Parents of Muzamil Ganaie, a youth from south Kashmir’s district Pulwama. Photograph by Bhat Burhan for The Kashmir Walla.
Pulwama, south Kashmir, has been a rough turf for a long time. Seemingly lifetime of conflict—bullets, stones, and blood—not only punctuated hundreds of lives, but also handicapped—physically, and psychologically—the youth of Kashmir.
The killing of popular commander Burhan Wani, associated with Hizb Mujahideen, a Pakistan based militant group, in July 2016 tested south’s resilience on the field. The dissent among civilians was crushed by nocturnal raids, torture, regular psychological abuse, and Public Safety Act (PSA).
The family of Ghulam Mohammad Ganai, 50, is unoriginal in Pulwama. A three-storey house, apple orchards, loving parents, three sons (two married), another married sister and the youngest son, Muzamil Ganai, 22—behind bars, serving his PSA.
Mr. Ganai’s unwillingness to utter a word in dissent, while he sits silently in a corner of the room, he sighed as he stared at the wall in front of him. “He was arrested on this date,” as he points out to engraving, “24/01/2019,” done by himself with a black marker on the cemented wall.
From a boy next door to PSA detainee
Five days before Mr. Muzamil’s arrest, his elder brother, Imtiyaz Ganai, was picked by government forces for questioning at 4 am. “They doubted the misuse of his sim card,” said Mr. Ganai, and told that forces raided their house, and snatched all the cell phones of the family members. “Police told that militants were contacted from this number.”
Mr. Imtiyaz, a salesperson in Saudi Arabia, came home three years ago for his marriage. As per Mr. Ganai, after government forces came to know that Mr. Muzamil was using the alleged sim card, they called him and asked to present his son, Mr. Muzamil, in District Police Line, Pulwama.
The family being paranoid asked Mr. Muzamil to confess if there were an issue and something that could create problems for him. “He was so confident that he openly told me that he will present himself before the government forces,” said Mr. Ganai. “There is nothing that can create troublesomely,” Mr. Muzamil had told his father.
Fatima Bano, Mr. Muzamil’s mother, firmly believes that her youngest son hasn’t done anything wrong, and the claims by forces are void. The 60-year-old mother is now worried about her son’s future. She remembers how her son went to the district police line all by himself to prove his innocence. The family hoped, like Mr. Muzamil, that he would come back. “But no one is safe in a place like Kashmir,” said Ms. Bano. “How can we expect anything different?”
Talking to The Kashmir Walla, Mr. Ganai told that Jammu and Kashmir police assured the family to not worry for Mr. Muzamil. “He will be released very soon,” they had said while adding that no FIR has been filed on him.
After a week, while the family lived with the assurance, Mr. Ganai went to a nearby police station, Senior Superintendent of Police, Chandan Kohli said, “He is safe with us. If released, he can join militancy.”
For a father who had seen his 22-year-old son growing in front of his eyes, was shocked. He recalls that his son has never been involved in any criminal case before. “He was a bright student, and among the toppers in his class,” said Mr. Ganai.
Mr. Muzamil was a final year student in Government College, Pulwama, pursuing Bachelors in Commerce, was preparing for his upcoming final exams, away from his house, in Srinagar, at his maternal home. “We never wanted him to be affected from prevailing situations in Pulwama, and had sent him to Srinagar due to the same reason,” said Mr. Ganai. “But he even missed his exams.”
Mr. Ganai firmly believes that conflict has affected Pulwama like no other. “Other parts of Kashmir, especially Srinagar, are immune,” he said. “Anything happens, the youth of Pulwama are soft targets.”
On 14 February 2019, when Jaish-e-Mohammad affiliated 19-year-old militant, Adil Ahmad Dar, rammed an explosive-ridden vehicle in the convoy of Indian paramilitary forces in Lethpora, Pulwama, that killed at least 40 troopers, Mr. Ganai alleges that the government forces slapped the PSA on him in the intervening night of 14 and 15 February.
“Next day, when one my son went to see him at the police station, a local cop told that he has been taken to Jammu,” said Mr. Ganai.
Muzammil Ganai, a few weeks before his final year papers, was detained in pursuance order number 07/DMP/PSA/19.
His PSA dossier claims that they have “sufficient knowledge of the facts of the case”, and adds that Mr. Ganaie i.e. “the detenue (are) an Over Ground Worker (OGW) of a banned terrorist organization Hizbul Mujahideen (HM)”. The order also firmly asserts that Mr. Ganaie “(have) been instigating youth of District Pulwama and its adjoining areas for carrying out subversive activities thereby posing threat to peace…”.
The family once lived in Chatapora area of Pulwama town, the nucleus of the intense conflict and its scattered casualties. The Ganaies’ had no other option but to leave the place a few years ago, to keep their sons away from conflict, clashes, and random arrests.
“We only shifted to keep our children safe,” said Fatima Bano, mother of Mr. Muzamil, and continued sobbing, “We never knew that they won’t be safe here as well.”
Days after his detention, the deadly Lethpora attack not only shook India but raised apprehensions for Mr. Muzamil’s family. His detention in police custody triggered many questions and possibilities; “I thought they would kill my son,” said Ms. Bano. “I pray for his survival. It has been months since I saw him.”
As she wiped her tears with a scarf, saying, “Muzamil had assured us that he will go to the police station, prove his innocence, and will come back,” and she sobbed harder, “But he didn’t fulfill his promise.”
Edited by Yashraj Sharma.
Bhat Burhan is a Multimedia Reporter at The Kashmir Walla.