he was picked up by a team of Special Operations Group (SOG) in October 2016 from Srinagar airport when he arrived from Chandigarh.
“I was charged with instigating people in Anantnag town. I had left home for Chandigarh when police had started harassing me,” Dar said. He is studying for a Masters degree in History from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU).
“When they could not arrest me, the police arrested my brother and father. They kept them in the lock-up and started threatening my family members in a bid to coerce me to appear before the district police of Anantnag. I came back from Chandigarh in October. When I left the Srinagar airport terminal, I was picked up by a team of SOG from Cargo Srinagar. I was shifted to Anantnag where I was produced before the SSP Anantnag. Later, they released my father and brother,” he said.
He said that when the police lodged him in the Sadar police station at Anantnag, they asked him to remove his clothes. “Then a team of four policemen started beating me with bamboo sticks. They were yelling at me as to why I was provoking people to take out pro-freedom protests. They would ask me why I needed Azadi (freedom) when people wanted to go on with their routine life. If I would say nothing, they would beat me more,” Dar said.
“Before lodging me in the jail, they had already filed a case against me under RPC sections 107 (Instigation), 108 (Abetment), 109 (Conspiracy of abetment), 302 (Murder), and 16 unlawful activities,” he said.
There are currently 31 First Information Reports (FIRs) against Dar for his pro-freedom activities.
Dar said that at the Sadar police station in Anantnag, there were no facilities for him and other prisoners to cope with the chilling cold. “There was no heating arrangement. My mother brought a blanket for me but it was denied to me. There was no light, nothing except darkness. I had no idea whether it was day or night. The food was bad. If you ask for the food that the policemen eat, they charge you 50 rupees a meal,” he said.
Dar said he was unable to sleep in the police lock-up. The shortage of space made matters worse. “Group after group of boys was brought to the police station. I remember, at one point of time, we were 25 prisoners crammed in a small room. I could not stretch my legs. We could not do anything except try to see each other’s face in the darkness.”
“They did not produce me before court within 24 hours. They detained me illegally. When my family started approaching the court for bail, they said they will book me in more cases and how many bails will I avail from the court. The whole idea was to grind me and my parents down. They wanted to break my will,” Dar said.
Dar said there was a 12-year-old prisoner, Iqbal, brought from Bragpora in Anantnag. The boy was beaten to pulp by the police in the lock-up, Dar said.
“I protested. I asked them why they were beating the kid. The police released the boy next day, but arrested his father for 15 days,” Dar said.
“When we demand Azadi, we have to go to jail. I do not regret going to jail. Mahatma Gandhi too went to jail. The Quit India movement took 100 years; Quit Kashmir is a continual struggle. If you do not want to go to jail, how will Azadi come? How will the world know of what we want?” Dar said.
The most difficult time for him in police custody, Dar said, was when his wife was expecting childbirth on November 27.
“The police did not release me, despite my pleading with them and showing doctor’s prescriptions. It was the hardest time for me,” he said.
Another 18-year-old boy, who wanted to be identified by the name Ibn-e-Qasim, a resident of Shirpora in Anantnag, said he was arrested during a night raid from his home and later lodged at Sadar police station.
“On August 6, 2016, about 20 police vehicles came and surrounded our house at 4am in the morning. They snapped the electricity of our house. They used ladders to climb the walls. Then they entered the house and inquired about me from my family members. When they came to know I was upstairs, they rushed there. It was like I was the most wanted man on the earth,” Qasim said.
Qasim said when police was ferrying him to Sadar police station, he was kicked all along the way. “For three days at the police station I was beaten continuously with bamboo sticks. They kicked me and other prisoners as if we were footballs. I was badly injured. My thighs had turned blue. My arms were broken. The police did not provide me even with first-aid,” Qasim said.
There are still 15 FIRs lodged against Qasim for taking part in pro-freedom protests. Qasim said the police kept him in Sadar police station for 12 days.
“The police later allowed CRPF men to beat me and other prisoners. They would tell us that they could not stop the CRPF men from beating us,” Qasim said.
After a few days, Qasim’s parents were allowed to meet him in the police station. “My mother just wept. She could not see me injured and in pain,” he said. “After 12 days I was taken to a doctor. Despite seeing me in pain and injured, the doctor gave me a fitness certificate. I think he was in league with the police. After clearing me, the police took me to Central Jail Srinagar. I was released in November.”
Qasim was booked under Sections 147 (rioting), 148 (armed with deadly weapons), 149 (unlawful assembly), 436 (damage to property by fire), 427 (damaging public property) and 307 (attempt to murder).
“I was arrested several times before as well. I left studies in my tenth class since I would be arrested often. When I was released, I would spend my time in the courts, fighting the cases against me,” he said. “My crime is that I am demanding my right – the right to live in freedom and dignity. I speak the truth when I say Kashmir is being militarily occupied. The fight will continue. We can’t remain slaves.”
SSP Anantnag Zubair Khan, however, denied allegations that the two prisoners were harassed or tortured during their detention.
“I will not counter their allegations. It makes no sense. I invite you to come to the police station and look yourself how our police stations are working,” Khan told Kashmir Reader.