Suspect age

A young boy went through hard times after being detained under PSA. His release came only after two months and, intervention by AI and chief minister. Ibrahim Wani report.

Faisal, just 10 years old went with tea to the police station. His brother, Faizan, who was being held there, would be waiting for the tea, he thought. His brother had been booked under PSA, he had heard. He knew nothing of the law. While walking to the police station, he thought why his brother was in the lock up. He got no answer.

Tragedy had struck the family on February 7, when two policemen paid them a visit. They had asked for Faizan. They asked the family to present Faizan before the police. In evening, the family members accompanied Faizan to the police station. He would not come back home for a long time.

Faizan’s father, Mohammad Rafiq Hakim, a fruit vendor came to know that his son had an FIR registered against him. The reasons mentioned where stone-pelting. He rushed to the court.

The Sessions Judge asked the police for a report on Faizan. Now Rafiq came to know that his son had been booked under 6 acts-148,149, 336, 341, 427, 34 public property act, 1985. More shockingly his age gad been listed as 27 years. The last time, Rafiq had known his son was only 14 and half years old. That last time was a day earlier. For the listed offences Faizan was granted bail.

When the family approached the police with the bail, the policemen told them that Faizan would not be released. “He has one more case registered against him at Sher-bagh police station,” they informed the family. It would be more rounds for the family to the court and the police stations.

The second FIR had booked Faizan under 307, 392, 363, 147, 149, 143, 148 and 472. On February 22, Faizan was granted bail by the court in the second FIR. By this time Faizan had been shifted to Central Jail Srinagar.

On February 23, when the family went to the central jail Srinagar with the bail, another shock awaited them. “It was as if ground slipped from underneath my feet,” says Rafiq.

He was shifted back to the police station in Islamabad. “They had said he would be kept there for two days and then shifted to Jammu,” says the father. It was the next morning that Faisal had went to the police station with tea for his brother.

When Faisal reached the police station, he could not find his brother there. He had been taken far away. He started to walk back home. He ran most of it.
When he reached home, and informed of what had happened, everyone went into shock. There were tears all around. Faizan had been shifted to Kathua Jail at midnight.

He stood in front of the SP. He was asking him questions. Nothing much came out of his questioning. Faizan maintained that he was innocent. He called another policeman and asked him to take him for torture. The policeman pleaded that the young boy had had an operation on the head. Faizan was saved the torment.

From the first day, since his tryst with police and lock-ups began, he had been beset with a feeling of fear. “I had this fear that they will kill me,” says Faizan.

He hardly knew where he was when he was being transferred from one police station to another. “I only came to know where I was when I read the signboard at the police station,” he says.

For most of the times he wept. “I remembered my family, my parents, my brothers, every second I had this feeling that I was away from home,” says Fazian.
Kathua was hot. His barrack had six more people. They tried supporting him throughout his stay there. “We used to play together. They tried to cheer me up. We prayed and offered Namaz together,” says the teenager.

For the first three days Faizan experienced nose bleeding and headaches that returned every day. “The medicines prescribed by the doctors were not available,” he says.
 
He was happy when his family members visited him. “When Mom and Dad came to visit me I wept with joy,” says Faizan, “but when they left I was very sad and worried. It is a long way back home, and I was concerned about their journey.” Up till the next visit, he would be gloomy.

“Books were available in the jail, but they were in Hindi. So I knew no Hindi, so could not read them,” says Faizan. The only link he had with the outside world was the English daily newspaper-Kashmir Times.

“Sometimes I would read about my case in the newspaper and see my picture,” says Faizan. But he did not know much of the things going on outside the jail.

His school certificate showed his date of birth as May 18, 1996. So according to the school records he was around 14 and half years of age. The police records showed him as being 27 years old.

His father and family were running from pillar to post to get him released. “We lost our senses. The pain of having been separated from your child is the greatest pain,” says Rafiq, pointing to Faizan’s mother, “She is a heart patient now.”

“We hardly ate during this time,” says the mother.

The two brothers of Faizan, Infas and Faisal, could not pay attention to their studies. “We could hardly pay any attention to them,” say the parents.

Rafiq, a fruit vendor, spent all his meagre savings to visit Faizan in Kathua, or on other expenses related to the case. “I am thankful to the good lawyers. They only charged me for court expenses,” he says.

I used to weep as well as laugh,” says Faizan. “Weep because I was away from the family, and laugh because they had erred and arrested the wrong guy,” he adds.   

“I had seen this dream that I would be free one day. I had hope,” says Faizan. The media attention and the advocacy by Amnesty International finally led to the announcement by the Chief Minister that Fazian would be released. The jubilant parents rushed to the Kathua jail.

 “This dream came true on April 5, when I met my parents,” he says.

“I will never forget the two months I spent in Jail,” says Faizan, “but I have hope that I will soon resume my normal life.” When he reached home, the whole area was jubilant. He was hugged, kissed and garlanded. The family sacrificed a lamb and distributed the sacrificial meat.

His brothers make it a point to be in his company, always. The expression on the face of his parents has started looking up. They now see hope for a normal life again. “I hope to start normal life after a few days,” says his father. His mother is now improving. “He is now in front of me. I am very happy,” she says, but she continues to have pain in the heart.

“We are highly thankful to amnesty international, the media and the chief minister for Faizan’s release,” says Rafiq. “I saw it for two months what a parent goes through, and Faizan saw it in jail what a child goes through. Now I appeal the Chief Minister to release these children, and give them a chance at life and a future,” he adds.     

Faizan is slowly inching towards a normal life. He opens a toffee which was showered over him by joyful relatives. “I want to be a computer engineer,” he says. He hopes to go to tuitions now. The same is the case with his brothers.

With Faizan in tow, the family started their journey back to home. When they reached Banihal, they thought of eating. With father on one side and mother on the other Faizan started eating at a highway restaurant. Seeing him eat, tears started rolling down their eyes. After a long time, they felt hungry too.
“It was the happiest meal of our life,” say the parents, “and the tastiest.”

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