‘No time to celebrate his release, but to question if any of us is safe’
SRINAGAR: On the morning of November 22, 2005, Bashir Ahmad was about to leave for Kashmir University to attend his MA class of Political Science when he received a phone call from the family of his best friend, Mohammad Rafiq Shah, also a post-graduate student at Kashmir University. On the phone, Rafiq’s family pleaded with him that he and his friends should not go to university as “it might not be good for them.”
“I was surprised to hear him say that,” Bashir said of that moment. “But, later, they told me that their house was raided in the night at about 1am by a contingent of government forces and Rafiq was arrested. The family was told that Rafiq would be released in the morning, but he wasn’t.”
Rafiq was at that time studying in the 4th semester of an MA degree in Islamic Studies at the Shah-e-Hamdan Institute of Islamic Studies of Kashmir University. The news of his arrest sent shock-waves through the entire campus. His friends could not understand why a humble and down-to-earth student was arrested in such a manner.
“Within minutes of hearing the news, all of us (Rafiq’s friends) reached the Islamic Studies department. We were all confused and aghast at his arrest,” Bashir recalled.
The KU campus was rocked by student demonstrations against the arrest of Rafiq. The varsity witnessed three weeks of continuous shutdown after the day of his arrest. Mohammad Rafiq Shah, now 34, a resident of Shuhama Hazratbal, was one of three Kashmiris acquitted by a Delhi Court, after they had spent 12 years in jail, of charges that they played a role in multiple bomb blasts in Delhi ahead of Diwali, killing 67 people.
Bashir said that Rafiq was one of the outstanding students at Islamic Studies department. “He waskeen to revive the Kashmir University Students Union (KUSU). He wanted to create a platform for student activism at the campus,” Bashir said.
“After two semesters at the university, we started brain-storming sessions and efforts to gain support from students for reviving the students union. That was how I came in contact with Rafiq. I was impressed with his clear thinking on the occupation of Kashmir by the Indian state as well as by his Islamic ideology,” Bashir recalled.
Remembering Rafiq as a man regular in prayers and having sound Islamic knowledge, Bashir said that his friend became an inspiration for him and many other students.
“After 12 years, from where would he start his life now? Twelve golden years of youth he lost for being a Kashmiri,” Bashir said of the injustice done to his friend.
“Rafiq was a common person like you and me. He was just made a scapegoat. It’s no time to celebrate the release of Rafiq but to question whether any of us is safe. For how long will Kashmiris be discriminated against and imprisoned in fabricated cases?” Bashir said while talking to Kashmir Reader.