Arrested in 2005, Rafiq, an Islamic Studies student, is languishing in Tihar jail
SRINAGAR: The release of Muzamil Farooq Dar, a Kashmir University student who was arrested last month on charges of suspected links to militants, has given hope to the parents of another incarcerated student of the varsity, Mohammad Rafiq Shah.
Shah, a resident of Alasteng in Ganderbal, was a final year MA student of Islamic studies in the university when he was picked up from his home by the Delhi Police in November 2005 on charges of carrying out blasts in Delhi on the eve of Diwali on October 29, 2005. His case is listed for hearing this month.
While Dar was released in the backdrop of a relentless protest campaign by students of the varsity, Shah had no such luck.
Shah was arrested in the dead of night from his home. “It was a dark night when the forces raided our house. They climbed the wall and got in. I thought it was a crackdown. Everyone was asleep,” recounts his father Mohammad Yasin, who is a retired government employee.
After asking a few preliminary questions, all the residents of the house were asked to file outside and that is when the forces snatched Shah after having physically beaten him in front of his old parents and two younger sisters.
Shah’s mother, Mehmooda Akhter, claims she too was beaten up when she held on to her son amid his protestations of innocence. She was beaten on her head by rifle butts due to which she fell to the ground and her son was taken away.
Thus began the harrowing ordeal of Shah’s family which continues to the present day, a decade after he was forcefully taken away from his home without a charge or warrant.
He was kept at an undisclosed interrogation center and his parents found out he was lodged in Delhi’s Tihar jail two months after being taken away.
Kashmir University’s then Vice Chancellor Abdul Wahid Qureshi attested to Shah’s presence in the university on the day of the blast.
Prof. Riyaz Punjabi, his successor, although initially reluctant to help, provided the beleaguered parents with proof of Shah’s attendance after acknowledging that “he was a brilliant student.” “Those who had carried out the blasts in 2005 are in prison now. However, my son is not being released because they (police) fear that his release will backfire and questions will be raised against them,” Shah’s father claims.
Even though Shah’s teachers and University authorities could attest to his presence in the University on 29 October 2005, no one has come forward to testify for him in court. The University seems to have washed their hands off the matter and even the attendance sheet for that day was acquired by Shah’s father after much pleading and cajoling.
Affidavits tendered to the court by local villagers and Shah’s narco-test reveal he had no hand in the Govindpuri blast and was in Kashmir on that day. But to save face over his arbitrary arrest and detention and to force out a confession from him, Rafiq was “severely tortured in detention.”
Rafiq was arrested three days before he had to appear for the last exam of his MA final year. His father haggled with the university for four years and on March 1, 2010 Rafiq was brought from Tihar to Central Jail in Kashmir to write his final paper. “He secured first division results,” Muhammad Yasin says proudly.
Shah’s future plans include doing a PhD. He applied for the same while in prison but was asked to submit Rs 15,000 to jail authorities which he could not afford.
Muhammad Yasin goes to meet his son in Tihar once a year. Being without a job, he does not have sufficient finances to visit as often as he would like to. He got his two daughters married and is paying for court expenses of his son’s case out of his meagre pension.
Shah’s letters from jail to his parents and their conversations with him during visits reveal the extent of torture Rafiq has to undergo. Severe beatings are routine. He was allegedly forced to drink urine and suck private parts of fellow inmates. A “pig was kept in his jail cell” to wound his religious sentiments.
“They couldn’t get hold of the real culprits so they caught Kashmiris and produced them before Indians as bombers to calm outrage,” Muhammad Yasin claims.