By Fahad Shah
Aarif Sheikh is a 24-year-old, working with his own drug stockist agency, who was arrested during a raid in the downtown area of Srinagar. When his brother visited him in the police station he lifted his pants and shows his injured leg. Tears had turned his eyes red, he says to his brother, “Please, for God sake get me out of here. It is so tormenting being in this custody.”
Like Aarif, many others have been arrested by the state police in day and night raids around many areas of Kashmir valley. Though this summer in Kashmir has been peaceful, arrests continue throughout the valley. Youth have been detained at several police stations and are pleading for their release.
In wake of Indian Independence Day celebrations on August 15 here at a local stadium, Bakshi Stadium, the state has launched crackdown on youths. A local newspaper reported that police have detained more than 45 youth in Srinagar and south Kashmir during nocturnal raids in just two days. Quoting a police official, it says, “We have allotted video cameras to each police station. Even CRPF personnel have the cameras. They shoot during the protests and then we identify them. After identifying, we locate their homes and then go for a night raid. During day it’s impossible to catch them”.
Despite such crackdown on the movement of youth there were some protests after the custodial death of 26-year-old, Nazim Rashid alias Anjum of Sopore in police custody. He was a local shopkeeper, running a shop outside his house. The government has started the investigation in this matter and has suspended some police officials also. And then it was the fake encounter in Surankote belt of Poonch district where the Army on August 7 claimed to have killed a Pakistani militant and divisional commander of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Abu Usman, after a 12-hour gun battle. But to the embarrassment of Army the killed person was identified as a mentally challenged civilian of Rajouri. It was found that a Special Police Officer (SPO) Noor Hussain and an Army man, Abdul Majeed, staged an encounter of the civilian to gain personal benefits.
The party, headed by octogenarian pro-freedom leader of valley, Syed Ali Geelani released the data of detainees on August 4 this year. According to the data 1097 people are currently lodged in jails. The report said: “210 detainees are lodged in Srinagar Central Jail, 215 in Kot Balwal Jail, Jammu, 100 in Kathua Jail, 95 in Udhampur Jail, 85 in Baramulla Jail, 25 in Amphala Jail, 35 in Heera Nagar Jail, 40 in Kupra , 24 in Poonch Jail, 15 in Rajouri Jail, 12 in Riasi Jail, 75 in Tihar Jail New Delhi, 12 in Sangroo, 12 in Varanasi, 15 in Bangalore, 03 in Culcatta, 09 in Agra, 5 in Mumbai, 02 in Assam Jail while 100 in JIC Jammu, JIC Kashmir and different police station.”
However in March this year government released a data according to which 5255 persons, including 799 students, were arrested across the state for allegedly resorting to `stone pelting’ during summer unrest. As per the government these arrests were made between January 1, 2010 and February 28, 2011. The report said out of total number of people detained on charges of stone pelting, 5009 were released and only 264 stone pelters are still in the police custody.
The summer has been calm but the intense situation among the masses can be seen on the roads of Srinagar city where new graffiti’s have started come up. Graffiti’s like “Azaadi”, “Freedom”, “Indian Army=Nazi Germans” and such others are sketched on walls outside colleges, bridges and markets. Showing their anger on the cricket tournaments organised by the Central Reserve Police Forces in various colleges of the valley, a final year Science student of Sri Pratap College, Danish Amin (name changed) told me in the college some days ago, “these measures of CRPF are only divert the attention of youth from freedom struggle. They organise sports and social functions only to keep us busy with all this but we won’t let this happen. In the heart of our hearts lies the love for freedom struggle. We spilled so much blood. How can we forget that?”
Using social networking sites as the medium of propagating messages, after the SMS services were barred more than a year ago, a Facebook user, Muhammad Shamil posts: “Stay awake o’ people of Kashmir. Any time these terrorists Indian Occupant forces can break into your homes at this time of night and will drag you out without any criminal charge. That’s the favorite time-pass for these Occupant troops. May Almighty Protect you all. Go India Go Back | Leave My Kashmir”