Kashmir Indepth

‘Free Him for His Wedding’: Father-in-law of Kashmiri Arrested After Article 370

Aakash Hassan

Srinagar: With the nikahnama (marriage certificate) of his daughter in hand, Nazir Ahmad Bhat visited around half-a-dozen newspaper offices in Srinagar’s press enclave. He has a request for authorities: “Please release my son-in-law for his wedding.”

Bhat, who hails from Rafiabad area of Baramulla district in north Kashmir, left his home early in the morning for Srinagar, travelling around 60 kilometres, after a relative suggested that an appeal in newspapers may help his cause. This is his last hope.
The wedding of Bhat’s daughter was scheduled for September 8. Even the nikah ceremony, Islamic ritual of signing marriage document, was done. The Bhat family was making preparations for the wedding day for the past six months. But the excitement didn’t last.

Bhat’s son-in-law, Tanveer Ahmad, is a business graduate and the sarpanch of his village.

A day after the Narendra Modi government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status provided under the Constitution and reorganised the state into two union territories last month, Ahmad was arrested by police. Relatives say, like many other political activists, politicians and separatists in the Valley, he was taken into preventive detention. A security and communication clampdown was also imposed in the region. Authorities have described those detained as threats to public order or likely to participate in protests that could turn deadly.
Bhat, a government employee in his mid-fifties, got the news about Ahmad after four days. By then, he had been shifted to a Lucknow jail.

Ahmad hails from Maqbool Abad village of Baramulla district and is the only son of his parents as well as the sole breadwinner.

“He has five sisters and all of them are married. His parents are both ill. Father is diabetic and mother is suffering from heart ailment,” Bhat told News18 in Srinagar.

Bhat has issued an appeal in local newspapers, requesting the governor-led administration to free his son-in-law for the day of the wedding.

“He has ailing parents back home. They couldn’t even come to Srinagar,” he said.
Bhat’s helplessness can be judged from his statement: “If he is released only for a few days, the wedding can take place and my daughter can go to his house. If he is arrested after that, she will be around to take care of his parents.”

Suraya Nazir, Bhat’s daughter, is legally Ahmad’s wife. But as per customs, there has to be a wedding to declare them a married couple.

“Not only my daughter, but our entire family is in distress. Ahmad was taken away days before the wedding,” Bhat said with a sense of helplessness.

Bhat has been visiting police and government officials with his request. The slated wedding day has already passed and there doesn’t seem to be any hope on the horizon.
The family has postponed the ceremony and is preparing to visit Ahmad in the Lucknow jail.

“I spent most of my savings in preparations for the wedding. Whatever is left will go in visiting him in jail,” said Bhat.

Locals say several mainstream politicians, separatists and other civilians have been taken into custody by state authorities and many of them have been shifted to jails outside Jammu and Kashmir. And while the detention of big names such as National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah has garnered attention, they add, many others have not been so fortunate.

“The officials are saying that had Ahmad been jailed in Kashmir, there was a possibility of releasing him for the wedding. But since he is outside, chances appear bleak,” Bhat told News18.
Bhat said he doesn’t even know whether his son-in-law has been booked under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) or is in preventive custody.

Since a large number of arrests have been made in Kashmir to maintain peace, say officials, many of those held have been moved to jails in other parts of the country.

Uzair Maqbool Malik of Alyalpora in Shopian was slapped with PSA and taken to Srinagar jail on August 20, says his family. His father, Mohammad Maqbool Malik, had to borrow money to visit him there.

However, he says he was shocked to find that Uzair had been shifted to Agra central jail. “I have never been out of Kashmir and I don’t have enough money to go to Agra,” Malik, who works as a driver, told News18.

Nearly a month has passed and Malik wants to see Uzair, who is in his mid-twenties and was working as labourer. Now, his neighbours are crowdfunding money for him, so that he can travel to Agra and meet his son.

Courtesy News 18

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