Zubair Ahmed Turay and The “Missing Men” of Kashmir’s Militancy
In a video, Turay says the cruelty of the police left him with no choice but to join the militants.
Once a resident of Shopian – the epicentre of clashes between the Army and the militants in south Kashmir – Zubair Ahmed Turay is now among the “missing men” of Kashmir.
On 1 May, the police said that Turay had “disappeared” from custody. A few days later, a video of Turay surfaced, with the 22-year-old proclaiming that the cruelty of the police and the Indian establishment had forced him to join the ranks of militants.
Turay’s video is the latest in a number of videos purported to be shot by Kashmiri youths announcing their intention to join militancy – a trend that has seen a spike since Burhan Wani’s use of social media to propagate psychological warfare.
The Curious Case of How He Went Missing After Escaping Custody
Zubair Ahmed Turay’s run-ins with the state can be traced back to 2004, when he was booked under the Arms Act . He was 11 years old then. After 2009, he was frequently in jail or in police remand. He has been slapped with 20 different charges since.
Turay’s father Bashir Ahmed told The Quint that he had often run from pillar to post to secure his son’s release. When he met Sushobha Bharve, a member of the Yashwant Sinha-led delegation that visited J&K in October 2016, he was told that Turay would be released soon. His release orders were issued on 24 February.
Turay was released on 28 February, after the most recent case against him, the Public Safety Act (PSA), was quashed.
Bashir said that a few days after being released, the Counter Insurgency Unit of Kashmir police called Turay. “He was then handed over to the Shopian police. He was illegally kept there for the last three months,” Bashir said. On 1 May, the Shopian police called Bashir to inform him that his son had escaped custody.
They told us they will release Zubair after elections. Elections did not happen. And now they are saying my boy has run away. They kept him, now they should return my boy to me (sic).
Parents, Police and the Blame Game
“My son could have escaped when he was released. But he wanted to live a peaceful life. We do not know what they have done to my son,” Bashir said.
When asked to react to Turay’s claims in the video that he was illegally detained, the Director General of Police Kashmir, SP Vaid, said:
If somebody is a chronic stone-pelter, what can we do? We had to arrest him.
Turay’s mother said he had been constantly kept in police custody for the last four years.
They have been picking him up since he was studying in 7th standard. They torture him... They have to answer us as to where is he (sic).
Sri Ram Ambarkar, SSP Shopian, told The Quint that the munshi of Keegam police post – where Turay was kept – was suspended after he went missing. As the departmental inquiry was still underway, the SHO concerned and Duty Officer were transferred.
The ‘Missing Men’
Depending on whom you ask, the word “disappeared” is a euphemism that is used in Kashmir to refer to the crossing of borders by men who have been subjected to high levels of police brutality.
Turay’s uncle told The Quint:
Turay is 22 years old, but is a known name in Kashmir. He is a typical case of the state’s policy of slapping youngsters with the PSA.
The security forces and the government in the Valley have often been accused of misusing the PSA and detaining protesters.
An Amnesty report from 2010, accessed by The Wire, states that at least 10,000 to 20,000 people have been detained under the PSA since its inception in the 1970s. According to the report, 600 detention orders have been reported in 2016 alone.
Like with many other protesters in Kashmir, a revolving-door detention – ie, when a PSA on another case is slapped on the detainee as soon as a release order is issued – may have been used against Turay as well.
The Quint spoke to Bashir again, after the video of Turay joining the militant ranks surfaced. “I was called to the police station when the video surfaced,” he said, adding, “He (Turay) has not personally contacted us. We have no clue of his whereabouts. He himself has said police made him resort to militancy. I have nothing more to say about it”. Bashir holds the police and the state directly responsible for his son joining the militant ranks.
They accuse an 11-year-old of being an overground worker for militants. They book him under Arms Act. This is what they have been doing to young Kashmiri boys.
‘Stone-Pelter’ or ‘Household Name’?
Turay’s hometown of Shopian has been in the spotlight of late. First, for the security forces’ coordinated action to smoke out terrorists, and later, as the site where Army lieutenant Ummer Fayaz’s bullet-ridden body was found on 10 May. In the video, Turay thanks the people of Shopian for their love and support for him and the movement.
What do the people of Shopian have to say about this? A local businessman told The Quint on conditions of anonymity that Turay “used to mobilise youth for stone pelting”.
There were lesser number of stone pelting incidents and shutdowns after Zubair was detained. Our town was relatively calmer when he was away.
On the other hand, Jahangir, a Shopian-based lawyer, says Turay has become a household name and a hero.
Zubair has been a victim of police and state cruelty so far. But he has become a hero now. He is a household name here. People of Shopian know him personally. They know he is a religious and kind man. He had spent his money for the treatment of youth injured during protests against India. Now he has picked up arms and of course people will now respect him even more.
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