Kashmiri Mother Gets Overwhelming Response To Rescue Jailed Innocent Son

Signature Campaign Begins At KU 

SRINAGAR – With her son in jail for the past six years for a crime she says he never committed, Mahmooda Akhtar who signed on to a global online petition platform to secure his release today got overwhelming response after the students at the University of Kashmir University started a ‘signature campaign’ seeking release of her only son.

Students had erected a banner, titled: ‘Signature campaign for the release of Kashmir University student Muhammad Rafiq Shah’. Shah, an Islamic studies student, currently detained in Delhi’s dreaded Tihar jail.

While demanding release of Rafiq, the participants said “he is innocent”. Shazia, an Islamic Studies student, who also took part in the ‘campaign’, said: “Rafiq is innocent and has not done any crime.”  She said, “The vice chancellor of university at that time also tried his best to get him released as he knew that Rafiq was innocent and was present in university when bomb blasts took place in Delhi but despite clearance from university authorities Rafiq was not released,” adding, this time we hope he will be set free.

Ghulam Jeelani, who is from General Administration of the University while terming Rafiq as ‘innocent’, said: “He should be released because they haven’t proved his involvement in those blasts.” He said: “Everyone is saying that he was present in university on that date, but still he is languishing in jail.”

The organizers of this ‘campaign’ said: “After Rafiq’s mother started an online petition for his release, she had sought help from university students, so we decided to take the initiative and carry forward her message in order to get her son, who is also an University student released.”  They said, “In the first phase, we distributed pamphlets among students seeking their cooperation.”

Shoaib, who is one of the organizers of the campaign claimed “so far we got twenty five hundred signatures,” adding, the campaign will continue on Saturday as well. He said: “These signatures will be sent to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in next week.”

The ‘campaigners’ claimed that Kashmir University Teachers Association (KUTA) and Kashmir University Scholars Association (KUSA) have ‘assured’ them full support.

Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain, who is a law expert and teacher, while commenting on the on-going ‘campaign’ said: “The campaign will be fruitful only when it will create pressure on the ones who are in power.” He said: “In past we witnessed Free Faizan, which proved effective only after it created pressure on the power holders.” He also said: “Until charges on accused are proven, law considers him innocent,” adding, “in this context Rafiq is innocent.”

A noted Political analyst, Noor Muhammad Baba said: “Campaigning is one way of protest. Its effectiveness depends, like how much it will evoke response from Government, how much it will gain momentum in public,” adding, “we have to understand the complexity as government of India doesn’t listen to these kinds of things”.

He said: “Such a long detention, without any fair trial and without proving charges is his violation of human rights and on the basis of circumstantial evidences and attendance record, Rafiq is innocent.”

Mehmooda, the mother of Rafiq said: “Today was his hearing in Delhi’s Teeshazari court, but his lawyer was absent and trial was suspended and now next hearing will be on 20th of November.”

On Sunday, Mehmooda, the mother of Rafiq started an online campaign for her son’s release on change.org.

While starting the campaign, a bedridden Mehmooda, said at her Alasteng home: “Police says he carried bomb blasts in Delhi but how come when he was in his classroom at the University when the blasts in Delhi took place.”

She appealed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah for his release and said: “I appeal Prime Minister of India and Chief Minister to release my son who is innocent. He is our only hope in old age.”

The petition which has been signed by Rafiq’s mother reads: “My son, Muhammad Rafiq Shah was arrested on 21 November 2005. He has been in Tihar Jail for 7 years despite evidence supporting the fact that he is innocent. He has been falsely implicated in the pre-Diwali blasts in Delhi in 2005. My son had never visited Delhi and was in the Kashmir University when the blasts occurred. The then VC of KU Abdul Wahid and even Riyaz Punjabi after him have even provided the attendance register confirming Rafiq’s presence in the university on the said dates. Despite all evidence confirming my son’s innocence he is still languishing in jail.”

On October 29, 2005, a series of blasts rocked the crowded areas of Sarojini Nagar market, Paharganj and Kalkaji killing 50 persons and injuring 104.

On the night of November 21, 2005, sleuths of police picked Rafiq, a 3rd semester Islamic Studies student at KU at that time, from his home and then whisked him away to Delhi.

In the past, students of Kashmir University have held protests demanding the release of Rafiq.

Mahmooda Akhtar (55), the grieving mother has already exhausted all options and resources fighting for Muhammad Rafiq Shah, jailed for the serial blasts in Delhi that killed 76 people and left 200 injured, and has now joined the Change.org, perhaps, as a last resort.

Change.org is the world’s largest online petition platform, empowering people everywhere to create the change they want to see. Akhter has lodged an online petition, seeking prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh to intervene and release her only son.

“I request the Kashmir Diaspora to help in signing my online petition, and to press the central and the state governments to release my son,” Akhtar, now bedridden by her fight and ordeal, says.

“I also request the students of all universities in the state and outside to show solidarity with me and help me in securing my son’s release,” she says.

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