The family of a Kashmiri detainee Peerzada Muhammad Ashraf, 35, who is an accused in a grenade blast incident, is concerned for his safety as the police have failed to produce him in the local court since last six months now. Peerzada remains jailed illegally since more than a decade now even when he has already been granted bail in all the cases, says his family. The family over a decade has already spent more than two million rupees on his court case to prove his innocence, says his brother.
Ashraf, son of Peerzada Ghulam Nabi, a resident of Batagund Verinag, was arrested on December 2006 in connection with a grenade attack that had occurred on 19-07-2004 during a government-sponsored health Mela at Kapran Verinag area of Anantnag district, in which Chief Engineer Roads & Buildings lost his life, while two civilians and some policemen also killed in this incident. Dr Asghar Samoon, the then deputy commissioner Anantnag was also critically injured in this attack including the then Deputy Chief Minister and Congress MLA for Noorabad constituency, Abdul Majeed Paddar.
“Ashraf was a student of the 3rd year in Undergraduate course at Boys Degree College Khanabal when he was picked up by police. He also used to work as a daily wager in the R&B department. Ashraf was arrested on false charges of being involved in the grenade blast incident at Kapran during a government function, making him a scapegoat while the prime accused in this incident was actually Syed Murtaza, native of Nowgam Verinag, a National Conference sympathiser, who was also picked up from his home by the police three days after this incident but was granted bail and released after remaining in jail for two years. After his release, Ashraf was arrested by the police and since then many false cases were imposed on him and in all of which he has been granted bail as police failed to prove those frivolous charges every time”, says Peerzada Firdous Ahmed, the younger brother of Ashraf.
Around 20 witnesses gave their statement in front of the judge in 2011in the grenade incident case, all in his favour, following which he was instantly granted bail by the judge on 11-05-2011 as police had failed to prove the claims. He had been provided bail in other cases by then already, adds Firdous.
“Despite being granted bail by the honorable court my brother continues to remain in illegal confinement since nine years now. The police did not produce him before the court since last six months and we fear for his safety. The recent incidents like the one in Central Jail Srinagar has worried us more. What if they harm him in anyway and pass it off as if he had tried to flee from the custody or make it look like an accident? There have been a number of cases of Fake encounters in India and also a school Principal, Rizwan Pandit, from Awantipora was recently killed in custody here. The police has been providing an excuse that there has been election movement since last couple of months and that’s why they are unable to bring him to Kashmir for court hearing from Hiranagar jail but that’s quite untrue because even before the election process he was not produced in the court”, says Firdous.
Family of Peerzada says that the lack of attendance of prime witnesses during court proceedings is also hampering in clearing him of these charges.
The police most of the times give an excuse that the prime witnesses like senior Congress leader from the state, Ghulam Ahmed Mir, former MLA Shareef Niyaz must give their version before the court after which they can release Ashraf. These are some bigwigs in local politics and they never turn up to depose their statements and it is not possible for us to ask them to attend the court proceedings”, adds Firdous.
Ashraf was arrested in a case with FIR no. 67 2004 PS Dooru, and the charges under section 302, 307, 323, 325, 326, 120-B RPC and 7/27 arms act were imposed on him. The trial, in this case, went on till 2011 at Principal session judge district court Anantnag and the witnesses were brought in front of the judge to depose their statement. The witnesses which included Dr Asghar Samoon (DC Ang in 2004), Abdul Majeed Paddar (Congress MLA from Noorabad in 2004) deposed that a grenade explosion had occurred in which they were injured but they could not recognise Ashraf as the one involved in this attack and they did not depose anything against him. Several other eyewitnesses who mostly included the government officials of that time also did not give their statement against Ashraf following which he was granted bail.
Police, later on, slapped 13 PSAs on Ashraf, which were quashed by the High court Srinagar. Ashraf was also charged for pelting stones despite him being lodged in jail for more than a decade since 2004.