‘We were forced to suck each other’s genitals’

Mohd Rafiq Shah’s mother holds his picture during the launch of an online petition which sought his release.

On a cold November night, in 2005, a loud knock on the main door of my house, in Kashmir’s Alesteng, woke me from my sleep. In utmost exasperation, my family rushed to the gate to check on what then seemed to be a fervent knock from an agonized traveler. They guessed it wrong. Instead, gun brandishing men from Delhi police, Central Reserve Police Force and Special Operations Group of the Jammu and Kashmir police forced their entry into my house.

Within moments, without uttering a word, they started beating me ruthlessly and as my old-age parents intervened they met the same fate. I was blank and numb. They dragged me out and pushed me into a waiting wagon. I was blindfolded and handcuffed and the vehicle started to move. My darkest fears played in my mind.

The vehicle, over a half an hour later, came to a halt. They moved me from the vehicle and opened my eyes. I was in a garrison or an interrogation centre, I thought. Later, I discovered, I was in Air Cargo— an infamous interrogation centre in Kashmir’s capital, Srinagar.

Then suddenly, many people started hitting me. Some with bamboo sticks, some with belts and rest with whatever they could find. I was asked nothing, since I was picked from my home. Another half an hour must have passed and I was then taken to the room of a top police officer where I saw a number of people– all of them in civvies.

Without identifying themselves, some started questioning me while others resorted to torture without break. When they began to ask questions, a strange hope lingered in my heart. I was asked about my whereabouts between October 20 and 30, 2005. “I do not remember sharply but in the routine manner have been in the University of Kashmir in my department,” I vividly remember telling the men.

Then they zeroed in. They asked me about pre-Diwali blasts in Indian capital, New Delhi, on October 25, that year. I pleaded my ignorance and stood firm, but they continued the torture. They wanted me to confess to being one of the executors of blasts in which innocent people had been killed. I pleaded not guilty till I fainted.

Next morning, I was shifted to an unknown place. I was blindfolded and my hands were tied. They confined me till night in a dark room and tortured severely. On November 23, that year, the Delhi Police officer (whom I later came to know as infamous encounter specialist Mohan Chand Sharma of the Special Cell), leading a team of policemen, brought me and other Kashmir youth Mohammad Hussain Fazili by plane to the Lodhi Colony Police Station in New Delhi. It was there, I faced wrath of Delhi Police.

I was stripped naked, my hands were tied behind with a rope, and the legs were also tied together by iron fetters. They started beating me severely. It was almost evening, the skies were dark we were dragged into a vehicle and were produced before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at her residence. The Magistrate without asking any questions left us at the mercy of Delhi Police. We were remand to police custody for 14 days.

We were back to Lodhi Colony Police Station where what happened to me another well educated Kashmir youth (about whom I later came to know that he was doing a white collar job in a multinational company Johnson & Johnson) is beyond words. We were brutally tortured there. They abused everything that belonged to us, stripped us and gave electric shocks by connecting electrodes to our genitals, hanging us upside down and immersing our heads in water. We were then forced to drink the urine filled in the bottles; rats were put into our trousers. Then we were subjected to water boarding due to which huge quantity of water entered into our stomachs. The process continued till I fainted.

After about four hours, when I regained consciousness, two persons held me on either side and made me stand but I fell down. It was impossible for me to stand. I collapsed.

Next day they rubbed on our bodies a creature loathed in my religion. Then they started shouting Allah, Allah. I crumbled! The interrogator, Mohan Chand Sharma, along with his team watched all this in amusement and said with a cunning laughter: “Call your God, no God will come to your rescue here.”

I felt numb, thinking over the vengeance and prejudice towards Kashmiris. We were handcuffed and chained for several days. During this course of time, the ordeal of torture went bad to worse and one day we were forced to suck the genitals of each other. The interrogators were watching in amusement and made video clips in their mobile phones.

Police, shaved off my beard and forced me to have a ‘French cut beard’ after which our photographs were taken. Some unknown persons in civvies were bought in the cell and I was subjected to parade before them. When I was shown to the fabricated and planted witnesses of police, I was told that they knew that I was not involved in blasts, but being a Kashmiri is sufficient ground to implicate me in the blasts.

Besides, I was told that these persons would stand as witnesses in my case and would also give testimonies against me before the court of law. They also said: for us it is not difficult to prove you guilty as we have our own legislature, law enforcement agencies and judiciary, we can do whatever we want.

The sleuths forced me to confess. How could I confess what I didn’t know about. But all my pleas and cries went to deaf ears. They failed to extract a confession through physical torture. They then began psychological torture. Mohan Chand Sharma threatened me that if I didn’t confess before the media, my sisters and mother would be brought there and would be tortured before me. I looked at them helplessly. Scary thoughts made me to give in. I was then forced to sign hundreds of blank papers.

A fortnight later, I was asked to put on my clothes, handcuffs were removed, and I was taken from my cell and dumped into a vehicle. After a long drive, I was taken out of the vehicle and was straight away taken to the magistrate for remand .My situation was critical and I was continuously vomiting due to deteriorating health. Blood was oozing out from my wounds but the learned magistrate without uttering a word permitted the police to keep us in remand again for fifteen days. My critical condition and scars of torture were apparent to her. I was back in the custody this time at New Friends Colony special cell. They kept me in a filthy dark cell chained and handcuffed.

Next day, a person in civvies was brought before me. I at once reminded and recognized that he was the same person who was brought before me in Lodhi colony police station where I was asked that some persons would stand as witnesses against me in the court there after I was subjected to photo and video sessions. Footprint and fingerprints were also forcibly taken from me. It was almost dawn, when I was shifted to Tihar Jail for TIP (Test Identification Parade). When I was put forth for TIP, I refused and narrated my ordeal but all in vain.

Again my remand was extended from by a court and I was shifted to New Friends Colony special cell where I was presented before the media person associated with a leading English daily published from New Delhi. He took my photographs. I was kept in a dark cell for a period of fifteen days with other two Kashmir youth: Tariq Ahmed Dar and Mohammad Hussain Fazili, who were made co-accused in my case.

After spending fifteen days in mental agony and trauma, we were presented before the court and after getting another remand for fifteen days in police custody we were shifted to Rohini Special Cell of Delhi Police.

We came across a sheer desperation and despondency from a learned judge when she in prejudice asked that ‘if we’re not enthusiastic to live in India why we’re not migrating to Pakistan’. We were totally shaken by the remarks of a learned judge. On December 30, I along with other two Kashmiri youths, who had been made my co-accused, were finally sent to Tihar Jail.

The way Delhi Police have implicated me in the pre-Diwali Delhi blast and branded me as a Delhi-bomber costs a forbidden speck of Indian state which enjoys a monopoly over the means of violence so as to malign the Kashmiris, particularly the educated in the name of so-called fighting terrorism. I have all evidences to prove my innocence but before whom shall I plead. Traversity of justice prevails everywhere in India particularly for Kashmiris.

How can I expect justice from a state which have dashed all my dreams to ground and has spoiled my bright education career that too when then Vice Chancellor of Kashmir University has authenticated that I was in the class room at the time of blasts in Delhi. The director, Shah-i-Hamdan Institute of Islamic Studies (Kashmir University) has given the certificate of attendance for the month of October and November 2005, in which it is clearly mentioned that I was present in the classroom on October 2005, 29, the day blasts ripped New Delhi. Four professors of my department, whose classes I have attended on the day of blasts, also give written affidavits whereby showing my presence in their classes. Some of my classmates in the department have also given in writing the declaration mentioning my presence in the classroom. My neighbours, who had seen me on October 29, on the eve of 3rd Laitatul Qadr, have also given the affidavits in this regard.

Delhi police approached my department in the Kashmir University thrice. They were provided with the Xerox copies of four attendance registers maintained by four professors of the department which proved my presence in the classes on the enquired dates. The varsity authorities were harassed and pressurized to hand over the original registers to them but they refused to do so saying that if any judicial authority would direct them they would hand them over. Ironically, Delhi police claims I planted bombs in buses. I have no magical powers to be omnipresent.

Many ministers in Kashmir government have acknowledged my innocence, but I continue to languish in Tihar.

(If you have a memory to share. You can send your writings to news@kashmirdispatch.com. In the subject column write ‘Memory’)