After becoming first unionist politician arrested by NIA last summer, Er Rashid has remained a political enigma. Even as the unionist camp of Kashmir is out of clutches and curbs, the firebrand ex-lawmaker is yet to see the light of the day prompting his family to question the silence on his protracted incarceration.
MAWAR, Langate – Just like his woebegone mother, two long-faced siblings and old grandparents, 19-year-old Abrar Rashid is unable to make sense of his father’s condemned fate for being a flag-bearer of unionist politics in Kashmir.
Ever since his father became a captive, the junior Rashid is haunted by a question: “How will I face those who took an oath with my father that they will not pelt stones and seek peaceful means to address the issues?”
The first year college student is the son of former legislator from the north Kashmir’s Langate area, Sheikh Abdul Rashid, popularly known as Engineer Rashid.
Rashid was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on August 9—four days after New Delhi revoked special status of the erstwhile state—in connection with a “terror funding” case in Kashmir.
Rashid was the first unionist politician to have been arrested by the NIA in the case. He’s still under detention in New Delhi’s Tihar jail.
Before his arrest, Rashid remained in news for his vocal advocacy of Kashmir issue. Despite being unionist leader, he pitched the demand of the “right to self-determination” and faced music for his unconventional style of politics.
As an independent candidate, with back-to-back assembly election wins, Rashid floated his own political outfit, Awami Ittehad Party (AIP). He contested parliamentary elections from Baramulla after former Governor Satya Pal Malik dissolved the State Legislature. Rashid ended up bagging 102168 votes in a closely-contested affair. He only fell short of small vote margin against National Conference’s north Kashmir heavyweight, Akbar Lone and Raja Ajaz of Peoples Conference.
However, Rashid suddenly disappeared from the news after his arrest. His anxious family says nobody is talking about him or his release.
“We never thought the state would be so cruel to its own man and we wonder why nobody is even talking about him,” Sheikh Khursheed, Er Rashid’s brother and his family guardian, told Kashmir Observer.
Khursheed says his brother was first summoned by NIA in the year 2017 and was given “clean chit” after questioning.
“His detention in August last year is questionable,” the sibling says. “Why was he given clean chit if he wasn’t involved in anything?”
The authorities detained many Kashmiri unionist politicians last year and almost everyone has been released, Khursheed continues. “If everything is okay now in Kashmir, why isn’t my brother being released?”
Being the only family member to have met Er Rashid in Tihar Jail, Khursheed describes the captive unionist as someone “in sound mind and weak body”.
According to the NIA chargesheet, that Khursheed shared with Kashmir Observer, Er Rashid has an alleged close connections with “Hawala operator” Zahoor Ahmad Watali, in the context of “fomenting secessionist ideology” through various public platforms in the valley and extending support to “terrorist and terrorism activities” in the region.
“It was revealed that it was at Zahoor Ahamd Shah Watali’s instance that Er. Rashid raised in J&K Assembly, the issue of release from jail of Qasim Faktoo, terrorist of Hizbul Mujahideen and husband of co-accused Aasiya Andrabi, incarcerated for the murder of a Kashmir pandit,” the chargesheet reads.
The NIA chargesheet further reveals that Er Rashid extorted J&K police to revolt against government of India and has voiced opinions that tantamount to creating a rift between army and police.
“He has also justified the raising of Pakistani flags by protestors in Kashmir Valley to further the common cause of secessionists to secure secession of the state of Jammu and Kashmir from the Union of India as a part of a deep-rooted conspiracy,” the chargesheet reads.
Er. Rashid, the chargesheet says, has sought to legitimise United Jihad Council (UJC) and has shown “his allegiance with Hafiz Sayeed”.
However, Khursheed says his brother had never sought violent means to address the Kashmir issue.
“He wanted Kashmiris to address the issue politically. How could he endorse separatist ideology after taking an oath on Indian constitution? He just wanted a peaceful resolution,” Khursheed says.
In her 20 years of marriage with Er Rashid, 45-year-old Fahmeeda Begum had never thought of spending and running house without her husband’s support.
“We last talked to him over a video call from the jail,” Fahmeeda told Kashmir Observer. “That call lasted for just 5 minutes. He spoke to his parents, brother and children. Before my turn could even come, the call got disconnected.”
In her husband’s absence, she has been struggling to take care of her three kids and Rashid’s old parents.
“Even pension hasn’t been released since last year,” she says. “Running house is very difficult. It’s because of Khursheed that we’re able to feed ourselves. Life is very tough without him. He should be brought back to the valley and kept in any jail so that we could meet him.”
Advocate of Non-violence
Abrar says his father would always guide the youth to choose non-violent means to address their issues.
“I remember, around 3000 youth in Langate took oath under him in presence of interlocutors, that they won’t pelt stones,” he says.
It was on December 23, 2010, when around 3,000 residents of Langate took oath before the Delhi-appointed interlocutors to abstain from stone-pelting.
“We take pledge that we will not throw stones. But it has to be reciprocated by the Centre. They have to take a pledge that they won’t kill us while seeking resolution of the Kashmir issue. If you still shower bullets on us, we will march from Langate to parliament and Red Fort. If you don’t respect and reciprocate our pledge, we will be forced to launch an agitation,” Er Rasheed thundered, evoking a “we do” chorus from the crowd.
“As part of system, Er Rashid was badly treated by India,” the son says. “By detaining him, youth has lost hope on system now.”
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