Paying the price for 'being' Yaseen Malik

SRINAGAR, NOV. 15. Even after he spent two months in jail for having been named as Mohammad Yaseen by his parents, his trauma of making the rounds of courts in Punjab is yet to end. His passport continues to be seized by the police and ``justice is still far away.''

An engineering graduate, Mohammad Yaseen Malik is dismayed over the conflict between India and Pakistan as he was the one who had to pay a heavy price for that. ``If my parents had not named me as Mohammad Yaseen, may be I would not have to see this day,'' laments the poor resident of Zandfaran village in Baramulla district. His parents had to go through enormous difficulties to educate him. But he is frustrated and does not know how to pick up the threads of his life again - not for being unemployed but for having been detained on the Attari border in January 1999 when he was on his way to Bahawalpore in Pakistan to see his uncle. The Indian authorities mistook him for the senior Hurriyat leader and the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman, Mr. Mohammad Yaseen Malik, and was sent to jail.

Narrating his woeful tale, Yaseen told The Hindu ``I had a valid passport issued by the Jammu Passport office under No.A-1542660, dated: 01-01-97, besides having a Visa from the Embassy. When I reached Amritsar I was first stopped by a lady official of the Immigration Department who suspected my passport but after confirming it from the computer she allowed me to go.'' However, when I was about to cross the border, an Indian official asked me to show the passport. I did and he shouted, you are Yasin Malik, the militant leader, going to meet Pakistani leaders. ``I pleaded innocence telling them that I am a civilian and have valid documents but there was nobody to listen to me.''

As the ordeal began, he was taken to the police station where according to him, the SHO, Mr. Baldev Singh, demanded Rs. 1000 so that he could be let off. ``But I told him that I had no money except Rs. 1000 (Pakistani currency) which I changed while coming to this place.'' It had no effect and rather proved costly for him ending in two months' imprisonment in jail. His parents were in the belief that he was in Pakistan but Yaseen said ``they were informed by one D.P. Sharma, an advocate who has a nexus with police and jail authorities and he asked them to get Rs 40,000 for my release.'' My father managed to come, but with Rs. 10,000 only and after going through a traumatic process, I was granted bail. The passport officer, Jammu, also confirmed to the SHO that it was a genuine one and issued on January 1, 1997. But Yaseen alleged that the officials tore a page of the passport deliberately to implicate me in the case under sections 420, 468, and 471.

The matter did not end there. But continued to drag on with his passport having been seized. He has to go at least once a month to attend the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Amritsar, but is unable to prove his innocence. Yaseen had also written to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Punjab State Human Rights Commission and the J&K Human Rights Commission. Ironically, the NHRC sent his case to the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for investigation and its fate was not known. While the J&K Commission disposed of his petition saying it was pending with the Punjab Commission, the latter has fixed November 30 as the next date of hearing. Demanding justice, Yaseen's plea is that he be given the reasons for the arrest and the case be shifted to Srinagar as he was unable to pursue it in Punjab.