Verinag family’s ordeal: Son killed in gunfight, another languishing in jail, third being ‘forced to pick up arms’

Verinag family’s ordeal: Son killed in gunfight, another languishing in jail, third being ‘forced to pick up arms’

Srinagar: They have lost one son in an encounter with army and another is languishing in jail under the PSA—the Act has been slapped 16 times on him—but there seems no end to the ordeal of this family from south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.

“The agencies leave no chance to harass me and my family members. Sometimes the plain cloth cops barge into our house pretending to be militants. And sometimes, they threaten to kill us in a fake encounter. It seems the agencies don’t want us to lead a peaceful life,” Firdous Ahmad, of Batagund village of Verinag, told Kashmir Reader.

Flanked by elderly father, wife, sister, and sister-in-law, Firdous narrated the tale of persecution and oppression unleashed by different agencies after the eldest son of the family, Peer Farooq, joined militant ranks. Farooq was killed in a gunfight in January 2000, four years after remaining active in south Kashmir. The family head is a prominent face in the area and has remained Imam-e-Jamia for decades.

“Army and STF made our lives miserable until my brother achieved martyrdom. We thought that the agencies will spare us from daily harassment and humiliation. However, that was not to be. The cops started targeting my other brother Mohammad Ashraf and accused him of hurling grenade at Kapran. He was booked under PSA. So far, he has been slapped with PSA 16 times,” says Firdous, as other family members lower their gaze in disappointment.

Ashraf is languishing in the jail from last eight years. “Ashraf was in no way connected with militancy. He even abandoned family to save himself from the routine harassment at the hands of police and army. However, when he returned home after a year, he was arrested and implicated in a false case,” says Firdous, who runs a poultry farm in his native village.

Firdous, who has also served two year detention under the PSA, said that he has been subjected to inhumane torture ever since his brother was killed in a gunfight.

“I have been detained illegally by cops around 17 times. During the interrogation, the cops at the JIC Anantnag would run roller over my body, beat me with bamboo sticks and gun butts. Even my private parts were burnt,” Firdous said, as he showed burn marks over his thigh.

“To add salt to my injuries, police has asked me to mark weekly attendance at the police station, as if the killing of my brother and detention of another didn’t satisfy them. I’m being pushed to pick up arms,” he added.

On November 19, 2012, Firous said, two pheran-clad persons carrying fruits and masquerading as militants visited his house and sought shelter. The duo, he said, told him that they had been send by a militant commander.

“When I closely looked at the duo, I found one of them was an SPO. I had seen him at the JIC Anantnag. When I shouted at him, he and his accomplice fled,” Firdous said. “The harassment hasn’t ceased. New faces are turning up frequently at my house. And all of them pose as militants. Every time I call up police, they turn deaf ears.”

Firdous, who has noted every incident after his release, produced a copy of call record details. He has also written about the physical features of the persons who allegedly subjected him to harassment.

Expressing concern over her husband’s plight, Firdous’s wife Nishat said that the security agencies have made her married life hell. She said that her husband is slipping into depression after receiving daily calls from ‘agency men’, who warn him of dire consequences.

“I’m very worried about my husband’s safety. Those men, who pose as militants and visit our house, can cause harm to my husband. The police higher ups must relieve us from this pain and agony so that we can lead a normal life,” she said.

However, refuting the allegations, a senior police official said the family should have apprised him if anyone was harassing the family. However, the officer said that there may be occasions when police visit the family for “verification process”.

“The issue of harassment was never brought into the notice of police. If the youth or his family feels insecure, they should visit my office and apprise me about the same,” Superintendent of Police (SP) Anantnag, Sheikh Junaid told Kashmir Reader.