State owes compensation to Shah, Fazili

On February 16, two youth from Kashmir, Mohammad Rafiq Shah and Mohammad Hussain Fazli, were acquitted by a Delhi court. In its judgement, the court said the evidence against them was “fabricated and flimsy”. The youth had been arrested by Special Cell of Delhi Police for their alleged involvement in the 2005 pre-Diwali blasts in Delhi  that killed 67 people. However, the tragedy of Shah and Fazili is not the first of its kind. Over the past three decades, many Kashmiris have been randomly picked up by the security agencies during their travels outside the state, slapped with false charges of their involvement in terrorism and then left to rot in prison for years and run the gauntlet of the endless trials before their eventual acquittal by the courts. 

There are scores of such people who have gone through such ordeals, losing thus the best part of their lives to the extended incarceration for the crimes they didn’t commit. But while at the end of it they have been duly acquitted by the courts, none have been compensated for the lost period of their lives. What is more, the security personnel who falsely implicated them have gotten scot-free. However, to their credit, the victims have not lost hope but are rebuilding their lives. Even before the acquittal of Shah and Fazili came along, Engineer Farooq Khan from Janglath Mandi, Islamabad  spent 19 years in prison, 14 of which in Tihar alone.   Khan was working as a junior engineer in PHE mechanical division in 1996 when he was arrested on his way to Srinagar from Anantnag. However, in his interaction with media soon after his release, Khan said he had no regrets. People in Kashmir, he said, have seen the worst. Similarly, a once prosperous fruit merchant from Bandipora has spent seven years in jail. Though badly ailing, he is now scared to go outside the state for treatment. Mushtaq Ahmad Wani, a cop, was also imprisoned for seven years. Their tragedies and the struggle to rebuild their lives are representative of the scores of their ilk. And in turn also representative of the larger tragedy of Kashmir reeling under the fallout of the political turmoil of the past quarter of a century which has left thousands dead in its wake. It is time to highlight their tragedy. These men are now in their late thirties and forties and they have to begin their their life from a scratch. 

There is a need thus to spotlight their plight. These men have been wronged by the system and it owes them recompense and rehabilitation. But sadly there is no such sense of responsibility towards them. What is more, no need is being felt to hold to account the security and intelligence officers who got these youth arrested in the first place. In fact, there isn’t even a sympathetic media discourse towards their  plight. It is only a tiny section of media which has chosen to raise questions about the shoddy nature of policing and intelligence gathering on terrorism following the acquittal of  Shah and Fazili.   It is only to be hoped that this questioning is taken to its logical conclusion. 

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