Tihar jail has 53 Kashmiris. Like Dar, most were framed

Lost time Dar with his family after being exonerated
Lost time Dar with his family after being exonerated
Photo: Shahid Tantray

GHULAM MOHIDEEN Dar suffered for no cause, no idea, no movement — just for being a Kashmiri. A thought that haunts him as he adjusts to new realities of life after being freed from a long incarceration. Dar contested the 2004 Parliamentary election from the Pulwama-Islamabad constituency as an independent candidate and later joined the Congress. He was also a dealer in Gulnar tea, and frequently came to Delhi on business. On one such trip on 15 June 2005, Dar met the then minister of state for defence and also sought an appointment with the President.

For almost 15 days after that, his family got no news of his whereabouts. On 2 July, the Delhi Police produced Dar, his friend Nazir Ahmad and two other Kashmiri youth — Bashir Ahmad and Saqib ur Rehman — before the media, alleging they had planned to blow up Palam Airport. The foursome had supposedly been arrested after an encounter on the Delhi- Gurgaon road. The police also claimed they had recovered from Dar a map of the airport, grenades and Chinese pistols. At his house in Zewan, they allegedly found Rs 5,000 in fake currency notes.

On 8 July, Dar’s neighbour Abdul Majid, employed with the Power Development Department of J&K, went missing from outside his home, only to surface on 11 July at the Paharganj police station in Delhi as a co-accused in the case.

Thus began a long ordeal — of the fight for justice and the rounds of the court. Why was Dar arrested even after he told the police that he was a Congress worker in Kashmir? The key may lie with Military Intelligence officer Major Rajesh Saroi, alias Major Sharma, posted in Alochi Bagh, Srinagar. “Dar and I refused to work for him. Since he couldn’t hurt us here, he took his revenge in Delhi,” says Majid, who lost his job following the arrest. “He told Special Cell Sub-Inspector Ravinder Tyagi about us and together they got us into this misery.”

It took a good lawyer — SN Thakur — to get Dar and the others out of Tihar jail, where they were imprisoned for six years. In 2008, Dar, an MPhil in History, filed 500- odd RTIs to expose the loopholes in the case. “I proved that the Indica car shown in recovery was not stolen as claimed by the police,” he avers. “I also clarified that we could be booked under the Arms Act and not the Explosives Act since the blast never happened.” Finally, the Dwarka District & Sessions Court was convinced there was no case at all. Judge Virender Bhatt upheld the innocence of the five accused and acquitted them. The court also directed the SHO, Kapashera, to lodge a case against the erring policemen.”

Dar says that there are 53 Kashmiri prisoners in Tihar, 90 percent like him — innocent and falsely implicated. He still lives in mortal fear of being accused in another case. “The Delhi Police is really angry and I, my lawyer and all of us live in the fear of an FIR with blank spaces where they could insert our names,” he says.

Back home, Dar finds the future looks bleak — not only for him but his children, who attend a government school as the family can no longer afford private education. “It is hard to find my place here and I don’t know what will compensate for my wife’s tears and my children’s lonely, fearful nights,” he laments. “Everything seems to have changed.”

Zahid Rafiq is Correspondent with Tehelka 
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