14 years on, Anantnag family spends over Rs two million, sans justice
Expressing their dismay over the legal system for having a reputation of being “expensive” and “prone to delays”, family of Peerzada Muhammad Ashraf, 35—accused in a Anantnag grenade blast incident has spent over Rs 21 lakh on his court case—however the road to justice still continues to remain far from reality.
According to family despite Principal Session Judge’s bail order, the accused continues to languish in jail since last fourteen years.
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 R&B died, including two civilians and some policemen also lost their life. Dr Asghar Samoon, the then deputy commissioner Anantnag was also critically injured in this incident including then Congress MLA for Noorabad constituency, Abdul Majeed Paddar.
At the time of his arrest, Ashraf was a student of the 3rd year in UG course at Boys Degree College Khanabal and had memorised 16 chapters of Quran also. Besides this, he used to work as a daily wager in the R&B department.
“My brother was arrested on false charges of being involved in the grenade blast incident at Kapran during a government function, making him a scapegoat,” said Peerzada Firdous Ahmed, the younger brother of Ashraf.
The prime accused in this incident was Syed Murtaza—native of Nowgam Verinag, who was picked up from his home by the police three days after this incident. He was in jail for two years and was provided bail later on.
“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,” he said.
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—including Dr Asghar Samoon (DC Ang in 2004), Abdul Majeed Paddar (Congress MLA from Noorabad in 2004) deposed that a grenade explosion had occurred after which they were taken in a helicopter for treatment to Srinagar. They could not recognize Ashraf as the one involved in this attack and they did not depose anything against the accused. Several other eyewitnesses, which mostly included the government officials of that time also did not give their statement against Ashraf following which he was instantly granted bail by the judge on 11-05-2011 as police had failed to prove the claims. Around 20 witnesses gave their statement in front of the judge that day, all in his favour,”
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.
“My brother was never released and 13 PSAs were imposed on him on false charges. All these PSAs were quashed by the Hon’ble High Court in Srinagar which also ordered for his subsequent release. Whenever we went to police with the bail orders, they would come up with new false charges every time,” said Firdous.
Ashraf was charged under FIR no. 305 2011, PS Anantnag, under sections 144, 1407, 148, 336, 120 B RPC, on charges of stone Pelting and in which he was provided bail on 21-09-2011.
Before this, two other cases were charged on him under FIR no. 144 2008 PS Ang, 7/25 arms act, and the bail, in this case, was also granted on 30-12-2011.
In another FIR no. 114 2008 PS Ang, 7/25 arms act, Ashraf was bailed out by the court on 23-05-2011.
“After the police wouldn’t let our brother be free we approached the state Home department where principal secretary R K Goyal and Shahnaza Dilshad as Secretary revoked the PSAs and directed the police to release Ashraf on 18-08-2011 under order no. Home pb-V/1809/2011. Since these 14 years, my job has been to fight the case of my brother, who is now under illegal detention of police at district jail Anantnag. We had to sell our ancestral land to pay for the expenses on his case and so far we have spent a total of 21 lakh rupees. Our father, who was an Imam (preacher) at a local Halqa Jamia Masjid, Batagund Verinag, fell ill due to the long detention of his innocent son. Doctors hopelessly treated him saying only his son’s return could revive him. He died a few months after falling ill, last year, and he had lost a considerable amount of vision. Our brother was not even allowed to see the face of his father or be part of his funeral prayers,” rues Firdous.
Peerzada Firdous Ahmed, whose job is only to make rounds of courts was also jailed for five years, on charges of militancy, and released after a court granted him bail.
“In 2010 I was arrested in a false case and released in 2015. I was slapped with two PSAs with charges 120-B, 212 RPC 7/25 under ULA act with an FIR no. 42 2010. I was charged in another two cases under FIR no. 57 2011 on 13 02 ULA act 18/19 ULA (D) 7/25 arms act and FIR no. 116 2010 13 (2) 7/25. In all these cases I was granted bail. We do accept that our another, elder brother, Peerzada Abdul Rouf, was associated with Hizbul Mujahideen outfit but he was martyred in 2000. None among us had any sort of affiliation with him in any way or with the outfit he was associated with”, says Firdous.
The family approached several local political leaders to seek the release of Ashraf, but all in vain.
“In order to save our brother from the clutches of police who have been framing him in fake cases, we met late Mufti Mohammad Syed, Mehbooba Mufti, and local MLAS including M Y Tarigami and even BJP leaders, but none helped. The BJP leader and MLC Sofi Yousuf said only Rajnath Singh or Ram Madhav can intervene and get our brother released. He personally wrote a letter to Rajnath Singh regarding this issue on 20-07-2018 but so far, we received no communication from him. Our only concern is our brother’s release who was granted bail by the court even, but we have no idea why our brother is being punished for the crime which he never committed,” said Firdous.