Kashmir: blind cleric dies in waiting as son ‘rots’ in prison

Peer Ghulam Nabi in an undated file picture. (Courtesy: his family)

The Batagund village slept early except one man; the local Mosque’s cleric from past 60 years. The village had slept, after the summer sun had drained out last drop of sweat of the local farmers who worked in their fields. The Mosque cleric’s room was lit—this was a norm as he prayed till late in the night. But on Monday night he wasn’t alone; his family read out from the Quran sitting around his lifeless body. They read the verses from the Quran; their tears settling and sinking on the pages, blurring their vision.

While Peer Ghulam Nabi’s body was being lowered into the grave at his ancestral graveyard in the village—which falls under Dooru–  the mourners were whispering about the tragedy  that befell the family since the winters of year 2000.

Peers are a household name in this small village covered by tall poplar trees. Ghulam Nabi was a respected figure in the locality, and had also offered his services as Imam Jamia Masjid Batagund for decades.

Peer’s younger son Firdous Ahmad has his gaze fixed on the coffin of his father the next dawn. Mourners turning up, one by one, to bid adieu to the man, who put up a bold face, as tragedy after tragedy hit the family.

“My father had a very painful death. He would constantly weeping due to which he gradually lost his eyesight. He was living with a hope to see his son free. He left this world with the dream to see Ashraf, who is rotting in jail” says Firdous.

“My father met Ashraf only once during these 12 years. The separation was killing him each passing day,” he adds.

Firdous said that Ashraf was not even allowed to attend funeral of his father, despite being locked up in Anantnag district Jail, some 25 kilometres from the home.

The tale of “persecution and oppression” by the forces, as the younger peer puts it, started after the eldest son of the family Rouf joined militant ranks in 1996. Rouf was slain in a gunfight on January 21, 2000, four years after remaining active in the south Kashmir district.

“Army and STF made our lives miserable until my brother achieved martyrdom. We thought that the security agencies will spare us from daily harassment and humiliation. However, that was not to be,” says Firdous, while breaking his silence.

The cops, he said, started targeting his elder brother Mohammad Ashraf and charged him for hurling grenade at Kapran. Simultaneously, he was booked under PSA.

“So far, he has been slapped with PSA 13 times. He was kept in Kot Balwal, Amphalla, Central Jail and many notorious torture chambers of the Valley,” says Firdous.

Ashraf, he said, is serving imprisonment from last 12 years, despite being innocent. He said when the blast occurred at Kapran, his brother was home.

“Ashraf was in no way connected with militancy. He even abandoned family to save himself from the routine harassment at the hands of police and army,” says Firdous, adding “When he returned home after a year, he was arrested and implicated in a false case,”
Firdous, who has also served two year detention under the controversial PSA, said that he has been subjected to inhumane torture ever since his brother was killed in a gunfight.

“I have been detained illegally by cops around 17 times. During the interrogation, the cops at the JIC, Anantnag would run roller over my body, beat me with bamboo sticks and gun butts. Even my private parts were burnt,” says Firdous, as he shows burn marks over his thigh.

“To add salt to my injuries, I was asked to mark weekly attendance at the police station. As if, the killing of my brother, and jail to another didn’t satisfy them,” he adds.

Firdous claims that on November 19, 2012, two pheran clad persons masquerading as militants visited his house and sought shelter. The duo, he said, told him that they have been sent to his place by a militant commander.

“When I closely looked at the duo, I found one of them was an SPO. I had seen him at the joint interrogation centre (JIC) Anantnag. When I shouted at him, he and his accomplice fled,” says Firdous.

“The harassment exercise hasn’t ceased. New faces are turning up frequently at my house. And all of them pose as militants. Every time I call up police, they turn deaf ears,”

Firdous has penned down details of various callers, which he claims issue veiled threats to him and his family. He has also written about the physical features of the persons, who allegedly subjected him to harassment.

“I am too weak to put a battle before these oppressors. But a day will come when I will make them stand up before Allah,” adds Firdous.