Kashmir’s Dadri

  • Naseer Ahmad
  • Publish Date: Jun 26 2016 2:39PM
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  • Updated Date: Jun 26 2016 2:39PM
Kashmir’s Dadri

Burnt alive in Udhampur and forgotten in Kashmir  

“I don’t sleep since my son was burnt alive. This always torments me what he might have done that time. I heard even his intestines were burnt. It kills me day in and day out,” says Ghulam Rasool Bhat, 60. 
On October 9 last year  his 19-year-old son Zahid Rasool was burnt after the truck carrying coal was attacked by a mob with petrol bomb in Udhampur. The truck was on way to Srinagar.
The mob first lobbed petrol bomb at the truck and when Zahid jumped out, the mob beat up him and his accomplice Showkat Ahmad and then set them ablaze. Zahid and Showkat were shifted to Delhi hospital, where Zahid succumbed on October 18 at Safdarjung hospital.
Bhat family is shattered since his killing. Bhat’s wife is not stepping out of her house. “She keeps to herself, confined to her home. Our son was burnt alive. It always torments us what he would have done when he was burnt. How he would have struggled and I have heard he tried to rush towards the army camp but they closed the door on seeing him burning,” says the father. He repeats the account after every two minutes and breaks down.
Living in Botengo village in South Kashmir near Srinagar-Jammu highway, Bhat said justice in this case was necessary as there are chances if people involved in his son’s killing are let off they would do it again. “I have heard they have criminals and they have past criminal records. They are goons. They have killed my son,” he says. 
Bhat’s daughter in law, Zahida opened cupboard and came up with Zahid’s photographs to show to this reporter. This began a renewed mourning in Bhat house with women screaming and Bhat crying.
“How could we forget they have burnt our child. Our family is ill since. We are suffering. Our children complain about different diseases,” Zareena, daughter-in-law of Bhat said.
After Zahid’s death,  the valley observed strike and separatist and mainstream leaders made a beeline to Bhat house.
The two witnesses of the case have not gone to Udhampur to record their statement because of the hostility of Hindu right wing groups. “Police party from Udhampur came and recorded their statement in Kashmir. And when my son Ghulam Nabi visited Udhampur he got good cooperation from the police. After he heard that the public prosecutor assigned by the state government is trying to prove two main culprits as juvenile he filed application for transferring the case. The case has now been transferred to Jammu.”
However, it is one and the same thing for the family.  
“We want that the case  be transferred to Srinagar. So that we visit the court and hear about the case,” he said.

 The case so far
 On October 27, 2015 the Principal District and Sessions Judge Udhampur R.S Jain decided a bail application of one of the accused Sunit Singh. He ordered his release declaring him as juvenile at the time of occurrence of the crime. 
The order reads, “Thus as per the certificate issued by the state board as well birth certificate issued by Happy Model Higher Secondary school placed on record by the petitioner, the date of birth of Sunit Singh is 30.05.1999 and hence the age of the accused at that time was less than 18 years. This is clear from the documents filed by the accused and oral evidence adduced by the accused. In this regard, the statement of Principal, Happy Model Higher Secondary school has been recorded wherein he has stated that as per the marks card issued by the BOSE and birth certificate issued by him and as per these documents, the date of birth of Sunit Singh is 30.05.1999.” 
The judge R.S Jain’s order said that  in these circumstances, the accused should be released into custody of his father Pradeep Singh after the latter gives an undertaking that he would keep his safe custody and will not allow him out of the territorial jurisdiction of Udhampur court without prior permission of the court  and produce him as and when directed by the appropriate authority.
The order didn’t go well with the Home Department given the sensitivity of the case. Of 17 accused involved in the case, nine persons including Sunit Singh was booked under the Public Safety Act on October 17, 2015.
The Home Department approved the PSA detention and placed it before the State Advisory Board. The board also upheld all 9 orders. The PSA against the accused including Sunit Singh was extended again for 3 months after expiry of initial 3 months. Now it has been extended against the accused for a period of 6 months. According to the sources, Sunit Singh was not released as he was also booked under the PSA.
“Sunit Singh had claimed to be juvenile but on record there are three dates of birth at various stages of his life. The state council has now requested the court to constitute a board to decide the matter”, said a senior official. 
The order of the Principal District and Sessions Judge and apprehensions about the security of eyewitness of the case in Udhampur forced the government to seek revision of the order.
On January 23, 2016 the Home Department sought revision of the order arguing that “Principal District and Sessions Judge had no authority to declare an accused as juvenile until enquired into on the basis of examination of the documents and authenticity relating to the age of the accused.”
The Home Department also raised the point that procedure has not been followed while declaring the accused as juvenile. As the accused had criminal background, the home department insisted that filing of the revision against the order was necessary. The revision was filed before the High Court. The High Court has issued notices on the revision.
The Home Department has conceded that it was not possible for the eyewitness to depose in Udhampur where the crime took place and asked for the transfer of the case. Earlier when the eyewitness visited Udhampur to identify the accused they felt harassed. A senior official said it was hard task to convince the eyewitness to visit Udhampur to identify the accused. 
Later Ghulam Nabi Bhat, brother of Zahid, wrote transfer application of the case from Udhampur to Jammu. The transfer application has been accepted by the High Court and the case has been shifted to Principal District and Sessions Judge Jammu.