A local court Tuesday came down heavily on the J&K Police after the owner and editor of the Urdu daily Aafaq was arrested from his residence here on Monday night, 26 years after a Srinagar court had issued an arrest warrant against the senior journalist.
Ghulam Jeelani Qadri (62) was among eight journalists who were booked in 1990 by the J&K Police for publishing a statement of Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin. The then Srinagar CJM had issued an arrest warrant on June 22, 1993 when the police informed that the accused are absconding after being declared proclaimed offenders in October 1992. While police did not act on the warrant for 26 years, they suddenly raided Qadri’s house on Monday night.
Granting bail to Qadri on Tuesday afternoon, the Chief Judicial Magistrate Srinagar reprimanded the J&K Police, asking what they have been doing for 26 years and how the senior journalist was issued a passport verification twice if he was a proclaimed offender. The court asked the police to submit a detailed report on the police action in the case by July 31.
Three of the eight accused have died. The journalist bodies in Kashmir have condemned the arrest, terming it an “attack on freedom of press” in the Valley.
A J&K Police team raided Qadri’s residence at Balgarden late on Monday night and took him to Shaheed Gunj police station without informing the family about why he was being arrested. “It was around 11.30 in the night and we had just returned home when the police team entered our house. They took him (Qadri) with them. When he asked them to allow him to wear chappals and take his medicine, they pushed him into the vehicle,” his younger brother and journalist Muarifat Qadri told The Indian Express.
“I was having dinner and asked why they are arresting him. They told me to come to Police Station Shaheed Gunj. I went there but they forced us to wait till 2 in the night. It was only after some journalists rang the police that they told us that he has been arrested in a case of 90s.”
However, the police said that they followed the law. “The warrant has been executed. This is a normal procedure of law. The police can arrest at any time,” SSP Srinagar Dr Haseeb Mughal told The Indian Express. “We had asked him 20 times to report to the police but he didn’t appear. There is nothing personal. We have 60 such warrants pending and we have started executing them. Four have been executed last week and this was the fifth.”
Asked how Qadri could be a proclaimed offender when the police issued him passport verification twice during this period, Mughal said, “Quite possible. Those times the record was not computerised. Today we have computerised records and I can tell you at the click of button.”
His family have questioned the police claim. “They (Police) are lying. They didn’t even inform him once about the case. What was the need to raid at night? They could have come to the office during the day and arrested him,” his brother Muarifat said.