By Shafat Mir
Kulgam: Hundreds of people in Kulgam’s Khiee Mohamadpora village, along with hundreds of residents from several adjacent villages, carried out a protest demonstration against the death sentence awarded to a local, Muzaffar Ahmed Rather, by a West Bengal sub-divisional court on Saturday for plotting subversive strikes in Jammu and Kashmir. Muzaffar Rather, son of Abdul Majeed Rather, had gone missing in 2002 from his residence in Khiee, Jugipora village of Kulgam district, after leaving for school. He was a student of Class 8 at that time. After some ten days his father lodged a missing report in police station Kulgam, which was in district Anantnag at that time.
Muzaffar was awarded the death sentence on Saturday along with two other Pakistani nationals by a court in Kolkata. He was accused of being part of a Lashkar-e-Toiba module, which was sneaking into India carrying fake currency. The arrest was made on the Indo-Bangladesh border by BSF way back in 2007. Muzaffar’s family came to know about him some days after the report of their arrest appeared in newspapers.
“We had lost all hopes of him being alive. It was only after I read his name in the news report, in 2007, that we came to know he was still alive and lodged in Dumdum Central jail in Kolkata,” said his brother Riyaz Ahmad Rather, a private school teacher by profession.
After some three months of reading the news report, his parents went to meet him in Dumdum jail but were denied a meeting. “He waved at us from a distance and said he was all well, with a smile on his face. It was for the first time after five years that my wife and I saw him,” said his father, Abdul Majeed, with tearful eyes.
“Last week, on 16th January, we met him for the second time. He was very optimistic of his release in the upcoming hearing on 21st January. He asked us not to come to Kolkata again as he was sure that all the charges will be dropped against him and he will be released soon. But last evening, one of our neighbours broke the news of his death sentence to us,” his father said.
Muzaffar belongs to a poor family that lives in rented accommodation and cannot afford a lawyer. “This is sheer injustice,” said neighbour Sabzar Ahmed. “His father is a labourer by profession and his brother earns a meagre salary in a private school. It was only after their neighbours contributed money that they were able to see him a couple of times in a span of ten years. Police stopped our procession today at Chounseer Kulgam and prevented us from reaching main town Kulgam. It resulted in stone-pelting by the protesters while police resorted to lathi charge to disperse the crowd.”
Sabzar further said, “Having already served detention for a decade with no proof of his involvement in any terror-related incident in India, he is being framed just because he is Kashmiri. We appeal to the Indian government to ensure his release on humanitarian grounds as he has served detention for 10 years now.”