Bhat (62), a former member of the banned Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir, was arrested on July 17 and booked under PSA.
On Friday evening, Mohammed Haneef (32) was returning from Srinagar High Court when he got a call from the police. The policemen informed him that his jailed father Ghulam Mohammed Bhat is not well and the Public Security Act (PSA) charges against him had been quashed. He asked Haneef to leave for Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh to bring back his father. The next day, when he reached the jail in Prayagraj, he was informed that his father was dead.
Bhat (62), a former member of the banned Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir, was arrested on July 17 and booked under PSA. The family had challenged the case and it came up for hearing on Friday. As Haneef was returning from the court, he got the call.
“On Friday evening, a police officer told me that my father is not well and the PSA charges have been quashed. He told me to go to Allahabad to bring him back,” says Haneef. “I said I cannot go. But on Saturday I got a call at 5.30 am. The officer told me they have arranged my air ticket and I should immediately go to Allahabad. I was driven to Srinagar (airport) in a police vehicle.” Haneef says police asked a man to accompany him to Prayagraj. “I don’t know if he was a policeman or a civilian.”
When the two landed at Lucknow airport, he said, UP Police was waiting and they drove to Prayagraj. “I reached Allahabad at 9 pm. When I met the jailer, he informed me about my father’s death. I was shocked. I called home and informed my uncle.”
Haneef adds, “I was alone and no family member was accompanying me. I didn’t dare to ask the policeman there how my father died. They took me to a room and removed the cover from a body. It was my father.”
Haneef says he was asked to wait as police “conducted the postmortem”. “At 2.30 at night, I was handed over the body. They also gave me an ambulance and some police escorts and we were driven to airport.”Bhat’s body reached his village Saturday night and was buried in the village.
The family has many unanswered questions.
“He was healthy when he was arrested. All his life, he did not take any medicine, not even a paracetamol. He only had a slight problem in his leg. He was arrested and tortured in 1993 and couldn’t walk properly,” says Bhat’s brother-in-law Bashir Ahmad Khan. “His death is suspicious for us.”
Bhat has two sons and as many daughters.
His wife Zarifa recalls the day he was called by the police. She says he told them that he would present himself as he hasn’t committed any crime. “He asked us to remain steadfast,” she says.
The family last saw him on July 17. “His son works as a labourer and barely manages to run the family. They couldn’t afford to travel outside the state to meet him,” says Khan. “After his arrest, they spoke to him a few times over phone before he was shifted to Allahabad.”