Palhalan: A Kashmiri youth, who was arrested along with his brother from New Delhi railway station in 2006 on unproven charges of ferrying explosives to the Indian capital, finds hard to come to terms with life after his release from the Tihar Jail after serving eight-year imprisonment.
“Special cell of Delhi Police arrests Kashmiris at their will and then dub them as hardcore militants. Even CBI enquiry found that Delhi police frames innocent Kashmiris for awards. This is what they’re famous for. The script is same for all Kashmiris, only the characters are different. We’re victims and witnesses of their tyranny,” Ali Mohammad Sheikh, who was a pharmacist by profession before his arrest, told Kashmir Reader at his house in Tantray Pora locality of Palhalan, Baramulla.
Sheikh and his younger brother Samiullah, then a Class XII student, were arrested on November 27, 2006 by Delhi police on charges of ferrying RDX. The court sentenced the siblings to ten year imprisonment. However, after an appeal, the Delhi High Court reduced the sentence by two years. While Sheikh was released on Sunday last, Samiullah is likely to be released this week.
Narrating the events of the fateful day, Sheikh said that he and his brother were on way to New Delhi to meet fruit traders with whom their father had been doing business for decades.
“As the train came to a halt at the New Delhi railway station and we disembarked from it, cops in civvies intercepted us. They asked for our identity cards. And when they found that we were Kashmiris, they handcuffed us and whisked us away to an unknown location,” said Sheikh, adding, “Few days later, we came to know that it was notorious Lodhi Garden police station of Special Cell.”
Initially the cops, Sheikh said, assured the siblings that they would be set free soon. However, as the days passed by, their hopes faded. He said during the sustained interrogation, the sleuths asked them about presence of Kashmiri militants in the Indian capital.
“On Eid-ul-Azha, we were produced before media. The officers of Special Cell told journalists that two Kashmiri militants, who had come to the capital to trigger blasts, have been held with one kg RDX. Their false claim came as a shock to us. We were shattered,” Sheikh said.
In the Tihar Jail, he said, he met around 60 Kashmiri men who had been arrested by Special Cell in fabricated cases.
“Eight precious years of our lives were devastated. The time is gone. I can’t turn the clock back. I can never lead a normal life now. My life has been made miserable,” he said.
The Sheikh family is a household name in the locality for their sufferings. The family has seen many deaths in the past 23 years of conflict. Sheikh’s father Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din, a Jama’at-e-Islami sympathizer, was shot dead by government-sponsored gunmen in 1997 when he was on his way to home after offering prayers in the local mosque. His brother, who was a top Hizbul Mujahideen militant, was killed by army in an encounter in 1992.
In 2008, during the Amarnath land row, Sheikh’s brother, Mohammad Ashraf died in a road accident when he was on way to Srinagar to attend the Eidgah ‘chalo’ march called by pro-freedom groups. Two years later on July 31, 2010, Sheikh’s 12-year-old nephew Adil Ramzan was shot dead by CRPF men while undergoing treatment at the sub-district hospital, Pattan, hours after being hit by a bullet during a pro-azadi demonstration.
“I miss all those relatives who passed away. I miss those young boys who were martyred. And the most painful thing is that my nephew Adil was martyred and I couldn’t shoulder his coffin,” Sheikh said, as he struggled to hold back his tears.
“I couldn’t sleep for several nights in the jail when I heard Adil was martyred. I had fed him in my lap. I can’t believe he is no more,” he added.
Sheikh’s eight-year imprisonment also dashed dreams of his marriage which was to take place next summer. The helpless family had to call off his engagement due to uncertainty and long and tiring judicial process.
“The decision was very difficult. Not only my brother, but his fiancée was also punished for no fault of theirs. We called off the engagement because we had observed the slow judicial process. We had seen how young boys were left in jails to rot,” Sheikh’s older brother, Mohammad Ismail told Kashmir Reader.
“If my brothers had not implicated in false cases, they would have been leading normal lives. However, that seems a distant dream now,” he added.