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Wahid Shaikh
camera_altWahid Shaiks's mother and son with the Urdu and Hindi editions of his book which says about his jail experiences / Photo by Blal Kuchay
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Will the government read Abdul Wahid Shaikh?


For the last few hours, I have been reading this latest book on the situation of the prisoners. In fact, the very title of this book -Innocent Prisoners (Begunah Qaidi. Stories of Muslim Youth Falsely Implicated In The 7/11 Train Blasts and Other Terror Cases - Pharos Media) – relays the stark reality to those sitting implicated and imprisoned.

This book has been authored by one of the former prisoners, Abdul Wahid Shaikh, who was himself implicated in the 11 July 2006 Mumbai train bombings case. He was imprisoned for nine years, till he was declared innocent and acquitted. And in this book he has put down his experiences in the jail and that of his fellow prisoners, at the hands of the police and investigating agencies and jail staff. In fact, the 500 hundred pages of this book are laced with facts, complete with specific dates and names and the particular instances.

This former school teacher who was teaching in a Mumbai school has been brave to put down each little detail of the prison life and its aftermaths. In fact, a film producer is said to have been so taken up by this man's grit that a full-fledged feature film is near completion on the life and times of Abdul Wahid Shaikh. After all, this former prisoner has much to offload, in that absolutely stark blatant way. To quote from the preface to this book, "Despite being innocent when we were arrested in the 7/11 blast case, for several days we did not understand what exactly was going on with us. We thought the police has arrested us mistakenly and would release us soon. But as the days went on, our hopes started fading away…" To further quote the opening lines from the first paragraph of the very first chapter to this book: "We all know very well that the political masters have always used the police for their vested interests in our country. Unfortunately, the police have become so uncontrollably strong that today they have become totally unquestionable. The nation has practically become a police state…How will State terrorism end? When will it end? There is a need to seriously think about this. As long as we do not think of ending state terrorism, actual peace and progress will remain only a dream. The sooner the government realizes it, the better it is for the nation."

What did the new Delhi talks hold out for the Kashmiris!

Kashmiris were of the opinion that their elected leaders ought to go to New Delhi for those much-publicised political talks. For, if they declined then they would be heaped with critical comments, for not participating in talks with the Centre!

Kashmiris were also rather certain that nothing really would emerge from those talks. Perhaps, they were realistic enough, as the recent years have been dragging along to only huge setbacks and disappointments!

In fact, disappointment ran high after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had finally broken his silence on the Kashmir issue on 10 August 2016. He had spoken on three aspects: the people of Jammu and Kashmir have the same freedom as that enjoyed by any other Indian; Kashmiri children should be holding laptops and books and cricket bats; and the significance of insaniyat/ humanity and jamhuriyat /democracy and Kashmiriyat.

Kashmiris had reacted: Why the clichéd slogans of Kashmiriyat, jamhuriyat and insaniyat? How can our children carry laptops and books and cricket bats when they are sitting blinded by pellets and bullets? How can we even visualize democratic freedom when there's that constant fear of killings!

Also, those much-hyped visits of the All-Party Delegation to Srinagar around the early autumn of 2016 brought along little connect. As there was no direct mention of a political formula to try and reach out to the angry cries of the Kashmiris.

Though the entire summer of 2017 saw at least four meets on the Kashmir situation take place in New Delhi, yet seemingly no positive changes took place on the ground.

And In 2017, the then Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh was in the Valley to propose the so-called '5 Cs formula' to settle the Kashmir crisis— compassion, communication, coexistence, confidence-building and consistency. In fact, this was Rajnath Singh's fourth visit to the Valley as Union Home Minister. Kashmiris had commented, 'With all the possible Cs that Rajnath Singh listed out, he forgot to mention the Constitution…What it holds out for us Kashmiris! He ducked on Article 35A and also on Article 370 …!'

In November 2017, another interlocutor was picked by the Centre for Kashmir. This time New Delhi decided to appoint the former IB director, Dineshwar Sharma. Why did the government opt for a former IB person? Didn't the government realize that the masses in and around the Valley are wary of the intelligence agencies?

Also, another significant query: whatever happened to the in-depth reports of the former team of interlocutors – Dileep Padgoankar, Radha Kumar and MM Ansari? What happened to the whole list of recommendations put together by Yashwant Sinha?

It is significant to point out that if one were to go through the report put together by the Padgoankar-led team, which had submitted its report in the winter of 2011, it gets apparent it had suggested to the establishment to do away with the Disturbed Areas Act and also to have a re-look at the implementation of AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act). But that report wasn't implemented. Why?

And also bypassed were crucial inputs suggested by the veteran civil servant-turned politician Yashwant Sinha who had come out with several significant recommendations after his visits to the Valley in 2017.

One lynch incident after another!

Throughout this entire summer stretch, there have been many reported cases of targeted lynch killings. Why are lynch killings not getting halted by the state machinery? Apprehensions peak, as with Eid-ul-Adhuha just about three weeks away, these incidents of communal violence would spread out.

In fact, whilst keying in I'm reminded of the communal outburst of the Right- Wing legislator from Uttar Pradesh's Loni constituency in Ghaziabad district. On last year's Eid–ul-Adha — 1 August 2020 —he said loud and clear that he will not allow any goat sacrifice to take place in his constituency, and if Muslims want. they should sacrifice their children on that Eid day!

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