Feroz Ahmad Ahanger, (44) on Saturday suffered a heart attack as his 19-year-old son has been under NIA custody for the past four days in connection with the “case of radicalising, motivating and recruiting youth of Jammu and Kashmir by Lashkar e Taiba (LeT) operative”.
On Saturday dozens of people from the Zaldagar area of Srinagar city arrived in Press Enclave to demand release of 19-year-old Arsalan Feroz, terming the charges against him “baseless” and “far from reality”.
On Thursday sleuths of National Investigation Agency (NIA) accompanied by a heavy contingent of government forces dotted Zaldagar area in Srinagar to carry out searches in the house of Arsalan Feroz who was later detained on charges of being The Resistance Font (TRF) operative.
During the protest 44-year-old Ahanger fainted in the Press Enclave while crying and protesting for the release of his son. The family of Ahanger has been in trauma since the arrest of their son.
A family member confirmed to The Kashmir Walla that Ahanger was admitted in the hospital after he suffered a minor heart attack. “He was admitted in the hospital along with my mother as she also fell ill,” the family member said, adding that, “the family is going through severe trauma.”
Questioning his son’s arrest on “grave charges”, his father, Ahanger during the protest at Press Enclave on Friday said that in October police called them on the phone and inquired about the sim card that was being used by his son.
“They told us to produce him in the police station. He was at the tuition centre and after he returned we took him to the police station where he was detained for 40 days until released in November,” Ahanger said.
As per family after Arsalan spent 20-25 days at home after being released on 27 November “on Thursday NIA raided the house and searched everything, but got nothing incriminating”.
“We presented him in the police station again. They made me sign papers which I do not know what they were. They told me that you do not need to worry as he will be released after being questioned,” Ahanger had said.
Distraught Ahanger family and acquaintances on Saturday held a protest at Srinagar’s Press Enclave, and termed the allegations against Arsalan as “baseless” and “far from reality”.
“He is a student of class 12th and has no police case registered against him before. How can a teenager be involved in such activities when he has already been released from 40 days long detention in November?” they asked.
Sehrish Feroz, sister of Arsalan had said they were surprised after police raided the house and then accused him of being a TRF operative, 20-25 days after he was released from custody.
“Imagine he is a 19-year-old. How could have he been a recruiter or TRF operative? A day before they said that he was a chronic stone pelter and then changed their statement and said he is a TRF operative,” Sehrish said.
“When he was not found as a TRF operative when he was under custody for 40 days and released, then how he turned out to be a chronic stone pelter or TRF operative now. How did it happen? How is it justified? Release him or shoot us all dead. He is our only support,” she said.
“There was no FIR registered against him when he was detained for 40 days,” said Sehrish.
Neighbours remembered Arsalan as a pious, harmless and honest youth and said they were surprised to see a heavy contingent of forces raiding their house as if they had to arrest some top commander.
They said, “if he (Arsalan) would have been involved in any harmful activities we would not have been here to demand his release,” a neighbour had told The Kashmir Walla during the protest.
On Monday the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti said that parents of the teenager met her and vouched for his innocence. She said that she will write to the Home Minister of India to ensure his release from the custody of NIA.
“There is no FIR lodged against Arsalan Feroz in the past or present. I will write to the Home Minister to ensure his release as his family is in trauma,” she said.
In the past several months NIA detained several dozen people in connection with the civilian killings that rattled the region as over 2 dozen have been killed and the majority of attacks have been claimed by TRF – that police believe to be an offshoot of LeT.
As per the rough estimation in the past six months the anti-terror agency has conducted around 140 raids across Jammu and Kashmir in connection with different cases.
Since July 2021, Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed frequent NIA action in various cases largely related to “terror funding, anti-national activities or militancy related cases”.