Thursday, Mar 30, 2023

A Wife's Appeal For Justice

A Wife's Appeal For Justice

I am the wife of Mohammad Afzal, the man accused of conspiring to attack the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001 ... I also speak as a Kashmiri woman who is losing faith in Indian democracy and its ability to be fair to Kashmiri Muslims...

I am the wife of Mohammad Afzal, the man accused of conspiring to attack the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001. Afzal has been condemned to death by the Sessions Court Judge, S N Dhingra and his death sentence has been confirmed by the Hon'ble High Court of Delhi. Now the case has come up before the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India.

All over India people have condemned the attack on Parliament. And I agree that it was a terrorist attack and must be condemned. However, it is also important that the people accused of such a serious crime be given a fair trial and their story be fully heard before they are punished. I believe that no one has heard my husband's story and he has so far never been represented in the court properly.

I appeal to you to hear our story and then decide for yourselves whether justice has been done. Afzal and my story is the story of many young Kashmiri couples. Our story represents the tragedy facing our people.

In 1990 Afzal was attracted to the movement led by the JKLF, like thousands of other youth. He went to Pakistan for training and stayed there for a little while. However, he was disillusioned by the differences between different groups and he did not support pro-Pakistani groups. He stayed there only three months without getting any training. Afzal returned to Kashmir and he went to Delhi to pursue his studies. He always wanted to study and before he joined the movement he was doing his MBBS.

My husband wanted to return to normal life and with that intention he surrendered to the BSF. The BSF Commandant refused to give him his certificate till he had motivated two others to surrender. And Afzal motivated two other militants to surrender. He was given a certificate stating that he was a surrendered militant. You will not perhaps realise that it is very difficult to live as a surrendered militant in Kashmir but he decided to live with his family in Kashmir. In 1997 he started a small business of medicines and surgical instruments in Kashmir. The next year we were married. He was 28 years old and I was 18 years.

Throughout the period that we lived in Kashmir the Indian security forces continuously harassed Afzal and told him to spy on people they suspected of being militants. One Major Ram Mohan Roy of 22 Rashtriya Rifles tortured Afzal and gave him electric shocks in his private parts. He was humiliated and abused.

The Indian security forces used to regularly take Afzal to their camps and torture him. They wanted to extract information from him. One night the Indian security forces came to our home and abused all of us and took away Afzal to their camp; another time he was taken to the STF (State Task Force) camp Palhalan Pattan.

Some days later they took him to the Humhama STF camp. In that camp the officers, DSP Vinay Gupta and DSP Darinder Singh demanded Rs one lakh. We are not a rich family and we had to sell everything, including the little gold I got on my marriage to save Afzal from the torture.

Afzal was kept in freezing water and petrol was put into his anus. One officer Shanti Singh hanged my husband upside down for hours naked and in the cold. They gave electric shocks in his penis and he had to have treatment for days.

You will think that Afzal must be involved in some militant activities that is why the security forces were torturing him to extract information. But you must understand the situation in Kashmir, every man, woman and child has some information on the movement even if they are not involved. By making people into informers they turn brother against brother, wife against husband and children against parents. Afzal wanted to live quietly with his family but the STF would not allow him.

You should also know that the STF force is notorious in Kashmir for extorting money from the people and they have become so infamous that when Mufti Sayed became the Chief Minister he promised in his election manifesto to disband the entire force. The STF is known for human rights violations including killing people in their custody and brutal, senseless, inhuman torture.

It was under these conditions that forced Afzal to leave his home, family and settle in Delhi. He struggled hard to earn a living and he had decided to bring me and our four-year old son, Ghalib, to Delhi. Like any other family we dreamed of living together peacefully and bringing up our children, giving them a good education and seeing them grow up to be good human beings. That dream was cut short when once again the STF got hold of my husband in Delhi.

The STF told my husband to bring one man Mohammad to Delhi from Kashmir. He met Mohammad and one other man Tariq there at the STF camp. He did not know anything about the men and he had no idea why he was being asked to do the job. He has told all this to the court but the court chose to believe half his statement about bringing Mohammad but not the bit that he was told to do so by the STF.

There was no one to represent Afzal in the lower court. The court appointed a lawyer who never took instructions from Afzal, or cross examined the prosecution witnesses. That lawyer was communal and showed his hatred for my husband. When my husband told Judge Dhingra that he did not want that lawyer the judge ignored him. In fact my husband went totally undefended in the trial court. When ever my husband wished to say something the judge would not hear him out and the judge showed his communal bias in open court.

In the High Court one human rights lawyer offered to represent Afzal and my husband accepted. But instead of defending Afzal the lawyer began by asking the court not to hang Afzal but to kill him by a lethal injection. My husband never expressed any desire to die. He has maintained that he has been entrapped by the STF. My husband was shocked but he had no way of changing his lawyer while being locked up in the high security jail. It was only after the High Court judgement was pronounced he got to know about the way the lawyer had represented him. Afzal refused to accept the same lawyer for his appeal in the Supreme Court. I had no way of getting Afzal a lawyer. I do not know anyone in Delhi. Finally Afzal wrote to the Defence Committee set up for Mr Geelani. I am annexing his letter. And the Defence Committee helped Afzal to get a senior lawyer, Mr Sushil Kumar. However, the Supreme Court cannot go into the evidence and so I do not know what will happen.

I appeal to you to ensure that my husband is not condemned to death and he is ensured a fair trial. Surely your conscience will not allow you to be a party to the death of a fellow human being who has not been represented in the court and who has not had a chance to tell his story? The police have made him falsely confess before the media even before the trial started. They humiliated him, beat him, tortured him and even urinated in his mouth. I feel deep shame to talk about these things in public but circumstances have forced me. It has taken a lot of courage for me to put all this on paper but I do so for the sake of my child who is now six years old.

Will you speak out at the injustice my husband has faced? Will you speak out on my behalf? I am of course fighting for my husband's life, for the life of my son's father. But I also speak as a Kashmiri woman who is losing faith in Indian democracy and its ability to be fair to Kashmiri Muslims.

September 2004

This article originally appeared in Kashmir Times and is carried here verbatim without any editing, for the record.