|According to a report in The Times of India (13 January), a month after Delhi University lecturer Abdur Rehman Geelani was picked up for his alleged involvement in the December 13 attack on Parliament, a strange calm pervades his modest two-bedroom house in Mukherjee Nagar.
Life has changed for his wife, 30-year-old Arifa and their two children — Nusrat (10) and Atif (5).
The children do not go to school anymore. Little Atif was supposed to join school this year, but he couldn’t be admitted because of Geelani’s arrest. ‘‘I miss abbu. He would play bat-ball with me. Didi prefers watching TV... why can’t I go to school like my friends,’’ says Atif plaintively.
Ten-year-old Nusrat was undergoing treatment to rectify her squint at AIIMS. ‘‘The exercises had to continue before an operation could be undertaken. But that too has halted now,’’ says Arifa. Nusrat, a student of class V, isn’t going to school either. ‘‘I don’t know why they took my father,’’ says the girl, a patch covering her left eye.
Arifa believes her husband is innocent. She and the children were detained for three days in police custody. ‘‘But they didn’t ill-treat us. Even our landlord has been nice and has never indicated that we should leave... which is why I keep feeling that they should not be harassed because of us,’’ she says.
However, ‘‘the nearby STD booth won’t allow us to make calls so we can’t be in touch with relatives in Kashmir,’’ said Bismillah, Geelani’s younger brother, a DU student.
The family has no money. According to Geelani’s lawyer, Pancholi, ‘‘Despite suspension, Geelani should be getting half his salary, but they haven’t paid him for December. He is not allowed to sign cheques, so his family can’t withdraw money from his bank account either,’’ says Pancholi.
‘‘In a normal case a chargesheet has to be filed within 90 days, but under POTO it must be done within 180 days. One may get a bail only after that. Till then I can only try to ensure Geelani’s human rights are not violated. But they are being violated,’’ Pancholi says.
‘‘A news report said Geelani bought a house worth Rs 22 lakh. If someone can find the house the family can move there in these difficult times,’’ says Geelani’s father-in-law, Mohammed Abdullah.
Geelani, meanwhile, waits for someone to listen to his side of the story. After his arrest on December 14, he says: ‘‘I was taken to a farmhouse, blindfolded, and tortured for four hours. Stripped naked, I was hung upside down and beaten on the sole of my feet with a lathi. They wanted me to confess that I knew everything. I kept saying I don’t know anything. At night, I was taken to Lodi Road (CBI office), blindfolded, where I was handcuffed and interrogated.
They gave me food and a blanket. But the biggest shock was to learn how communal our forces, including senior officers are,’’ Geelani told this correspondent through his cage-like enclosure at Tihar’s high security prison.‘‘They forced me into signing blank sheets of paper. And when we (Shaukat and Afzal included) were pushed out in front of the media, including TV cameras, they warned us not to speak a word. It is surprising that the media didn’t have any questions for me till now,’’ Geelani said.
‘‘I am innocent and so I’ll cooperate with the authorities in every way, but an inquiry must be conducted at the earliest.’’
"The crown jewel of institutionalised oppression is POTO nee TADA nee MISA. Even as I write, a Kashmiri former professor of Arabic sits in Tihar Jail tortured, brutalised and reviled by his fellow prisoners, with nothing to look forward to but a kangaroo court that will lock him up and throw away the key. He may be guilty of having harboured, or in some other way aided, the fidayeen who attacked Parliament on December 13.
Or he may, as he claims, be innocent, entrapped by a few calls on a cell-phone from a fellow Kashmiri belonging to his hometown. I would be inclined to believe the former, but what I believe is simply not important. What is important is that Geelani is undergoing severe and, if reports are true, inhuman punishment before he has been shown to be guilty of anything. And POTO has lifted any vestigial obligation on the Indian State to minimise this period of
Prem Shankar Jha, ‘Vicious and vindictive’, Hindustan Times, 18 Jan. 2002