We're Live Bangla Sunday, June 26, 2022

Case against Kashmiris for celebrating Pakistan cricket win is 'fabricated'

The Family Of A Kashmiri Student Imprisoned For Allegedly Supporting Pakistan’s World Cup Win Over India Last Year Have Had To Endure Financial Ruin In Trying To Free Their Son.


Bandipora and Srinagar - “Only Allah knows what we have been going through for the last couple of months,” Mohammad Shahbaz Ganai, a labourer, says as he sits inside the guestroom of his single-story house made of lower grade bricks and mud.

The past couple of months for the Ganais, who live in Bandipora district in Indian-administered Kashmir, have been extremely stressful following the arrest and imprisonment of their youngest family member in the city of Agra in India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh.

On 28 October 2021 Showkat Ahmad Ganai, 21, Ganai’s youngest son and an engineering student in his final semester, was detained along with two of his college friends, Arshad Yousaf and Inayat Altaf Sheikh, for allegedly putting up a ‘celebratory WhatsApp status’ and ‘shouting pro-Pakistan slogans’ after India lost a cricket match to its arch-rival Pakistan by 10 wickets in the recently concluded T20 World Cup.

The trio were booked for 'promoting enmity between different groups' under the Indian penal code as well as for 'cyber-terrorism' under the Information Technology Act for allegedly sending WhatsApp messages “against the country.”

“We now are in debt from head to toe as we have taken loans from multiple relatives just to see our child out of prison,” Ganai told TRT World, adding that no one offered him help when he needed it the most.

“I understand no one backs anyone during the tough times and at the end one has to bear everything on its own,” he adds after a brief pause.

Parvaiz Ahmad Ganai [left], Hafeeza Begum [centre] and Posha [right] are waiting for the release of their youngest family member since last October. The poor family have exhausted all of their resources to see Showkat Ahmad Ganai free from prison in Agra. (UbaidUllah Wani / TRTWorld)

Showkat and his local friends, according to Ganai, have been framed in a “fabricated” case. He says that none of the accused had raised slogans or uploaded a status in support of Pakistan on a fateful day. “The real story is too far from what is being told in the news,” Ganai continues as he bursts into tears.

“From my investigation I found out that Inayat had texted a joke to one of his non-local friend, who happens to be a Hindu, related to the cricket match and he posted a screenshot of Inayat’s conversation as a WhatsApp status which led Bharatiya Janata Party [India’s ruling party] youth wing leader, Gaurav Rajawat, to file a police complaint against the Kashmiri students,” he adds.

“My son got arrested because he represented Kashmiri students inside the college hostel,” Ganai says. “My son in particular is innocent,” he says, adding that Rajawat has cooked up a fabricated story and alleged that the accused had shouted pro-Pakistan slogans and celebrated India’s loss.

Read Also: Shocking Indian 'live auction' puts Muslim women up for sale

The moment Ganai was narrating the events that led to the arrest of his son and other two students, his wife Hafeeza Begum approached and began to listen to her husband. She then immediately interrupts the conversation.

“Showkat has never been part of any such activity that can harm the Indian state,” Begum told TRT World. “He would spend most of the time with his books saying that he would uplift the financial condition of our family by becoming a civil engineer,” she adds.

Hafeeza Begum claims to have spoken to her son for only five minutes after he was arrested under sedition charges. (UbaidUllah Wani / TRTWorld)

Begum says that her husband could not afford to educate all four of their children and so her elder son and daughter are illiterate. “To be honest we could not have even afforded to sponsor the education of the two of our children. I’m thankful to one of the local legislators, Yasir Reshi, for supporting Showkat’s education,” she said.

Showkat managed to secure a spot for himself at Raj Balwant Singh College in Agra under the Prime Minister Scholarship Scheme back in 2017. 

Begum and Ganai fear that they may not be able to get their son bail as all of their resources have been exhausted by visiting Agra following Showkat’s arrest and to pay lawyers fees.

“We had no money and to arrange the money required to pay lawyers fee and to visit Agra so we sold our cow for mere 60,000 rupees [$833] to meet the requirement,” Begum said.

“I wonder what will happen if the lawyer representing Showkat asks for more money,” she continues, adding the rest of the two detainees in the case don’t have a shortage of the money as their parents are “government employees.”

Selling the cow, Ganai says, was the toughest decision as they would at least earn 6,000 rupees [$83] by selling her produce. “I’m an old man and don’t find work very often,” he says. “The income by selling milk would lessen the burden on my shoulders but it now is a gone story... I have also taken 300,000 rupees [$4,166] loan from multiple relatives and I have to adjust it as well,” he adds.

Mohammad Shahbaz Ganai went to Agra to meet his younger son Showkat Ahmad Ganai after he was arrested. He sold his cow worth INR 60000 [$833] so that he can stand shoulder to shoulder with his son and pay lawyer fees. (UbaidUllah Wani / TRTWorld)

Madhuvan Dutt, counsel for the three accused Kashmiris, said that the police has yet to file the charge sheet in the case adding that the application for bail is pending before Uttar Pradesh high court.

“Due to Coronavirus physical hearing and entry into court campus has been suspended due to which we are not able to track the dates of hearing bail application properly,” says the lawyer. 

“Bail application was listed in the past twice but it could not be heard unfortunately,” he adds.

Back home in Bandipora Begum and her three children are longing for the return of Showkat. She says that her son calls her after every week for just five minutes asking the parents to help him in getting out of the prison.

“May Allah help us to overcome difficulties,” she concluded.