Bandipora rights activist alleges witch-hunt

Bandipora rights activist alleges witch-hunt

Bandipora: A human rights campaigner from north Kashmir’s Bandipora area, Salman Yousuf, is engaged in a legal battle with the authorities over his activism during the past two decades. Salman Yousuf appeared before the court of Judicial Magistrate on Tuesday to present his version over the accusations leveled against him by the prosecution.
Yousuf says that ever since he exposed the real culprits of Sadarkoot massacre of October 1996, involving a group of Ikhwanis, he is being subject to a witch-hunt. He is currently associated with Coalition of Civil Society (CCS), a grouping of rights bodies headquartered in Srinagar.
Yousuf’s latest trial began after he was arrested by police in April 2014. He had gone to bail out a person, Feroz Ahmad, arrested by police on charges of uploading provocative material on social media. “Just after coming out of the police station DySP Zuhaib and SP Mohammad Shafi Mir arrested me”, Yousuf said. He was accused of stone- pelting and instigating violence. Yousuf alleges that he was framed for his activism on the human rights front in the area. “I was a rights activist who exposed some big guns associated with Ikhwan who have killed 268 Jamat-e-Islami (JeI) activists including, scholars, intellectuals, professors and commoners”.
Yousuf is the man who brought into limelight the October 5, 1996 Sadarkoot massacre in which pro-government Ikhwanis killed seven members of a family at Sadarkoot village. An FIR was lodged in police station Safapora over the massacre. After a sustained legal battle, three accused Abdur Rashid Parray alias Billa, Wali Muhammad Mir and Mohammad Ayoub Dar, all associated with Ikhwan were produced before the High Court. The court has ordered the arrest of the trio, but they are roaming free due to political backing, Yousuf said.
Yousuf has also exposed the ‘loot and plunder’ perpetuated by government gunmen who cut 22 lakh trees of Rakh and Farms Department including Ningli forest range. The trees, mostly willow and poplars, were worth Rs 75 crore, according to estimates by CCS researchers. “Big goons associated with Ikhwan distributed the money amongst themselves and created an environmental disaster in the area, he says.