Where Dreams Die Young

  • Raqib Hameed Naik
  • Publish Date: Jun 13 2017 8:49PM
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  • Updated Date: Jun 13 2017 8:49PM
Where Dreams Die Young

A 19-year-old boy in Doda aspired to go to medical school, they locked him up in jail and threw away the key

 

The most potent weapon employed by the Indian state to scar Kashmiris perhaps is not the pellet gun but the Public Safety Act. The draconian law has ruined young lives and crushed countless dreams.

Rehmatullah Padder, 19, aspired to be a doctor and qualified the MBBS entrance exam in 2016. But he never made it to medical school. 

When the valley rose in rebellion last summer, the people of Doda district, about 260 km from Srinagar across the Pir Panjal, joined in, as they always have. A gifted orator, Rehmatullah took to addressing the protest rallies, condemning the everyday killing and maiming of protesters in the valley.

On August 12, he was leaving the Jama Masjid in Doda town after Friday prayers when about a dozen policemen pounced on him and bundled him into a vehicle. His ordeal had just begun. 

“I came to know about his arrest from the police. I went to the police station with tea for him and I saw him writhing in pain. They had beaten him badly. He tried to put up a brave face though,” said Faiz Ahmed, 33, Rehmatullah’s older brother.

The next morning, Faiz again went to meet his brother but he wasn’t there. “There were two other boys who were arrested with my brother. They told me Rehmatuallah was taken away by the police at night,” Faiz recalled.

Faiz feared the worst. His brother may have died during interrogation. In the afternoon, their father Abdul Ghani, who earns a living selling clothes on a pushcart, received a call ordering him to reach the police station and get his son released. “Instead of handing over my son, they handed me the order copy of the PSA and told me he had been shifted to Kot Bhalwal jail in Jammu. I was shocked, scared and the thought of my young child in jail left me in tears,” said Ghani.

Rehmatullah is the youngest of seven siblings. He is a bright student, scoring 86 per cent Class 10 and over 92 per cent in Class 12 from the prestigious Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya in Shopian. He always dreamt of becoming a doctor, his family says. 

“He’s an intelligent boy. We were hoping he would become a doctor and put an end to our hardship,” said Rehmatullah’s mother Muneera Begum. “We got a call from his friends that he had qualified the MBBS entrance. He was in jail when the result was declared.”

After enduring six months of agony, the family couldn’t wait for February 18, when his six-month jail term would be over. But a day before he was to be released, the J&K government extended his detention by another six months. The fresh PSA order stated that Rehmatullah had to be kept in detention “to prevent him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the state”.

“A few of our relatives had gone to Jammu to receive him but the jail superintendent said the home ministry had extended his term. We don’t understand how a 19-year-old boy can be such a threat to the security of the state that needs to be incarcerated for so long,” said Faiz.

Their son’s extended incarceration has wrecked the family’s meagre finances. They have spent lakhs of rupees to fight his case as well for travelling to the Jammu jail, which is 200 km from Doda. “His case is in the high court. We have challenged the PSA order, but the judge isn’t passing any order on it. We have spent 2-3 lakh rupees on it, a part of which had to be borrowed,” said Ghani.

The family has all but lost hope of seeing Rehmatullah free in the near future. They are afraid the state will keep in jail for an indefinite period by frequently renewing his detention period.

“They are killing the dream of a boy. We fear he won’t be the same person even if he is released today,” said Faiz.