News Update

ISLAMABAD (ANANTNAG) — Farooq Ahmad Khan, an engineer in Public Health Engineering (PHE) Department, hailing from Janglat Mandi area of this town has been acquitted of militancy charges after spending 18 years in jail.

Khan was arrested on May 23, 1996 by the infamous Special Task Force (STF) of J&K Police and instantly shifted to Delhi’s Tihar Jail. Police then alleged that he was involved in the Lajpat Nagar blast case. However, four years later, he was acquitted by Delhi High Court in the case. Despite that, he continued to face trial in Jaipur blast case and since then, was undergoing detention in Jaipur Central Jail.

“I was imprisoned in 1996 from my home on suspicion of receiving a phone call from Delhi and now after two decades of trial, I am told that I was innocent,” says Khan. “I am not the only person who has suffered. There are many who have sacrificed much more than me.”

The Additional District Court Jaipur earlier this week ordered the release of Khan and acquitted him of all charges. However, the court held four other Kashmiris – Abdul Gani Goni, Muhammad Ali Bhat, Mirza Nisar and Lateef Ahmad Waza – responsible for the blast and handed them life sentences.

Khan alleged that his co-accused in the Jaipur case were convicted without any substantial evidence. “The sentence given to my Kashmiri brethren has saddened me. We spent the jail period together and I was shocked to hear about the verdict as I know that they too are innocent,” said Khan.

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“During my incarceration, I found that every Kashmiri detainee is ill-treated in Indian jails,” said Khan. “They are tortured, harassed and victimized for being Kashmiris,” he said. According to Khan, jail authorities use different tactics to harass Kashmiris and use criminal inmates to victimize them.

“Their motive is to break the resolve of Kashmiris but what I have noticed during my two decades of incarceration is that the practice turns them more resilient and steadfast towards their goal,” said Khan. “The oppressed Kashmiris don’t expect any justice from their system and hence have no option but to exhibit courage and patience.”

Khan said books were his only companions in jail. “I used to read books, particularly Islamic literature, as well as newspapers and magazines. Greater Kashmir was the only daily newspaper from Kashmir which I never skipped reading during my two decades of incarceration,” said Khan.

Khan accused the state agencies of framing Kashmiris on false and frivolous charges. Many Kashmiris have been let off by courts after spending years in jails on false charges. “Hundreds of Kashmiris languishing in different jails have been implicated on frivolous grounds. Many like me were acquitted after undergoing trial for decades,” said Khan. “However, many unfortunate ones are convicted for life because of state policy rather than on the basis of any substantial evidence.”

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Farooq, 48, had completed his degree in engineering from Madras University and worked in London before joining the state’s PHE department in 1991. During his imprisonment, he was suffering from multiple ailments, which he attributes to the pathetic condition in jail.

Khan said separation from his family, children, mother and brothers was painful. “When I was arrested, my elder daughter was five and younger one was two years old.”

During Khan’s incarceration, his father died and he was not released to take part in his funeral. “When he breathed his last in year 2001, I was told he was carrying my photograph in his pocket,” said Khan with tears in his eyes.

Khan’s mother, a retired government teacher, is ailing and suffering from multiple ailments. But reunion with her son has lit her visibly weak face. Khan’s mother says: “The separation from my son has been traumatic and I can’t describe that in words. Though I am happy of his release but I have a question for Indian justice institutions: Can they return 18 years of youthful life to my son?”

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