Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Latest Victim | Ikhlaq Qadri

Authorities have slapped PSA on an 18-year-old, citing a photograph of a masked boy beating a policeman as evidence. The family says, the boy in the picture does not even remotely resemble their son. Ikhlaq Qadri reports.

Contrary to the announcements made by New Delhi and state government last year that cases against people (especially youth) during 2010 summer unrest would be withdrawn, police continue to book people on charges of stone pelting during the unrest.

In the latest instance, 18-year-old Omar Hanga of Gadyar Zaina Kadal was booked under the infamous Public Safety Act (PSA).

Photograph cited by police as evidence against Omar Hanga. Family say the masked man (encircled) does not even remotely resemble Omar.Police says Omar was leading the Sopore Chalo March from Srinagar last year, and was pictured beating a policeman. The photograph police cites as a proof shows some masked boys, taking on a policeman who has fallen on the road. The boy police claims is Omar in the picture, is masked, and tall. His face is not recognizable.

The family is trying hard to explain to police that even the features of the boy in photograph do not resemble with their son.

“Omar is five feet tall while as the guy in photograph is around 6 feet,” says Muhammad Haneef, Omar’s cousin. A close look at the picture shows a mole on boy’s face under right eye. Omar has no such mole, explains Haneef. Moreover, Omar is slim while the boy in the picture is well built, he adds.

But these explanations have not bailed out Omar, who after brief detentions in police stations Parmipora and Maharaj Gunj has been shifted to Kot Balwal Jail.

At Omar’s home in old city locality, anxious relatives, friends, and neighbours are trying to console Hanga family. Omar’s three sisters are wailing.
A higher secondary pass out, Omar, the family says, was preparing for BBA entrance examination.

Their ‘innocent’ son, they say, has been made a scapegoat.

“He is made to pay a price for the sin which he never committed,” said Haneef adding that Omar was tortured in the lockup. When the family saw him last, they said, he has visible marks of torture, and his face had swollen.

The police had registered FIR No.159/2010 under sections 148, 149, 336, 341, 353, 427, 307, 435, 120-B RPC in Police Station Parimpora against a group of youth who they claim were involved in setting police and CRPF bunkers on fire and attempting to kill/ injure police personnel by resorting to heavy stone pelting. Omar, the police claim, was leading from front, the mob on way to Sopore on June 28, 2010 at Shikargah Hokarsar.

The family term the allegation of police as baseless.

“Don’t ask me. Just inquire from the locality what sort of boy Omar is,” said Omar’s aunt.

The family says, a police party from Maharaj Gunj Police station visited their house on January 31 and told them that there was a complaint against Omar. His family members including his father Abdul Hamid Hanga accompanied him to police station.

“He was detained there, but they told that he will be released soon,” said Haneef.

The family spent a sleepless night waiting for their son to return. In the morning they visited the police station again, where they were told that Omar has been shifted to Police Station Parimpora, where there were cases registered against him.

Disappointed, the family along with members of Federation Committee, Bazaar Committee and Mohalla Committee Zaina Kadal went to seek help of Senior Superintendent of Police Srinagar.

“SSP Sahab assured me that he will look in to the matter and Omar will not be sent anywhere,” said Chairman Federation Committee Zaina Kadal, Ghulam Muhammad Hakak.

The family felt relieved when Omar was sent back to Police Station Maharaj Gunj.

“We thought he will be released now as the senior cop kept his word,” said Omar’s uncle, Abdul Majeed.

The family said police promised to release Omar on Feb 12, but on that day they got a call that their son is being taken to Jammu from Police Control Room.
The family rushed to the control room and saw Omar in a vehicle, ready to be shifted.

“The in-charge there told us that he has been booked under PSA. He asked us to get the order copy from the office of district magistrate or from police station,” said Omar’s uncle.

Contesting the police claim, the family says, even senior police officials were not satisfied with the photographic evidence.

“The Police Station Parimpora needs one boy who is missing. For seven months they could not get the right person and now found innocent Omar to fill the gap. They have made Omar a scapegoat. When the senior police officials compared the photograph produced as evidence with Omar’s, they were not satisfied with the claim either,” said the family.

Senior Superintendent of Police, Syed Aashiq Hussain Bukhari when asked about the family claim regarding the ‘photographic evidence’ said “Let them contest in the court.”

The PSA dossier against Omar, says he has been detained for “being  antinational element desperately trying to keep Srinagar city on boil by instigating the gullible youth to resort to stone pelting in various areas of Srinagar city.”

“You have been figuring adversely in police records since long but always acted very discreetly. On 28.06,2010 you and some of your associates were leading the unruly mob on way to Sopore on the eve of the call given by some secessionist groups and resorted to heavy stone pelting upon police personnel in an attempt to injure/ kill them. You and your associates also set on fire the police and CRPF bunker,” the order reads.

The authorities has accused Omar of having affiliation with secessionist elements, saying normal law has not been sufficient to stop him from indulging in such activities.

“In order to stop you from indulging in activities which are prejudicial to the maintenance of public order, your detention under the provisions of J&K Public Safety Act, at this stage has become imperative as the normal law has not been sufficient to stop from indulging in such activities.”
The family is now pinning hopes on chief minister Omar Abdullah.

“The CM has repeatedly said that even stone pelters will be released if the local committee and other respectable citizens own the responsibility for their conduct. Our son is innocent and the federation committee, Bazaar committee, Masjid committee have given in writing that they know Omar and own responsibility for his conduct. We now expect CM to deliver,” said Haneef adding, “We are his people and he is our CM. We have elected him, if he won’t fulfill the promise, who will.”

Omar’s mother is suffering from many aliments like neural problem, heart ailment and her son’s plight has worsened her health. The father makes a meager income from a shop he owns. Omar, he says, was considered to be the emerging support for the family.

“He was brilliant in studies. Besides helping his father at shop he used to devote all his time to studies,” said his cousin Haneef.

Omar’s sisters are waiting to see their brother again. “We were very close and would spend time together. I used to prepare notes for him to make his job easier,” said his sister.

Members of the Federation Committee Zaina Kadal, Mohalla Committee Zaina Kadal, and Bazaar Committee Zaina Kadal are vouching for Omar’s conduct. The committees have already submitted written application with the police.

“I own responsibility for his conduct as I know him very well. I am here from more than four decades,” said Ghulam Muhammad Hakak, Chairman Federation Committee Zaina Kadal.

Hakak was seconded by Muhammad Ashraf Wani, President Zaina Kadal traders’ federation, Ishtiyaq Ahmad Banday member, Muhammad Yaqub Wakil, president Mohalla committee, Nazir Ahmad Shah of Bazaar Committee Bohri Kadal.

In a feeble voice, father, Abdul Hamid Hanga, keeps repeating one line “Omar is the only brother of three sisters.”

The family is also worried that putting Omar in jail along with criminals could have an adverse impact on him.

“Will CM, police or anyone else own responsibility if he will get diverted, as he is young blood and prone to diversion,” questions his cousin.

Last year, when Kashmir was rocked by widespread protests, and government was struggling to contain the unrest, the authorities announced they would release the people detained during unrest. However, in recent months, police have detained a number of youth, and even elderly people in some cases, on allegations of stone pelting.  Some have been booked under PSA.

In January authorities slapped PSA on two minors, 15 year old Towseef Hussain Bhat of Shopian and 14 year old Basharat Yaqoob Beigh of Shopian. Basharat was later released after state government revoked his PSA.