Encounter. Clashes. PSA; and a few more keywords aren’t new in Kashmir. Youth going near the gunfight site to divert the attention of government forces from the gunfight with trapped militant is a trend. Being a part of a large crowd, the then 20-year-old Danish Rashid Bhat, a cousin of Sameer Ahmad Bhat alias Sameer Tiger, rallied to an encounter site in a nearby village in 2017.
Gunfight left the house, in which militants were trapped, to debris. As Mr. Bhat came to know, to his excitement, a resident of Kareemabad village of Pulwama Adnan Ahmad Bhat, had found a gun under the debris of the damaged house.
After a brief discussion, Mr. Bhat voluntarily went on to drop Mr. Adnan, alongside another companion, on his father’s scooter, a few miles away from the gunfight site.
Inspired by the elder cousin, Mr. Sameer’s stature on social media with an M4 carbine flashing in hand, Mr. Bhat made up his mind, and picked the gun for a pose. “Adnan took his photo, posing with the same gun which he had found near the gunfight site, and uploaded it on social media,” said Abdul Rashid Bhat, father of Mr. Bhat. “Soon, the photo went viral and my son was a militant for rest of the world — which he was not.”
Today, in an ideal scenario in Kashmir, any youngster who would join the militancy would pose with a gun, and post it on social media via different channels. It is a systematic approach. Holding the 10th standard grade-sheet of his son, Mr. Bhat recalls that he was left with no option but to be with militants, and added, “he had to live a life of a militant — escaping from the government forces, as his photo went viral.”
He also told about the times when he heard from a few people: “Danish was crying and wanted to come back home.”
Mr. Bhat, 45-year-old father to two daughters, elder one adopted by their relatives, and another son at home, was running a shop, but now sits at home — owing to heavy economical issues.
Amid Mr. Bhat’s tension on how to bring his son back home, one day, as he said, “I received a phone call from Major Shukla,” Indian army personnel posted with 44 Rashtriya Rifles in Pulwama, “and he asked me to bring back Danish.” Mr. Shukla further promised him, as he said, that he will do ‘nothing bad’ to Mr. Bhat, and many other officials joined the voice.
Finally, a father’s prolonged wait came to an end, and his son was back home. Major Shukla and other officials fulfilled their promises, and family continued the same life, that they were living before, and Mr. Bhat continued pursuing his 1st year Bachelor in Arts from a local college, while also joined a local Fruit market side-by-side to support his family.
Talking to The Kashmir Walla, the then SSP Pulwama, Mohammad Aslam Chaudhary, who was privy to the case, said, “The boy was with the militants for some time but after family’s efforts and back of the police, they managed to get him back,” and added that though he dont remember what was the reason behind him roaming with militants, “But, yes, I remember it was something related to the picture.”
But, Mr. Bhat had spent time with militants, and the shadow remained. In initial week of April 2018, as his father said, “Sameer gave a pistol to a boy hailing from Niksoo area, who was planning to join militancy; and Danish was forced by a few militants to drop the boy on a particular point.”
As he could recall, Mr. Bhat had no other choice but to follow the instructions. He took his father’s scooter, again, and went on to drop the boy, whose identity was withheld by the family. His father, Mr. Bhat said, “Their vehicle was stopped by the government forces in the middle, and Danish was arrested,” and to his shock, “the boy with a pistol was not.”
Twenty-two days after his detention, on 30 April 2018, militant commander Sameer Tiger, and his associate, Aqib Khan, were killed in a gunfight in their native village, Drubgam. Being locked inside a tiny room, with a small window over the head, Mr. Bhat couldn’t attend Mr. Sameer’s funeral.
Making rounds from one police station to another, in the middle of May 2018, he was slapped with the Public Safety Act (PSA) and was sent out of the Valley, inside Kathua jail.
Though, as per his father, his PSA was quashed by the court in the following months and was sent back to the Valley, where he was kept in the local police station of Rajpora. While he was making rounds in the local police stations, another PSA was slapped on him roughly after nine days. Out of the Valley, again, he was shifted to Kot Bhalwal jail and resides there currently.
Shaheena Jan, mother of Mr. Bhat last saw him in a local police station months ago. Similar to Ms. Jan, sisters of Mr. Bhat have been waiting to see a glimpse of their brother as well.
It has been four months since his father last met him in Kot Bhalwal jail in November. “I want to go, and visit my son, but I can’t as the situation is not good here. I am also left with no money,” and expressed his sadness over his son’s condition in the jail. “He was crying, and had no clothes to wear,” said Mr. Bhat.
Among the pool of friends, and relatives, Mr. Bhat’s grandmother is also waiting for his return. “Her only wish before death is to see Danish.”
This is the second part of our ongoing series PSA: Prisoner of Systematic Abuse. Read part 1 here.
Bhat Burhan is a multimedia reporter at The Kashmir Walla.