Hit by pellets, then arrested for ‘disturbing peace’: The story of a 20-year-old Kashmiri youth

By Raqib Hameed Naik, Twocircles.net

Kakapora: In Kashmir’s unending conflict, an uncertain future stares at lakhs of youths as the state continues to see the larger issue of self-determination through the prism of unemployment and development than addressing real political problems at the core.

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The excessive use of forces on the protesting youths and arbitrarily detaining, arresting and locking them under ‘fictitious’ charges and without trail is further alienating the youth and strengthening the “police state” character of J&K.

The year 2016 marked excessive use of force on protesters and arrest of more than 8,000 people. Even those who were injured or survived the bullets and pellets shots were arrested and put in jails.

Asif Majeed Dar, a 20-year old second-year student in Bachelors in Computer Application (BCA) was one among them. Hailing from Kakpora town, 37 km south of Srinagar, Asif was studying in a Srinagar-based college, leaving home and family to focus on his career.

As the valley erupted post-Burhan Wani’s death and subsequent closure of colleges and schools, Asif came back home to spend some time with his parents and seven siblings. On July 15, while protesting in his town, he was shot by pellets, which pierced his chest, kidney, eyes and throat. He was shifted to SMHS hospital, where he remained in the COMA for 13 days. He worked up with a blind right eye.

“His entire body was covered in stitches,” recalls his 23-year-old brother Owais Ahmed.

Two months after being hit by pellets, Asif was shifted back to Srinagar in Nowgam, where he was living in a rented accommodation for college studies.On October 24, as he was taking a stroll in the main street, a posse of security force personnel picked him while he was still recuperating from his pellet injuries.

“We didn’t know that he was picked until the other morning when one of our neighbour coincidentally saw Asif in the Cargo Srinagar. He informed us and we went in search of him,” said Asif’s father Majeed Dar, a retired government servant.

‘Cargo’ at Aulchi Bagh, Srinagar houses the infamous Special Operations Group (SOG) of Jammu and Kashmir police. The facility is often used as an interrogation center. When Asif’s parents went to ‘Cargo’, officials denied having arrested him. The drama continued for 13 days until he was shifted to the police station in Bemina Srinagar. “Those 13 days were like hell for us. We were in fear that he could be killed in a fake encounter,” says Owais.

Majid and Owais went to Bemina police station, where they saw Asif badly injured and moaning in pain from the pellet wounds. Asif told his father that he wasn’t given any food for straight four days and fed only on water in ‘Cargo’.

The family feared that he was jailed under the lawless Public Safety Act (PSA), which is usually a norm in Kashmir. After visiting Divisional commissioner Srinagar office, they came to know that no PSA order was issued against their son. He was locked in the jail under charges of breaching peace which family terms frivolous. The family has filed a petition in Srinagar High Court and as of now, his case is in limbo.

“In Court, some departments say that he has been arrested under PSA, where other say that he hasn’t been booked under the PSA, but on other charges,” says Owais.

Despite being locked and hit by pellets, Asif appeared in his end semester exams. He was interested in pursuing his career in computers, but with his arrest, the hopes seem dashed for an indefinite period.

The family is more concerned about his deteriorating health in the jail. An application was even moved to court to release him on bail for few days so that he could be taken outside the state for specialized treatment, but to no avail, as the same was rejected.

Asif’s 55-year-old mother Hajra Begum is in depression since the arrest of her youngest child. She said, “Even if a mother has 20 children, she loves and cares for all of them. My Asif was youngest of all. I was so concerned about him.”

“It is only me who knows how difficult it is for a mother to think of her child languishing in a jail,” she adds.

The family has put all their hopes on the court and awaits its judgment.