Srinagar: The otherwise soothing scenes of Kashmir University campus looked a bit gloomy on Thursday when one of its members, Tahir Hussain Mir, a journalism student from Bandipora, was brought handcuffed to the campus from Central Jail, Srinagar, to write his exams.
As one of my friends had informed me that Mir would be being brought to the campus for his elective open paper exams, I tried to reach the varsity early so I could meet him there.
Among the hundreds of students strolling inside the campus, I found an odd posse of policemen on the varsity streets; in their midst was a good-looking boy, chained by his hands. “It must be Tahir Mir,” I guessed from a few meters away, and so he was.
With a smiling face, Mir offered greetings and enquired how I was doing. After answering his enquiries, I asked him to share his “good and bad moments” while he was in jail.
“I wanted to study and that’s why I had joined Kashmir University. Expressing my dissent was, like it is for every human being, my right and I did so. If the government thinks this is a crime, then this crime would happen so often here, and putting students and others inside jails won’t deter them,” Mir said before he entered the examination hall of his centre in the social work department.
Along with Mir, the chains and handcuffs fixed to his arm also went inside the examination hall. While five among seven policemen kept a distance of about ten metres from the centre, the other two remained standing at the hall’s entrance.
Outside, I decided to wait till the exam was finished, and in the meantime, spoke to Mir’s sister, who is also pursuing her post-graduation in education at the varsity.
“He has not pelted a single stone and he in fact discourages youth who pelt stones at forces. He was primarily targeted even when there were hundreds and thousands participating in the protests. He smiles even if he is going through painful experiences. He won’t bother anyone for his comfort and relief. But, if his detention continues, I fear his smile would vanish,” said Reena Mir, Mir’s younger sister.
For the police, 24-year-old Mir, the orphaned son of a police constable who was killed in the line of duty, is the most criminal Azadi activist in Bandipora.
Recently shifted to Srinagar Central Jail from Kot Balwal Jail in Jammu, Tahir Mir has 13 FIRs against him, on such charges as stone-throwing and disrupting law and order. He has also been detained under the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA) on the orders of the Bandipora deputy commissioner. Mir was also recently sacked from his job in the state education services where he worked as a laboratory bearer.
“He had set up a local youth association where they would contribute a portion of their pocket money and help poor and needy people in Bandipora. He had a zeal for social work, and we are left amazed when the police says he disrupts law and order,” says his sister.
Mir’s father, Habibullah Mir, was serving as the driver to the then superintendent of police, Showkat Ahmad Malik, when the police convoy he was travelling in was attacked in Sopore on the Hygam-Magam highway in April 2000.
Mir’s mother, Safeera, was unable to bear the shock and passed away within six months. Mir was a Class IV student at Eaglets Public School in Plan Bandipora at that time.
Waiting for her brother to come out of the hall so that she could converse with him, Reena would at times glance towards her brother, but the examiners would ask her to stay at a distance each time, probably to avoid any distraction to other students writing their papers. I too was told to wait inside the Library.
But the men in uniform were guarding the entrance, and those examiners never gathered the courage to ask them to stay at a distance. A more extreme scene was when one of the policemen sat beside Mir and tightened his chain, seemingly to make sure he could not flee the spot as the time to wind up drew nearer.
After the examination ended, I tried to take a photograph of the handcuffed Mir, but the police officials warned me off. Later, when he was being taken back to Central Jail in Srinagar, I resumed my conversation with him.
“I just want to resume my academic activities, but I think government doesn’t want me to do so. They feel I am a threat to peace, but I am yearning for peace in the Valley. It is extreme situations that take you to the streets to express dissent,” Mir said after glancing through the varsity lawns.
Appealing to students to support him for his release, he said that students at KU should remember that one of their friends and colleagues is languishing in jail and they should put in efforts to have him set him free.
“What pains me most is that neither did any students’ body protest at the varsity nor did my colleagues in the journalism department do anything to secure my early release. I don’t want them to create any pandemonium or other kind of violence, but they should, through accepted means, at least put in every effort for my release,” regretted Mir.