After 16 years in jail, Indian court acquits two Kashmiris


NEW DELHI – Two years ago, in April, 2010, a Delhi court awarded death sentence to Mohammad Naushad, Mohammad Ali Bhat and Mirza Nissar Hussain, and Javed Ahmed Khan was sentenced to life imprisonment, charging them for a bomb blast, fitted in a Maruti car, which killed thirteen people and injured thirty eight in Delhi’s crowded market, Lajpat Nagar on May 21, 1996. The court had said that the convicts do not deserve to be dealt with a lenient view.

“It was the most dastardly act … the convicts indulged in the killing of innocent persons without any provocation.” the District and Sessions Judge S. P. Garg had said in his 42-page order.

The Delhi High Court on November 22, 2012, acquitted Hussain and Bhat, converted Naushad’s death penalty to life term and upheld the life sentence given to Khan. The other two “convicts”, Farooq Ahmed Khan and Farida Dar were sentenced to imprisonment for seven years and four years and two months respectively by the local court in 2010.

This is not first such acquittal of any Kashmiri in India. In connection with the same bomb blast case, Mohammad Maqbool Shah from Kashmir, who was 15 years old then, was arrested by Delhi police and was kept in juvenile jail of Tihar for first two years and later lodged in the main jail. Shah was acquitted on April 8, 2010 after spending fourteen years of his life in jail.

The pro-resistance leaders of Kashmir also expressed happiness on the court order but also raised some concerns. Syed Ali Geelani, the leading people’s leader of Kashmir said:  “Court has given its verdict in their favour acquitting them from all charges, but it is sad to say that it did not utter a word about compensating their 17 precious years of detention. It has not done any justice to the convicted. It should have convicted the police for their misconduct and fabricating a baseless story against these innocent people.”

In another such case, an aeronautical engineer, Imran Kirmani, was arrested by the Delhi Police’s Special Cell for being “a member of a Lashkar-e-Toiba module and planning a 9/11-type attack in Delhi”. After more than four years, Kirmani was acquitted by a court in 2010. The jail period only left him broken and stole precious years of his life.

The questions against such cases in India are being raised everywhere. The Communist Party of India (M) Jammu and Kashmir secretary M Y Tarigami said that the court decision in which two Kashmiri youth, alleged to be militants facing death sentence were acquitted, depicts a dismal scenario of policing in the country.

“In the race for promotions and perks, some fringe officers in police department are fabricating Muslim youth particularly from Kashmir in frivolous cases… Who will return their precious years or compensate these youth who were arrested arbitrarily when they were just 18 or 19 years of age and were incarcerated for 14 years and each one of them was, as held by the courts, innocent,” Tarigami said, in a statement.

Several people have been arrested in India and then acquitted also by courts, declaring them innocents. The only relation shared by majority of the acquitted persons is that they belong to Kashmir. Youth from the conflict torn region come out of the region to other cities of India to work or for studies; but they land in jails. Indian government has been claiming that the youth of this region need to be developed but arrests and then acquittals show they are only crippled.

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