Updated: October 31, 2021 7:13:15 am
Mohammad Shaban Ganai does not want to know why his son has been booked and arrested in Agra; he just wants him freed from jail. Which is why he apologises on behalf of his son.
“I don’t know whether he committed a mistake. I seek forgiveness for him. Even if he has not done anything, we still seek forgiveness. Please forgive him and free him,” said Ganai, father of Showkat Ahmad, one of the three engineering students of Agra’s Raja Balwant Singh Engineering College who were slapped with sedition for purportedly cheering Pakistan in last Sunday’s India-Pakistan T20 World Cup game.
Three Kashmiri students — Showkat, Inayat Altaf Sheikh and Arshad Yosuf Ahmad — were booked for sedition over a “WhatsApp status that celebrated Pakistan’s win”. They were detained a day after the game, which Pakistan had won. They were booked for sedition.
A resident of Shahgund village in Hanjin, Showkat, 21, is a fourth-semester student. “We have sent two family members to Agra to meet him (Showkat). They have filed an application for that,” Ganai said, “but there has been no response from the government (yet). We have appealed to the government here as well.”
At Dooniwari village of Chadoora, Shabir Ahmad Sheikh, however, has no hope. He said while the family’s pleas to the government have fallen on deaf ears, the lawyers’ strike has shattered their hopes further. “We have no clear idea what their crime was; why they have been booked. Whatever we learnt is through media reports,” said Sheikh, uncle of Inayat Altaf, 22.
“We haven’t been able to contact them so far. One of our family members has left for Agra, but with lawyers deciding to boycott them, we have lost all hope,” Sheikh said.
On Saturday, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and sought his intervention to seek release of the detained students and withdrawal of FIR against the medical students of Srinagar.
“We had been waiting for the roll-out of a policy to address hearts and minds of the people, especially the youth,” she wrote. “While the spree of raids , arrests , killings continue unabated, the level of repression and state intolerance has touched a new low.
“A friendly cricket match between India and Pakistan that was solely a source of entertainment for people here, bruised by incessant lockdowns, Internet gag and restriction of movement, led to booking youngsters under the draconian UAPA for simply choosing to cheer the winning side.”
She wrote: “Our brightest young people pursuing professional courses like MBBS have been targeted and slapped with anti-terror laws.While within Kashmir, the youth are no strangers to state excesses, three students in Agra too have been arrested and charged with sedition for the same reasons. This, despite the college’s own admission that they didn’t engage in any activity that might be construed anti national.”
Asserting that patriotism cannot be forced through the barrel of a gun, Mufti sought Modi’s intervention: “Such punitive actions laced with contempt will only further the sense of mistrust and alienation between the younger generation & rest of the country. Wisdom deems it prudent for this government to engage with them, understand their aspirations and goals. I fervently request you to intervene so that the future of these young bright minds is not destroyed.”
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