Srinagar: A Kashmir youth who was released after eight years of incarceration says that Mohammad Afzal Guru who was hanged for his alleged role in the 2001 Parliament attack helped him through tough times at Delhi’s notorious Tihar Jail.
28-year-old Samiullah, a Class XII student then, and his pharmacist brother Ali Mohammad Sheikh were arrested on November 27, 2006 by the sleuths of Special Cell of Delhi Police from New Delhi railway station on charges of ferrying RDX and triggering blasts in the Indian capital. The court sentenced the siblings to ten years imprisonment. However, after an appeal, the High Court reduced the sentence by two years. Samiullah was released on Tuesday afternoon from the Srinagar’s Central Jail after serving eight years in prison. Earlier in April, his elder brother was released.
“The first few months at the Tihar Jail were very difficult. We were lodged at the mini high security jail along with hardcore criminals and gangsters. They would abuse me and my brother inside the ward, but we just ignored them. We knew the repercussions of any altercation,” says Samiullah at his two-storey house in Tantray Pora locality of Palhallan.
He says that the hardened criminals rule the roost inside the jail while Kashmiri inmates face a host of problems . Many a times, he said, the jail staff also victimized the Kashmiris for their “freedom sentiment.”
“It was during these days, I had an opportunity to meet Mohammad Afzal Guru and renowned Marxist leader Kobad Ghandy at the jail hospital. Afzal supported me with his kind words. He gave me courage to carry on with the hardships at the prison. He was a source of inspiration,” says Samiullah.
He says that a two-hour chat over breakfast with Afzal and Ghandy remains one of the memorable moments of his life.
“I can never forget those moments. Afzal was so determined towards the freedom struggle. He also asked me to stay steadfast,” he said.
Even after spending eight years in prison despite being innocent, Samiullah says, he has no regrets. Like him, he says, there are hundreds of Kashmiris languishing in jails for decades.
“Every Kashmiri is guilty according to the Indian security agencies. Kashmiris are destined to be imprisoned for they’ve raised voice against oppression. They’re fighting for freedom. Incarceration is an inseparable part of freedom movements,” he said.
Samiullah, who has qualified BA exams under detention, says that he wants to pursue his education further. However, the prevailing financial condition, he said, has made his decision difficult.
“Before being arrested, I was aspiring to become a doctor. However, that dream was shattered by the Delhi Police. Now, I’ve no idea of how I’m going to lead rest of my life,” he adds.
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’m not only saddened with the martyrdom of Adil but hundreds of children and youth, who have been killed by forces. My heart goes out to their families. However, we must remember that freedom comes at a cost. We’ll reap the rich rewards of our sacrifices with freedom, Insha Allah,” he added.