The arrest of Kashmiris: Police, family, evidence?

Family and relatives of Touseef Ahmed and Ehtisham Malik at their Sopore residence. Photo: Abid Nabi

By Fahad Shah

The arrest of two Kashmiri youth from Delhi and Jharkhand by the special cell of Delhi Police is yet to be investigated thoroughly but the police, a few hours after the arrest, said they recovered some “incriminating documents and material” from the two men. There are many versions in the story. Family says they were not arrested at the places which police claimed. Apart from that how one of them did go to Pakistan on a valid passport-visa when he had previous police record back home. The pro-freedom leader of Jammu and Kashmir, S A Geelani has also been linked to this case as he has given a recommendation letter to one of the suspects for getting Pakistan visa.

As the time passes the story unfolds further. According to the police, one of the arrested men, Ehtisham Malik had gone to Pakistan in December, 2011 on a valid passport via Samjhuata Express for a 45 day long stay. Another fact of the case is that Ehtisham was picked up by the Jammu and Kashmir police for questioning in 2007 in Sopore for his alleged links with the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). He was released later. Another boy, Tauseef Ahmed along with Muzamil Amin Dar, from Badambagh, Sopore, was picked up for questioning regarding their alleged links with LeT, that year. Both were let off after questioning.

In Kashmir, when any person has a police record of his involvement even in a local-scuffle with neighbours they don’t get passport. Though passport might be issued but getting green signal from Indian authorities to visit Pakistan is impossible. In 2007, the Indian Express reported that “a veritable blacklist” has been prepared by the JK Police’s intelligence wing that has swelled to cover as many as 60,000 families (which mean lakhs of individuals) across the valley. All these families have been blacklisted for passports. None of them will get Indian passport as they or their relatives were directly or indirectly associated with militancy related activities.

A Srinagar-based journalist, Showkat Motta writes in Media Voice that in a landmark judgement in October 2009, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court held that an acquitted person has the right to hold a passport. “Humayoun Yusuf Jan, a reputed businessman of Srinagar, was arrested by a security agency, under the Indian Arms Act. The court later acquitted him. Notwithstanding his acquittal, Jan was denied a passport. He moved the court to get his passport. There have been many allegations that the CID sleuth demand hefty bribes to give security clearances.”

There are cases when passports have been cancelled by the authorities. There are journalists, activists, lawyers from Kashmir who doesn’t have passports. Even some people visiting from any Indian state or any other country to Kashmir have been arrested on landing in Kashmir, like in the case of Human Rights activist, Gautam Navlakha. He was not allowed to visit Kashmir last year. So in a situation of anyone related to militancy there is hardly any possibility of leaving India. Motta writes that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s statement that “even if their kiths and kin are related to militancy,” no one should be denied a passport has proved hollow, at least in the case of Ajaz Ahmad War, a resident of the volatile Maisuma area of Srinagar. “Ajaz, 29, has been denied a passport despite a letter from the CM’s secretariat to the CID. What has gone against Ajaz is that one of his brothers, Hilal War, is a separatist leader.”

In such circumstances how come Ehtisham Malik, one of the arrested men, could get passport and then smoothly visited Pakistan via train. Why Tauseef has been arrested? What is the evidence? Is there something which police doesn’t say?

The arrest of both is blurred. They are related to each other as cousins. Tauseef’s mother Mehbooba Begam has said that Ehtisham was arrested from Patna, where he had gone to appear in exams and Tauseef was arrested two days before police claimed it. Mail Today reported that Tauseef’s father Mohammad Sayeed, a teacher at a private school in Sopore, said his son was not arrested on March 1 as claimed by the police. “He was arrested on February 27 while going with my Cousin Bashir Ahmed’s daughter to Gulmohar College. We knew he had been picked up. I was desperate…I then asked Sopore SP Imtiaz Husain why they had arrested my boy. He said Tauseef was innocent and that they were only looking for Ehtisham,” Sayeed told Mail Today.

The recommendation letter by Geelani to Ehtisham has been taken as a nexus between separatist leaders and “militants”. However, the case is in investigation phase and it is yet to get a judgement. If these boys will be proven guilty of being involved in terrorist activities then it definitely demands an enquiry on Geelani’s authority of recommending anyone for Paksitan visa. But only then when they are proven guilty.

The party of which Geelani is chairman has rejected the allegations. “We don’t know about this case. But generally, if any Kashmiri comes to Geelani sahab for recommendation, he gives his recommendation only because the person being Kashmiri. But then how can he know why he wants to go there and what his motive is?” a news agency quoted Geelani’s spokesperson Ayaz Akbar as saying.

This can be JK police’s inability to let anyone reach Delhi and get a visa for Pakistan and travel through train which has earlier been arrested for being a LeT man. The Indian Intelligence and other agencies can also come into the scanner if it will be proven that Ehtisham went Pakistan for training and planned terror attacks in Delhi. So far the investigation is yet to conclude and the evidence which police said was recovered from their possession can only be confirmed as their when they will accept it. Like in the case of Imran Kirmani and others it has always been that police recovered some evidence and later after years spent in jail by them court say the evidence was fabricated. A transparent probe should be ordered in this case and such other cases so that truth won’t take years to come out.

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