Zahoor’s school certificate: Zahoor Ahmad who is 15-years-old is booked under UAPA
Eight booked, four of them arrested, for raising slogans at funeral procession of a youth
Arjumand Shaheen Andrabi | Clarion India
SRINAGAR – Jammu and Kashmir Police on Wednesday booked at least eight persons under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act including a minor, for allegedly raising slogans at a funeral procession of a youth, who died in a road accident recently, in Kupwara district of north Kashmir.
Zahoor Ahmad Dar 15, son of Khazir Mohammad Dar of Bumhama Kupwara, has been booked under the stringent UAPA. However, the family denies all the allegations of police.
Others named in the FIR, officials said, are: Abid Hussain Mir son of Abdul Gani Mir, Qaisar Ahmad Mir son of Farooq Ahmad Mir, Bilal Ahmad Mir son of Farooq Ahmad Mir, Aijaz Ahmad Sheikh son of Ghulam Rasool Sheikh, Abas Ahmad Mir son of Khazir Mohammad Mir, Firdous Ahmad Bhat son of Lal Bhat and Fayaz Ahmad Dar son of Mohammad Maqbool, all residents of Bumhama Kupwara.
A police officer confirmed to a news agency (GNS) that four out of those named in the FIR have been arrested under Section 13 of the UAPA, 1967. They are: Qaisar Ahmad Mir, Bilal Ahmad Mir, Zahoor Ahmad Dar and Aijaz Ahmad Sheikh.
According to the locals, a youth identified as Mohammad Amin Dar, Son of Abdul Ahad Dar of Bumhama, died in a road accident during the intervening night of May 28 near his native place.
Subsequently, there was funeral and, according to police, anti-India slogans were raised following which a case (FIR No. 181/21) under IPC sections of 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 147 (Punishment for rioting) besides stringent 13 ULA (P) Act was lodged in Police Station Kupwara.
Zahoor’s father, who is a labourer, said that he was coming back from work on 29th of May, when he was informed by a neighbour about Zahoor’s incarceration.
Khazir said that a local Sarpanch had come to their home earlier that day. He escorted Zahoor to the local Police Station, Drugmullah, saying that he was called by the senior police officer of the concerned Police Station. When Zahoor reached the Police station, he was detained there along with eight other persons.
Zahoor who is a minor and a class 8 student of a local government school. The family is devastated after hearing that their son has been lodged under the stringent law.
“All I know is that my son is innocent. Throughout the day he remains occupied with his online classes and looks after his ailing mother.”
He said that his son doesn’t even find time to play like other children do.
“They have ruined my son’s career. How can they put a 15-year-old child in prison for something which he has not done,” asked Khazir.
Since his arrest in Police Station Kupwara, Khazir said he was shuttling every morning and evening from home to Police station.
“Each time I was sent back saying that my son would be released in the evening and after I would go to visit him in the evening they would tell me that he would be released the next morning. Now they have shifted him to a prison in Srinagar,” he sobbed.
Khazir has no idea what UAPA is. Oblivious Khazir said that police has slapped his son with some “UPA” – (UAPA).
This is not the first time when people have been booked under UAPA for allegedly raising slogans in Kashmir. Salih Peerzada, a lawyer-based in Srinagar, said that the Supreme Court has already given many judgments that sloganeering doesn’t amount to any offence or sedition against the country. The persons booked under the UAPA do not have the immediate redressal, since it has a bar in terms of bail.”
Under UAPA, authorities get 180 days to probe a case, compared to 60-90 days under ordinary criminal law. This means that an accused cannot apply for bail before six months.
According to a report published in the Scroll, the National Crime Records Bureau data shows a rising graph of UAPA cases in Jammu and Kashmir: from less than 60 cases annually until 2015, to 255 cases in 2019, the latest year for which data is available.
Data provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs in the Lok Sabha revealed over 72% increase in the number of arrests made under UAPA in 2019 as compared to 2015. In 2019, Jammu and Kashmir had registered the third highest number of UAPA cases among all Indian states.
Living in a very shabby and congested house, Khazir is the lone bread-earner in his family. Sometimes they have to struggle for two meals.
Zahoor’s mother has been bed-ridden since 2007 and her condition is still worsening. She is unaware of her son’s detention. According to her family, she is a heart patient and is also suffering from other different ailments.
Zahoor’s father showed this reporter all her medical reports and the gigantic bills he has been paying off.
“We didn’t tell her about the arrest of our son because she is on medication and drugs. Her doctor has advised us to keep her away from any mental stress. If she gets to know, we fear that she will die of the shock, whispered Khazir”
After the Indian government revoked the special status (limited autonomy) of the erstwhile state in August 2019, since then the cases of UAPA have been rising constantly. The Act prescribes imprisonment of five to seven years for advocating, abetting, advising or inciting the commission of any unlawful activity. UAPA is now being slapped randomly for anything in Kashmir.
Khazir has talked to Zahoor once on the phone. Zahoor was crying and all he could say to his father was, “please baba, mujhe yahan se lejao — please father take me from here.” Zahoor’s father is his only hope now.
“How would I travel to Srinagar which is more than 100kms far from my home? I cannot afford the travel expenses, hiring a lawyer or the other court proceeding expenses”.
Khazir has not gone to work since Zahoor’s detention. “How could I work, when my child is behind the bars. But if I do not go to work, how I will manage with my responsibilities, what shall we eat, we will starve to death,” lamented Khazir.
“If chanting and reciting Kalma, verses of the Quran, at a funeral is unlawful and anti-national, if that is what they call sloganeering, then arrest us all, Khazir said”
Aijaz Ahmad Sheikh, 28, son of Ghulam Rasool Sheikh, a shopkeeper of Bumhama Kupwara has also been booked under UAPA. According to his family he was not home when the funeral took place.
“One of our relatives had died in the other village and my Aijaz had returned that day after five days on 29th of May. He was at the shop outside when he was taken away by the local Sarpanch saying they were supposed to sign an apology note in the police station. Since then he did not come back and was arrested there,” said Razia, Aijaz’s sister.
According to Aijaz’s family his medical condition is not good and is suffering from a severe chest infection. “He always needs his spray pump and also is supposed to take the steam daily. They cannot keep an ailing person in prison in the time when whole world is grappling with the deadly coronavirus. If he contracts coronavirus in the prison, who would be responsible for that?” asked Aijaz’s maternal uncle.
“When he did not attend the funeral, how could he raise slogans there? All the allegations and claims of the police are false. Police cannot incarcerate an innocent person and slap him with an anti-terror law without any evidence. When we are not criminals why are we being treated as criminals? ” Razia added.
This reporter tried to reach out to the police authorities but they were not available for the quote.