Of innocent prisoners, lynching incidents and Kashmir

Though Kashmiris opined that their elected leaders should attend the talks with the Centre, they were also rather certain that nothing really would emerge from those talks

Representative Image
Representative Image

Humra Quraishi

From the last few hours I have been reading this latest book on the situation of the prisoners. In fact, the very title of this book – 'Innocent Prisoners. Begunah Qaidi. Stories of Muslim Youth Falsely Implicated In The 7/11 Train Blasts and Other Terror Cases' – relays the stark reality of those sitting implicated and imprisoned.

This book has been authored by one of the former prisoners, Abdul Wahid Shaikh, who was himself implicated in the 11 July 2006 Mumbai train bombings case. He was imprisoned for nine years, till he was declared innocent and acquitted. And in this book he has put down his experiences in the jail and that of his fellow prisoners, at the hands of the police and investigating agencies and jail staff. In fact, the 500 hundred pages to this book are laced with facts, complete with specific dates and names and the particular instances.

This former school teacher who was teaching in a Mumbai school has put down each little detail of the prison life and the aftermath that follows. In fact, a film producer is said to have been so taken up by this man’s grit that a full-fledged feature film is near completion on the life and times of Abdul Wahid Shaikh.

After all, this former prisoner has much to offload, in that absolutely stark blatant way. To quote from the preface to this book, “Despite being innocent when we were arrested in the 7/11 blast case, for several days we did not understand what exactly was going on with us. We thought the police has arrested us mistakenly and would release us soon. But as the days went on, our hopes started fading away…”

To further quote the opening lines from the first paragraph of the very first chapter to this book: “We all know very well that the political masters have always used the police for their vested interests in our country. Unfortunately, the police have become so uncontrollably strong that today they have become totally unquestionable. The nation has practically become a police state…How will the State terrorism end? When will it end? There is need to seriously think about this. As long as we do not think of ending state terrorism, actual peace and progress will remain only a dream. The sooner the government realizes it, the better it is for the nation.”

What did the New Delhi talks hold out for the Kashmirirs!

Most Kashmiris were of the opinion that their elected leaders ought to go to New Delhi for those much publicised political talks. For, if they declined then they would draw criticism, for not participating in talks with the Centre!

Kashmiris were also rather certain that nothing really would emerge from those talks. Perhaps, they were realistic enough, as the recent years have just witnessed huge setbacks and disappointments!

In fact, disappointment ran high after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had finally broken his silence on the Kashmir issue on August 10, 2016. He had spoken on three aspects: the people of Jammu and Kashmir have the same freedom as that enjoyed by any other Indian; Kashmiri children, should be holding laptops and books and cricket bats; and the significance of insaniyat/ humanity and jamhuriyat /democracy and Kashmiriyat.

Kashmiris had reacted: Why the clichéd slogans of Kashmiriyat, jamhuriyat and insaniyat? How can our children carry laptops and books and cricket bats when they are sitting blinded by pellets and bullets? How can we even visualize what democratic freedom is when there’s that constant fear of killings!

Also, those much-hyped visits of the All-Party delegation to Srinagar around the early autumn of 2016 brought along little connect as there was no direct mention of a political formula to try and reach out to the angry cries of the Kashmiris.

Though the entire summer of 2017 saw at least four meets on the Kashmir situation in New Delhi, yet seemingly no positive changes were there on ground.

And In 2017, the then Union Home minister Rajnath Singh was in the Valley to propose the so called ‘5 Cs formula’ to settle the Kashmir crisis— compassion, communication, coexistence, confidence-building and consistency. In fact, this was Rajnath Singh’s fourth visit to the Valley as Union Home Minister. And Kashmiris had then commented, ‘With all the possible Cs that Rajnath Singh listed out, he forgot to mention the Constitution…What it holds out for us Kashmiris! He ducked on Article 35 A and also on Article 370 …!

In November 2017, another interlocutor was picked by the Centre for Kashmir. This time New Delhi decided to appoint the former IB director, Dineshwar Sharma. Why did the government opt for a former IB person? Didn’t the government realize that the masses in and around the Valley are wary of the Intelligence Agencies?

Also, another significant query: whatever happened to the in -depth reports of the former team of interlocutors – Dileep Padgoankar, Radha Kumar and MM Ansari? What happened to the whole list of recommendations put together by Yashwant Sinha?

It's significant to point out that if one were to go through the report put together by the Padgoankar led team, which had submitted its report in the winter of 2011, it is clear that it had suggested to the establishment to do away with the Disturbed Areas Act and also have re-look at the implementation of AFSPA Armed Forces Disturbed Areas Act). But that report wasn’t implemented. Why?

The veteran civil servant turned politician Yashwant Sinha's crucial inputs were also bypassed. He had come out with several significant recommendations after his visits to the Valley in 2017.

The lynching incidents continue to take place

Throughout this entire summer stretch there have been many reported cases of targeted lynch killings. Why are lynch killings not getting stopped or prevented by the State machinery? With Eid-ul-Zuha three weeks away, people are scared that these incidents of communal violence would spread.

In fact, whilst keying in I’m reminded of the communal outburst of the Right- Wing legislator from Uttar Pradesh’s Loni constituency in district Ghaziabad . On last year’s Eid–ul Zuha 1 August, 2020 he said loud and clear that he will not allow any goat sacrifice to take place in his constituency, and if Muslims want they should sacrifice their children on that Eid day!

Views are personal

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