Framed and damned

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One more Kashmiri youth has been granted  bail by the Supreme Court after spending sixteen years in jail on false charges. The youth Gulzar Ahmad Wani had been arrested in 2001 for planning a blast on Sabarmati Express. Ever since Wani was in jail facing a drawn trial in the case, only to be exonerated of nine of the eleven charges against him. His case is not new but one of the scores in Kashmir and across the country but it yet again proves the vulnerability of the members of a particular community, more so those from Kashmir, to be arbitrarily picked up for  the terror incidents and subjected to long incarceration. Though finally acquitted by the courts, their lives are destroyed in the process. Wani is one of the hundreds of ill-fated youth in Kashmir and the rest of India who have been wrongfully framed for being involved in terrorist attacks. All of them have been jailed for years before being proven innocent by the courts and set free.

But this has hardly helped rebuild their shattered lives.  They and their families continue to face the social stigma of being dubbed as terrorists. Last year, moved by their plight, an all India collective of individuals and organizations decided to help.  They set up The Innocence Network, India – a group modelled after the Black Lives Matter, a movement by the African-American community against violence and systemic racism – to work for the rights of those who have been wrongfully prosecuted under terrorism charges. On October 2, the Innocence Network held the first People’s Tribunal on those acquitted of terror charges in New Delhi.  The group also released the testimonies of those acquitted of terror charges.

So far, however, there has been little media spotlight on the tragedy of these individuals. A case after case of wrongful arrest has done little to sensitize the government towards introducing necessary checks and balances in the law and order machinery to discourage the incidence of picking up wrong people for terror incidents. Nor has it promoted some sense of responsibility towards the victims who are left to fend for themselves following their acquittal. Wronged by the system, the state owes these men recompense and rehabilitation. Least that the state can do is to provide them jobs. With best periods of their lives gone, these youth are hardly in a position to earn their livelihoods.

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. 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  Wani and before him that of Mohammad Rafiq Shah and Mohammad Hussain Fazli.   It is only to be hoped that this questioning is taken to its logical conclusion.

 

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