The Frame-Up of Mohammad Ashan Untoo

Sampat Prakash

The Jammu and Kashmir Trade Union Centre strongly condemns the way the Indian State has adopted a policy of ‘catch and frame’ Kashmiris in Delhi. The trade union has been involved in focusing on the human rights violations of Kashmiris within the State. It has taken up the cases of thousands of Kashmiris who have been dragged to innumerable detention centres and tortured, maimed and killed. In Kashmir the security forces have been carrying out a policy of ‘catch and kill’.

The J & K Trade Union Centre has been an integral part of the Kashmiri national movement for more than four decades. Indian security forces have killed hundreds of our activists, thousands have suffered imprisonment and thousands have been dismissed in the course of the struggle. The President of the Trade Union Centre, Mr Sampat Prakash, was himself in jail for nine years and Mr M. Raja Amin, the Chief Spokesman, was in jail for four years. It is this background of the trade union movement, which makes it a unique, because it takes up issues of service condition of more than four lakh government employees along with human rights violations.

The trade union has been greatly concerned by the way that Kashmiris are not safe anywhere in India. In fact, now the policy of ‘catch and kill’ has its echoes in the false encounters of Kashmiris in Delhi and also the way innocent Kashmiris have been framed in false cases. The most dramatic example has been the case of Mr S.A.R. Geelani, the Delhi University teacher framed in the Parliament attack case and later acquitted by the High Court of Delhi. It was the President of our Trade Union, Shri Sampat Prakash, who gave testimony in the Delhi High Court as an expert defence witness. We were deeply shocked that the sessions Court judgement should have called our President an ‘interested witness’ and sentenced him to death. It was only after an intense struggle that Mr Geelani was acquitted.

We have now recently learnt that a Kashmiri human rights activist, Mohammad Ashan Untoo, was illegally picked up from Daryagunj in Delhi on February 9, 2005 and taken by Delhi police to a lock up where he was beaten mercilessly and tortured severely. A member of the scavenging staff was forced to sodomise him. The police tried to compel Mr Untoo to give a false confession stating that he was involved in the conspiracy to assassinate Mr S.A.R. Geelani on February 8, 2005 right outside his lawyer’s home. This is scandalous that in the Capital of democratic India the Delhi police can pick up Kashmiris at random and subject them to the kind of torture that proves that these are not random aberrations but a part of a systematic policy of the Indian State towards the people of Kashmir.

Mr Untoo is a well-known human rights activist and is the Chairman of the Human Rights Forum, Jammu and Kashmir and also a member of UK based International Forum for Justice. He has taken up over 3,000 cases with the State Human Rights Commission, National Human Rights Commission and with international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International. He was one of the active members who campaigned for Mr Geelani’s acquittal. In fact he threatened to immolate himself when he heard that Mr Geelani was sentenced to death by the Sessions Court. He had also gone to the Pakistan High Commission for arranging a visa for a coming family wedding.

On February 8, 2005 when he heard that Mr Geelani had been shot Mr Untoo went to the All India Institute for Medical Sciences (AIIMS) to show his solidarity with Mr Geelani and his family. However, he was unable to meet him so he returned to the guesthouse where he was staying at Daryagunj when the police arrested him. Since he refused to give a false confession implicating himself in the attempt to kill Mr Geelani the Delhi police framed him under the Officials Secrets Act and now he is languishing in jail.

Newspaper reports have quoted police sources saying that Mr Untoo is an ISI agent and was involved in the attempt to murder Mr Geelani.

Mr Sampat Prakash met Mr Untoo in the police lock up at Tis Hazari on May 12, 2005 and also his lawyer Mr N.D. Pancholi and learnt the details of the torture. Mr Untoo has asked the court to enquire into the torture by the police and also he has told the court that he needs medical assistance.

This case is an illustration of how the Government continues to demonise Kashmiris by portraying them as Pakistan agents or ISI agents while pursuing Indo-Pakistan friendship. The case of Mr Untoo is a sad and dramatic example of how the Indo-Pakistan friendship policy is pursued by sacrificing the lives of Kashmiri people and their aspirations.

Mr Untoo had come to Delhi on February 5, 2005 on personal work which included arranging for his relative’s doctor’s fee since his relative had cancer. The police have made false arrest memos to say he was arrested near Dhaula Kuan on February 13, 2005. The police later picked up another Kashmiri political activist, Mr Ghulam Nabi Najar and brought him to the same place and tortured him in an attempt to make him also give a false confession that he was involved in the murder of Mr S.A.R. Geelani.

There is a long list of Kashmiris who have been picked up, tortured, detained and then framed in false cases. They are languishing in the jails all over India and also in the high security cells of Tihar jail. Many of them are from poor families and they cannot afford any lawyer and their family members cannot afford the long and expensive trip to Delhi to see their loved ones for half an hour.

The most dramatic case of framing was the case of the Kashmiri journalist, Mr lftikar Geelani, who was charged under the Officials Secrets Act after the police planted some documents on him and these documents were found to be available on the Internet.

We demand that Mr Mohammad Ahsan Untoo and Mr Ghulam Nabi Najar be immediately released and compensation be paid to them for illegal arrest, detention and torture. We also demand that the guilty policemen be suspended from service and the Government constitute a committee to go into the conditions (including the legality) of the Kashmiri Prisoners in Delhi and elsewhere.

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