Srinagar, Apr 08: An embroidery artisan who created magic on fabric till a year ago and now shunned by neighbours as the army’s “human shield” against stone-pelters, Farooq Ahmed Dar is a broken man, struggling to pick up the threads of his life.
Suffering from insomnia and depression, boycotted by villagers branding him a government agent and unable to find a job, even as a manual labourer, the 28-year-old says his life was upended exactly 12 months ago.
On 9 April last year, a team led by Major Leetul Gogoi tied Dar to the bonnet of an army jeep to escape heavy stone pelting in central Kashmir’s Budgam district, the image going on to make global headlines and spotlighting once again the civilian-security polarisation in the Valley.
It was Election Day in the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency and Dar says he was on his way to cast his vote, braving the boycott call by separatist organisations. Eight people were killed in police firing on the day.
Investigations by central agencies and local police backed Dar’s account of events of the day, blowing away the army’s claim that he was a stone-pelter.
Investigations found he was on his way to his sister’s place for a condolence visit after voting when the army picked him up and beat him mercilessly before tying him with ropes and parading him through nearly 28 villages.
“What was my mistake? Going to the polling booth and casting my ballot?” Dar asked with tears rolling down his cheek.
“I am unable to sleep. Even medicines are ineffective. No one is giving me any work. The government is silent and the judiciary is moving at its own pace,” Dar told PTI in a video interview.
Prodded to speak about his life after the incident, Dar said he faced a social boycott as people in his village Chill, in Budgam district, had distanced themselves after they learnt he had participated in the election process.
“I regret moving out of my house on that day,” he added in Kashmiri, as a friend who had stuck by him through the 12 months consoled him.
One of five brothers and sisters, Dar, whose father passed away some years ago, said the incident has snatched his fundamental right to live.
“No one is giving me any work. I decided to work as a labourer but my human shield tag walks a pace ahead of me. At times, I wonder whether such an act of cowardice could be rewarded by the Army. Is this the message that India wants to send to Kashmir?” he asked, referring to Gogoi being commended by the army chief for his act.
“I am not a politician nor do I intend to become one. But if casting a ballot is a crime, who is going to come out to vote,” Dar said.
Dar pointed to television discussions on the issue. “Neither those who defended me nor those who defended the army officer had even the remotest idea of my mental state,” Dar said.
He said his mother Fiza Begum suffers from heart disease and he does not have money for her treatment. “I have been living on the dole from my friends and some relatives as I have no source of income.
“I wanted to make it big by making a beautiful Kashmiri shawl but I became famous for all the wrong reasons,” Dar said.
His ordeal has entered mainstream discourse. The ‘human shield’ episode is even referenced in the recent Bollywood film “Baaghi 2”, where the hero, an army officer, is reportedly shown tying a civilian to his jeep for disrespecting the national flag, leading to criticism that the film was trying to glorify human rights abuses.
Last July, the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission awarded Dar Rs 10 lakh as compensation. But this was rejected by the state’s PDP-BJP government, which said there were no rules under which it could pay the money.
“The news about the compensation made this worse for me. People in my neighbourhood made sarcastic remarks about the compensation and criticised me for seeking justice for myself.
“It is not about the money but my dignity. If it is proved I was pelting stones, hang me. Or punish those responsible for my miserable present and bleak future,” Dar said with a note of desperation in his voice.
“If Ahsan Untoo and advocate Zafar Qureshi had not highlighted my plight, the world would have never known what I underwent,” he said.
Mohammad Ashan Untoo, head of the International Forum for Justice and Human Rights group in the Valley, has filed a review petition against the decision to not give Dar compensation in the State Human Rights Commission. A plea on the matter has also been filed in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
“One day we will get justice,” Untoo said.
In his view, New Delhi should be eager to hear the case of a person who believes in democracy but has become a victim of the army’s high handedness.
Untoo added that is also planning to sue the producer and director of “Baaghi 2”.
“An act of cowardice is being used to stoke so-called nationalistic passions,” he said.
The video of Dar tied to the bonnet of the Gogoi’s jeep had gone viral, triggering a public outcry. Some former generals said the move went against the “ethos” of the Indian Army.
The state police registered a case of abduction with intent to cause grievous hurt, wrongful confinement and criminal intimidation.
The police, in its investigations, said Dar was “tied to an army vehicle as a human shield under threat, kept in wrongful confinement and has been paraded around…”
Art 35-A row: SC to take ‘in-chamber’ decision on listing of plea
New Delhi, Jan 22: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it would take an “in-chamber” decision on listing of a petition challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35-A, which provides special rights and privileges to permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir. Advocate Bimal Roy Jad mentioned the matter before the bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and Sanjiv Khanna.
He sought urgent hearing of the petition, filed by ‘We The Citizens’, saying the court had earlier ordered listing of the matter in the second week of January.
In August, the apex court adjourned hearing on a batch of petitions challenging Article 35 A till January this year, after taking note of submissions of the Centre and the state government that there was a law and order problem in the state.
Article 35-A, which was incorporated in the Constitution by a 1954 Presidential Order, accords special rights and privileges to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir and bars people from outside the state from acquiring any immovable property in the state.
The apex court had on August 31 deferred till January the hearing on the pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35 A, which provides special rights and privileges to natives of Jammu and Kashmir, after the Centre and the state said that polls to local bodies polls there would go on till December.
Earlier, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had said that certain aspects of Article 35A needed to be debated upon and said, “It can’t be denied that there is an aspect of gender discrimination in it (Article 35A).”
On August 6, the apex court had said that a three-judge bench would decide whether the pleas challenging Article 35A should be referred to a five-judge constitution bench for examining the larger issue of alleged violation of the doctrine of basic structure of the Constitution.
Several petitions including by political parties like the National Conference and the CPI-M, have also moved the Supreme Court in support of Article 35-A that empowers the state assembly to define “permanent residents” for bestowing special rights and privileges to them.
‘JK women marrying non-natives don’t lose residency rights’
Srinagar, Jan 22: Women hailing from Jammu and Kashmir who choose to marry men from outside the state do not lose their residency and inheritance rights under Article 35-A of the Constitution, a top legal expert said on Tuesday.
“This issue was settled by a full bench of Jammu and Kashmir High Court in the case titled State and others vs Dr Susheela Sawhney and others in October 2002 by striking down the proviso of the state subject (permanent residency) law according to which women marrying outsiders would lose their permanent resident status,” former advocate general of Jammu and Kashmir government Ishaq Qadri said.
The bench, in the landmark judgment on 7 October 2002, held by a majority view that the daughter of a permanent resident of Jammu and Kashmir will not lose her status as a permanent resident upon her marriage to a person from outside the state.
Qadri’s remarks come after the Supreme Court said earlier on Tuesday it would take an “in-chamber” decision on listing of a petition challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35-A, which provides special rights and privileges to permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir.
He said the then PDP-Congress coalition government challenged the verdict in the Supreme Court but later withdrew its petition.
“Then law minister Muzaffar Hussain Beigh brought Jammu and Kashmir Permanent Resident Status (Disqualification) Bill 2004 in the state legislative assembly and it was passed by the lower house in March 2004,” the former advocate general said.
“Since it was a Constitutional amendment bill, it needed two-thirds majority to be passed. The National Conference, which was in the opposition, supported it, ensuring the passage of the bill in the assembly,” Qadri said.
Had the bill passed the scrutiny of the legislative council — the upper house of the state legislature — and got the governor’s assent, the women marrying men outside the state would have lost their status as permanent residents, he added.
However, there was an outcry against the bill, mainly in the Jammu region.
It was taken up for discussion in the legislative council but the then chairman Abdul Rashid Dar adjourned the House sine die without taking a vote on it, Qadri said.
“As A result, the bill lapsed and it was never reintroduced,” he said, adding that the high court ruling on the permanent residency rights of women marrying outside the state stands as on date.
Article 35-A was incorporated in the Constitution in 1954 by an order of President Rajendra Prasad on the advice of the then Cabinet headed by Jawaharlal Nehru.
In the previous hearing of the petition filed by NGO ‘We The Citizens’, a lawyer had given an illustration and said if a native woman of the state married an outsider, she loses several rights, including property rights, in the state, but if a man marries a Pakistani woman, he and his spouse get all rights.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who is representing the Jammu and Kashmir government in the apex court, had agreed to the contention that Article 35-A and certain aspects needed to be debated upon.
He said, “It can’t be denied that there is an aspect of gender discrimination in it (Article 35A).”
Avalanche hits Ramban, 12-year-old girl among 2 killed
Heavy snowfall closes Sgr-Jmu highway; weather to improve from today
Srinagar, Jan 22: Two persons were killed and many others went missing after an avalanche hit them while they were heading home at Kawana Trigam village in Ramban district on Tuesday.
Official sources said that snow avalanche, which occurred at around 3 pm near Kawana at Trigam, swept away four persons.
Bodies of two persons were recovered and they have been identified as Rafiq (25) son of Ghulam Qadir and Sumerna (12) daughter of Mukhtar Ahmed.
The missing persons have been identified as Fatha Begum (30), son of Surkh Ahmed and Taja Begum (32) wife of Margob. All residents of Trigam, 50kms from Ramban, were moving towards their home when the avalanche struck them.
Deputy Commissioner Ramban has sanctioned ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh in favour of each of the Next of kin of the deceased.
Meanwhile, the local meteorological department predicted improvement in the weather conditions from Wednesday.
Deputy Director MeT, Mukhtar Ahmad said there will be improvement in the weather conditions from Wednesday.
Ahmad further added that there is no further prediction of rain or snowfall across the Valley till January 29 but on Jan 25, the weather would remain cloudy throughout the day as per the present forecast.
The intermittent rainfall continued to lash plains since Sunday evening while as the higher reaches and other districts of the Valley experienced fresh snowfall.
The snowfall at various places especially Srinagar-Jammu highway led to the continuous closure of the only road connecting Valley with rest of the States.
The highway was closed for second straight day today in view of the fresh snowfall that triggered slippery conditions of the roads.
Meanwhile, hundreds of passengers are stranded on the highway at Banihal or other districts in Jammu due to the closure of roads who have demanded authorities to open the highway for vehicular movement at an earliest.
However, officials said that men and machinery has already been deployed to clear the road but the fresh snowfall on Tuesday disrupted the road clearance work.
“The road clearance work is on and the road will be thrown open after the roads are cleared,” they added. (With inputs from GNS)
Observe Jan 26 as ‘Black Day’: Joint Hurriyat to people
Srinagar, Jan 22: The Joint Hurriyat Leadership on Tuesday urged people to observe January 26 as a ‘black day’ to register their strong protest against New Delhi for not resolving Kashmir dispute.
In a statement, the Joint Hurriyat comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik said that for past 71 years people of J&K have been demanding the right to self-determination that Indian leadership promised to them.
“However, till this day not only has that commitment not been fulfilled but those that remind them of it are rewarded with bullets and pellets are incarcerated and gagged,” the statement said.
They said that lakhs of armed forces are deployed to suppress the aspirations of people and draconian laws like AFSPA and PSA are invoked to ensure people’s sentiments do not get out of hand.
“Hundreds of people are lodged and languishing in jails in JK and outside whose only crime is their demand for restoration of basic human and political rights the fundamental right to decide their destiny,” the Joint Hurriyat said.