Once a prisoner, always a prisoner

Once a prisoner, always a prisoner
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Youth arrested in 2008 are still giving attendance at police stations, part of the torture that began in the lock-up nine years ago
By Nusrat Sidiq   
Srinagar: It has been nine years now that five youth of Srinagar have suffered a slow attrition of their lives at police stations and jails and courts. First arrested during the 2008 Amarnath land transfer protests, these young men have since been making the rounds of police stations where they have been locked up, tortured and humiliated, one of them even shot at with bullets in his leg. They continue to report to police stations whenever there is a strike call or agitation, even though courts have acquitted four of them of all the charges registered against them in 2008.
Dilawar Ahmed Khan, 30, is a mason who goes every Friday not to the mosque but to the Waniyar police post. He has been doing so for the past nine years, taking a day off from work to give haaziri, attendance, at the police station. “It has been hell since I was wrongly booked for stone-pelting,” he said. “I have to remain in the police station for the entire day whenever there is a strike call or street protest.”
Khan was tortured at this same police station and shot at with bullets in his leg when he was arrested in 2008. “I was coming home from work when I came across an anti-India procession at Noorbagh. A police jeep came and everyone started running. I also began to run but two policemen chased me right up to my home and barged into my house. I hid upstairs but they took away my brother Mukhtar Ahmed. They kept him under custody for 10 days. Then they called me to the police post at Waniyar saying they would release my brother only if I surrendered for arrest. On the night I went there, at 2pm I was tortured brutally. I was handcuffed and they tied a rope to my legs, then dragged me outside and suddenly fired two shots at my left leg. After that they called my family. My family took me to Barzulla hospital where I was bedridden for 20 days. But the fear of police was such that I went to the police station even with a plaster on my leg,” Dilawar Khan told Kashmir Reader.
Khan was kept at Waniyar police post for 26 days after he was discharged from hospital, he said. After he was released, he was asked to report to the police station every Friday and whenever there was a strike call.
Mohammad Shafi Bhat and his cousin Javid Ahmed Bhat, now aged 38 and 27, respectively, are both Pashmina weavers and residents of Zoonimar in Soura. They were detained at Waniyar police post for a month after they were arrested in the summer of 2008. Bhat told Reader that he was severely beaten by 20 policemen on July 17 at the station.
“That night, 20 policemen pounced on me and beat me with canes. It fractured my right leg and right hand. I sustained injuries to my head also. I wore a plaster on my leg and hand for two months, but I was asked to come to the police station whenever there was a strike call or any disturbance. For nine years I have been continuously suffering. The same thing happened with my cousin brother,” Shafi Bhat said.
Another resident of Noorbagh, Mehraj-ud-din Lone, 30, was arrested in 2008 and slapped with PSA (Public Safety Act). Though the PSA case was quashed by the High Court in 2009, he kept being detained at various police stations in Srinagar and at Central jails in both Srinagar and Jammu. Lone was taken into custody after his father Ghulam Mohammad Lone and his brother Mohammad Amin Lone were arrested and kept in police custody for ten days. They were released when Mehraj-ud-Din surrendered at Noorbagh police station. Since then, according to him, he has been detained at Noorbagh police station for 20 days, at Safakadal police station for 25 days, at Maharajgunj police station for 15 days, at Central Jail Srinagar for 20 days, at Kot Balwal jail in Jammu for 10 months, and then again at Safakadal police station for 10 days.
“I have been through a lot of pain in these nine years, but this pain is nothing compared to what I felt when my brother Mohammad Hanif Lone, who was associated with Al-Umar tanzeem, was killed on January 29, 1998, by government forces. The harassment and torture at the hands of police is usual for me now. I am used to it,” Lone said.
The same sense of resignation was expressed by Mohammad Rafiq Bhat of Noorbagh, a mechanic by profession who was booked on charges of stone-pelting in 2008. He said he had to go to the Noorbagh police station for haaziri every week even after the court gave him bail.
When asked about the practice of calling even acquitted persons for attendance at police stations, Mudasir Ahmed, the SHO of Nowhatta police station, said, “Yes, we sometimes call up the people who have been associated with stone-pelting or any other criminal activity. We call up only those persons who have FIRs registered against them. Those persons whose cases have been disposed of are no longer called up.”

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