Paadshah in Kashmiri means the king but 65-year-old Paadshah Begam of Shamswari, in the congested downtown Srinagar, has been reduced to something worse than a beggar by the protracted separation from two of her sons. First one, Mirza Iftikhar Hussain, returned to her after fourteen years of lodgment in Delhi’s Tihar Jail when he acquitted by Patiala House court in the Lajpath Nagar bomb blast case of May, 1996, in April 2010. Her third son, Mirza Nissar Hussain, who was awarded death sentence in the same case by the trial court, was among the two convicts acquitted by Delhi High Court on Thursday last.
Neither of the acquittals has, however, faded the somber ambience at Mrs. Paadshah Begum’s home. Once an imposing heritage building, her four-storeyed house stands ruined by a fire and apparently no maintenance in over a decade. She remains statue to the breaking news in Kashmir that brings cheer to thousands of families across the Valley.
Nobody greets the two Shia Muslim families as all expressions of joy are strictly proscribed in the mourning month of Muharram. Shamswari, like the residential locality of the second acquitted convict, Mehmood Ali Bhat, is draped in a barrage of black banners and buntings---paying tributes to the martyrs of Karbala. “Allah has been merciful and we have heard (the news of Mr. Nissar’s acquittal) with all gratitude to Him”, she said when asked for her reaction to the news that, interestingly, came almost parallel to Ajmal Kasab’s hanging.
“Kasab”, her first son Mirza Iftikhar said, “got a better justice”. This never-ending tribulation has completely ruined our family, our business, our studies, and everything. In the last 17 years, each of us has died every day. Kasab was luckier as he died quick and alone”.
“We had a flourishing business of Kashmir art and handicrafts in Delhi and Kathmandu. I was 19-year-old and had just finished my Pre-University when we were arrested. My younger brother Zaffar was preparing for his MBBS entrance in Delhi. Nissar, was a Grade 9th student and just 16-year-old”, Mirza Iftikhar told The Hindu. “They (Delhi Police) have snatched away 17 years of Nissar’s life and 14 years of Iftikhar’s. Who will return me these precious years of my two sons’ life?”, Mrs. Paadshah asked.
Why does the family view its suffering as “never-ending” even after both of its scions have been declared as innocent? “Nissar has been framed in another case---a blast that took place in Jaipur, Rajasthan, when he was a middle school student in Batmaloo (Srinagar). Neither he nor I have ever seen Rajasthan”, Mirza Iftikhar explained.
“This (Jaipur blast) case is also running into 17th year. We are told that statements of 200 witnesses have been recorded and there are 100 more. It simply means that my brother will never return to his home”, Mirza Iftikhar added. While referring to the timeline of now concluded Lajpath Nagar case, Mirza claimed that the judgment had been delayed for about a decade inspite of the higher courts passing orders that the trial be completed within a month or within six months. He claimed that as many as 32 judges at the trial court had tossed the disposal to one another.
Why was the Mirza family targeted selectively? “One Javed Kirwaw was our neighbourer in Srinagar. He too had a business in handicrafts and would often visit us at Delhi as well in Nepal. We had no inkling of his being a militant with JKIF”, Mirza said. “Whosoever knew him, was picked up and booked”, Mirza Iftikhar said of the militant who later escaped to Pakistan. Even after the acquittal, Police, he alleged, did not let the family register a business unit with KVIB.
While as three of the Mirza sibling’s sisters were married in their absence from 1996 to 2010, co-accused and now acquitted Mehmood Ali Bhat could not attend any of the three deaths and five marriages in his family. He was in Tihar Jail when his mother died in February, 2000. On two occasions, however, he was escorted to see his family in Srinagar when his maternal uncles died.
“When we heard of Kasab’s hanging on Wednesday, we prayed for Mehmood but prepared ourselves mentally for the last agony. But, it was a miracle when on Thursday we heard that he has been acquitted”, Mr. Bhat’s 70-year-old father, Haji Sher Ali told The Hindu. “Yes, it must come as a relief but we don’t why we don’t feel quite relieved of the suffering”, he added.