Human Rights

From protest to petition: Kashmiri family’s pursuit of justice

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Family members of 19-year-old Arsalan protesting in Srinagar's Press Colony. [FPK Photo/ Muzamil Bashir]

The case of a Kashmiri boy in NIA custody is getting shriller following the intervention of former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti who shot a letter to home minister Amit Shah for his immediate release.

Three days after their son was detained by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA), the family members of Arsalan Feroz visited their local police station for collecting a photocopy of the First Information Report (FIR) purportedly filed against him.

They returned flabbergasted.

But before the surprise came a battery of cops along with the NIA sleuths in search of their 19-year-old son.

The raid took place on December 30 — the day Arsalan was expected to get his confiscated cellphone back.

Finding the 12th-grade student missing at home, his family was told to bring him to the local police station as soon as possible.

The moment Arsalan turned up at the local station, he was swiftly taken to the NIA Headquarters at Church Lane, Srinagar for questioning.

“The police told us that he’ll be released in a few hours,” Arsalan’s uncle said. “But when I went to the police station after 3 hours, I was asked to get his clothes to the NIA office as the authorities wanted to shift him to New Delhi for further questioning.”

According to officials, the raid was carried out in connection with Arsalan’s “chronic stone-pelting” past. The NIA, on December 31, 2021, then termed him a “TRF operative radicalising youth to pick up weapons”.

Refuting these allegations, Arsalan’s family members and relatives staged protest in Srinagar’s Press Enclave and sought the immediate release of their “innocent son” from the NIA custody.

A day after the protest, when they went to collect a photocopy of his supposed FIR from the local police station, they were told that their son “has no FIR against him”.

“How can they arrest him without any charges?” Arsalan’s family member complained. “This is a travesty of justice!”

Apart from refuting the NIA charges, the family also contested the “mechanic by profession” tag given by some agency reports.

“He’s a student and a very pampered child. We raised him like a prince. How can he be a mechanic?” Arsalan’s aunt rubbishes the media-framing.

“If you don’t believe us, go and verify his credentials from his school.”

Photo: Hassnain Riza.

 

Back home, Arsalan’s sister, Sehrish Feroz narrated her sibling’s fraught struggle with system as a student.

A few days before his annual examination on October 23, 2021, she said, Arsalan was arrested and subsequently handed over to Special Operations Group of JK police, on October 27, for further questioning.

“He was released after 40 days because nothing was found on him,” Sehrish told FPK. “Even the NIA found nothing suspicious against him during the recent raid, but still they arrested him. They already ruined his academic year by disallowing him to sit for the annual class 12 exams and now they’re bent to ruin his life.”

Fearing for his safety, the Zaldagar family has already embarked on the pillar-to-post pursuit to bring their son home. They even met former JK Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti for the same reason.

Following their Monday meeting, the Peoples Democratic Party president sought Home Minister Amit Shah’s personal intervention in Arsalan’s case.

“I am writing to you regarding the arrest of a nineteen year old student from Srinagar. Arsalan Feroz was first detained by J&K police on 21st October 2021. After forty days he was subsequently released since nothing was found against him,” reads the letter shared by Mehbooba on her twitter handle.

Meanwhile, vouching for his innocence, Arsalan’s childhood playmate termed the captive boy as a “sensible person” with a “thinking head” on his “responsible” shoulders. “He’s a very sorted and sober person who’s mindful of consequences. He can’t go wrong.”

Pleading for the same “innocence”, Arsalan’s father, Feroz Ahangar was lately seen rolling himself on dusty streets of Srinagar’s Press Enclave, in a desperate bid to bring his son back home.

Feroz’s relentless grieving has already alarmed his family members about his ailing health. The wailing father, they say, has suffered two minor heart-attacks in his life.

“We fear that the grief for his son’s wellbeing might escalate his health crisis now,” one of the members warned.

Photo: Hassnain Riza.

 

Arsalan’s father is very poor man who merely earns Rs. 8000 per month and lives in a one-room house with his family, a relative said.

“Since his son’s arrest, his health has been deteriorating,” the family kin said.

“If anything happens to him or his family, the government will be responsible for that. The poor man should be given his innocent son back as soon as possible.”

 

Hassnain Riza contributed photos and details for this report. 

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