Photo: Kashmir Ink
Jailed for over a decade in the 2005 Delhi blasts case, Tariq Ahmed Dar recounts his torturous days in the Delhi Police custody
On November 10, 2005, I was returning home from my work in South Kashmir. I was working back then for a leading multinational pharmaceutical company here. While driving back in my car, I’d to pick up my wife from a doctor’s clinic in Srinagar. She was pregnant with our second daughter. I told her that I’ll take me just fifteen minutes to reach her. But on the way, my car was suddenly intercepted by four men in civilian clothes. They blindfolded me and tied my legs and arms in the nearby police vehicle. Then they whisked me away. I never knew those 15 minutes would turn into 12 years of separation from my family.
I’m 40 now. On February 16, I was convicted by a Delhi court, while the other two Kashmiris accused in the 2005 Delhi blasts case were acquitted of all charges. I was awarded 10 years in jail in connection with my conviction in Sections 38 and 39 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), but I had already served 11 years in prison after my arrest from Srinagar in 2005. I finally walked free from Tihar’s jail number 3. I couldn’t sleep that night in Delhi. I wanted to reach home as soon as possible. I was never given a chance to narrate my story.
That November day in 2005 over a decade ago, I was taken to an undisclosed police lockup in Srinagar. There I was tortured and beaten up through the night. Next morning, I was taken out blindfolded by the same men who had arrested me. I thought I’ll be killed now. I began to say my final prayers. After being driven out on the road for a while, I heard the sound of an aircraft. I realized then that I have been brought to the airport to be flown outside the state.
After reaching Delhi airport, they removed my blinds. I was taken to Lodhi colony where I was kept in the lockup of Delhi Police’s Special Cell. There they started asking me about Delhi blasts and why I’d come to Delhi before the blasts. I told them that I’d come to Delhi for my work related to the pharmaceutical company I was working for in the valley. From the day one of my arrest here, I told them that I knew nothing about the blasts.
Meanwhile, J&K Police had registered a kidnapping case against some unknown people in Srinagar. My family had also filed a petition in the Kashmir High Court regarding my arrest. When you’re arrested in any terror case, there’s a proper procedure to be followed. Any accused has to be produced before the magistrate first. But when I arrested, I was not even presented before a magistrate. I was not brought back to Srinagar again for more investigation to prove my supposed terror links. The Delhi Police made up a fabricated terror case against me in order to frame me. They kept me in illegal detention for over a month.
Delhi Police personnel would tell me in the Lodhi Colony detention centre, “Ager tum threat nahe ho, mager potential threat to ho hi.” I would tell them often that I was innocent and not involved in any way in the 2005 Delhi blasts.
I remember once a Delhi court judge in one of his judgments raised doubts against the Special Cell of Delhi police, asking them why they always arrest young Kashmiris at the railway station in Delhi, almost always showing a recovery of “Rs 5 Lakhs, 2kgs of RDX and a pistol”, accusing them of planning to carry out some blast in the capital, almost always around August 15 or January 26. “Why do you always find them there,” the judge asked the prosecuting agencies. “Is it some fixed schedule you have to follow to frame them?”
During my detention in the Lodhi Colony Delhi police lockup, I was tortured a lot for the first five days. They would beat me up for the whole night. I was also put through water boarding. Rats were released into my cell to extract my confession. They would stretch my legs, apart from regularly beating me, and also hang me in chains, without my clothes on. The police officials had made videos of my torture, which would then be shown to instill fear among other detainees brought there.
Despite being cruelly tortured, I continued to maintain my innocence. The police then did the unthinkable. They brought a pig inside my cell and started rubbing the pig with my body. That was very painful and humiliating, but I still didn’t confess anything because I knew I was innocent.
From the Lodhi colony police cell, I was taken to another lockup of the special cell of Delhi Police in Friends Colony. And then I was taken to Bangalore for a Narco Analysis Test which I’d agreed to undertake. After 55 days of my detention since my arrest in Srinagar, I was shifted to Tihar jail. There I was subsequently kept in the high security ward, under round the clock watch.
Meanwhile, I found out that my Narco Analysis test CD had been leaked to a news channel which was airing it. I was the first person in India on whom Narco Analysis test was done. The Narco test which had been leaked to the Hindi news channel created furore. The judge in the next hearing asked the prosecuting agencies to explain how an officially sealed and confidential Narco Analysis CD was leaked to the channel when it was supposed to be confidential and not even shown to the accused. Soon, the entire matter was hushed up.
Once, while my case was being heard, the Delhi Police told the judge that I had brought some explosives in a truck to New Delhi from Srinagar. When they were questioned by the judge how I could drive a truck with explosives undetected all the way to Delhi, the police then said it was some miscalculation on their part and that there was no truck involved. Similarly, they could not prove how I used by mobile SIM illegally or for any terror activities. Even that police evidence fell flat.
I was accused of being “Laskhar-e-Toiba’s Chief Spokesperson” and “coordinator” and also its “financial advisor”. Can they explain how can a person working with a leading multinational company in the valley with a clean record be a LeT spokesperson, that too, a Chief Spokesperson? Maybe because I was looking after the company’s business in the entire valley and was coordinating with other units and other employees, I automatically became some coordinator for LeT as well!
In my case, about 337 witnesses recorded their statements in the court over the years. In the first ten years all that the witnesses would say in the court was that the blasts happened and that they saw some injured people. That was all. Then one of the judges asked why they need to waste the court’s time in every hearing. He said he’ll write what they’re all saying just once, in one statement mentioning all the names of the witnesses. Next day, when I appeared in the court again for another hearing, that judge had been transferred.
On another hearing, another judge once questioned the prosecuting agencies. “Is there any case against these people?” “Kyon,in pai koye recovery nahe lagaya hai (Why, haven’t you framed them yet by showing some recovery of weapons?). The judge threw the file at the police authorizes, saying that he can tell that our case is “made up” and that the charges against us were “fabricated”.
It took them almost 11 years to prove that we were not guilty of carrying out the 2005 Delhi blasts, which was a serious allegation against me. Then a new section was created which was not in the actual FIR and in the original charge sheet either. The section under 39 of unlawful Activities Act was slapped against me. But this section is vague. Under this section, I’ve been accused of “supporting militant activities” but its scope is such you can convict the whole Kashmir population under this section.
Initially, I was accused of being a “mastermind” of Delhi blasts. At least this is clear now that I’m not an accused in the blast case. And as for being accused under section 39, the maximum punishment for that section is ten years and I have already been jailed for about 12 years.
While in the custody of special cell of Delhi Police, they also accessed my bank account transactions. Since I was the only person managing the company’s operations in the entire valley, I’d an account opened in SBI as my salary would come from Singapore office of the company. My distributor had opened another J&K Bank account in Batamaloo area. And then I had another account opened by the company in HDFC bank when they started operating in the valley where my company salary would be deposited every month. That is how I had those accounts but the Delhi Police presented my company transactions in my bank accounts in such a manner as if it was some illegal money meant for carrying out some terror activities.
This is how I became the so called mastermind of Delhi blasts as I was called then by the media in Delhi. It’s a joke.
My 11-year-old daughter, Fatima, was born after my arrest. When I returned home, she would ask me why so many people are coming to our house now. Being away from her all these years was haunting me. I couldn’t see her when she was born. But when I saw her on my return here, I felt very pained as she also reminded me of many other daughters and Fatimas’ of Kashmir who were blinded by pellets last year. Even my daughter could have been one of them.
In the Delhi blasts case, for which I was wrongly imprisoned for about 12 years, at the end the court said I had no involvement in the blasts. I didn’t get justice. And the victims of the Delhi blasts who lost their kith and kin also did not get the justice as they don’t even know today who actually carried out the blasts which killed their loved ones. And on the other hand, the people responsible for framing innocent people like us and using state resources to frame helpless people are rewarded by the state instead of being punished for falsely implicating people on terror charges.
So this is injustice for all. And if you call it justice, then you’ll have to change the meaning of injustice.
(As told to Majid Maqbool)