Budgam: In aftermath of protests on April 9, when polling was held for Srinagar constituency of the Indian parliament, police arrested 24 youth from different areas of the Budgam district. Police said that 19 of them have been granted bail while five are still behind the bars.
Eight persons were killed and scores of others injured in wide spread protests and clashes on polling-day in Budgam district; the polls recorded the lowest ever voting percentage in Kashmir. Families of the arrested youth allege that police was framing them. Police, however, claims that these youth violated law and order and their cases will be determined by the court.
Among the five in police custody is Mohd Rafiq Rather, 35, from Nasrulla Pora Budgam. Huge protests had taken place in this large village on April 9. Rafiq’s family claims that he has been detained “in exchange” of his absconding brother Abdul Rasheed Rather.
“Rafiq is innocent. Police detained him without any evidence and have kept him in illegal custody,” says Fatima, Rafiq’s mother. She says that police raided their house on the night intervening April 28 and 29 at around 01:45 a.m. “We were asleep when police knocked our door. They barged in as we opened the door and started humiliating and harassing us,” Fatima said.
She says the cops were looking for Rasheed, 30, her younger son, who was arrested by police during 2016 turmoil as well. “Rasheed was tortured. He is scared. When police barged in, he jumped from the second floor of the house and fled,” Fatima said. He has not returned since.
In 2016, family says, police and SOG men raided their house and picked up Rasheed. “He was kept in police detention for 8 days and was tortured by the SOG men. His body was swollen and aching for a long time. The pain still comes back sometime,” said Ghulam Mohi-ud-din Rather, Rasheed’s uncle. “He is frightened and broken. My heart is aching, I am frightened too,” Fatima adds.
As Rasheed fled. Police took Rafiq along and told the family that he was needed to “identify another youth in the neighbourhood”. “Police assured us that he will be released,” Fatima says. “But he is in custody since then”.
Rafi has two daughters aged 5 and 3. His father, Mohammad Subhan Rather, a former militant and an activist of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, was killed some years back. The day after Rasheed was taken into custody, Fatima took a few villagers along to police station Budgam to look for him. Their pleas to the police that “Rasheed had been home when stone pelting was going on” did not help. Rasheed has been in police custody since.
At her home in Nasrullah Pora, Fatima is now left wondering about the fate of both her sons. “We haven’t slept at our home since that day,” the mother says.
Danish Mushtaq Bhat from Bhathad Budgam, is another youth whose family alleges that he has been wrongfully detained. His parents claim that Danish, their only son, is 16, a minor. Danish’s has sisters who appear in shock since the arrest. Family alleges that Danish was “illegally detained and harassed”. “Police is detaining him without any proof at police station Budgam,” said Mohammad Ramzan, Danish’s grandfather.
“Police is yet to book Danish, but his continuous detention in the police station is impacting his mind. He is suffering from an eye disease. His detention can complicate the problem,” Ramzan said. “Police has detained him on false grounds. They say he was among the youth who set ablaze a vehicle”.
Ramzan says Danish “was not part of any protests or stone pelting”. Danish is a student of 11th standard, says the family. “He had gone to attend classes at ITI institute on Friday, and weas detained from outside their institute,” Ramzan said. “He has spent four days in custody”.
Like Rasheed and Danish, Parvaiz Ahmad Bhat and Majid Ahmad Bhat of Galwanpora, and Asif Ahmad Bhat are in detention. Families say that they visit the police station every day, but their pleas for the release of their sons “are falling to deaf ears”. “They (police) keep holding our sons behind bars on one pretext or the other,” said a parent.
Station house officer at Police Station Budgam, Shah Rafi, however, dismissed the allegations. He said that parents should “prove that they (youth) are innocents”.
“They are involved, whether they are sixteen or twenty. Court will decide the matter now,” Rafi added. He said that there are cases of violation of law and order against the youth which will be dealt strictly. “We have booked them booked under different sections like 436, 107 and 307. No relaxation will be given to anyone”.
“Arrest spree will continue till absconding persons are brought into custody,” Rafi added.