Calcutta Arms Case Grief In Kashmir

Calcutta Arms Case Grief In Kashmir

16 July 2013
The Telegraph (Kolkata)


Srinagar: Sheikh Muzamil cannot bear to tell his ageing parents about a shock from Calcutta. Their youngest son Imran has been handed a life term in a 2003 arms smuggling case in the city. “I am shocked. I don’t know how to tell my parents that their son may never be released. They will be devastated,” said Muzamil. The 30-year-old said his parents might collapse if told about yesterday’s order by a Calcutta sessions court. Imran, picked up when he was 18 and working in a Calcutta shawl shop whose owner had Kashmiri roots, will complete 10 years in jail this December. Imran and his friend Shiekh Farhat, a fellow Kashmiri, were among six persons sentenced for smuggling 25,485 rounds of AK-47 ammunition into Calcutta. The police had alleged that the cache, smuggled from China through Bangladesh and the Northeast, was meant for militants in Kashmir. The others convicted include Syed Abid Imam, 47, a former FCI employee and Maidan footballer who the police identified as the kingpin. Muzamil expressed surprise at the severity of the punishment and said the family would appeal in a higher court. “They (Imran and Farhat) were arrested under the arms act and have already spent so much time behind bars. We had hoped 10 years would be the maximum. Even Sanjay Dutt got five years under the act,” Muzamil, a businessman, said referring to the actor’s conviction in the 1993 Bombay blasts case. Lawyers said life term was the maximum penalty in arms smuggling cases but actual punishments depended on the severity of the offence, such as its impact on national security. The life terms seemed to take on political overtones today with some separatists seeing the orders as part of a pattern in which Kashmiris are implicated elsewhere in the country. They cited two acquittals last year in blasts at Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar in 1996. “They (two Kashmiris accused in the blasts) were acquitted (by Delhi High Court) after a lower court earlier sentenced them to death. But their life was ruined and they had to spend 17 years behind bars,” said Ayaz Akbar, a spokesperson for the Hurriyat’s hardline faction. Akbar feared the Calcutta arms case may eventually go the same way. “The courts may acquit these two boys too but their life may have been ruined by then.” Word about the life sentences has come as the Valley seethes over the mysterious deaths of two Kashmiris outside the state, one in Mumbai and another in Rajasthan. The protests have prompted the Omar Abdullah government to announce an inquiry.