Following the dramatic detention of a Kashmiri trader at New Delhi Airport on January 10, his woeful family and fraternity has been vouching for his innocence. But largely, Bilal Kawa’s custody and subsequent police remand in the 2000 Red Fort Attack case has triggered the vintage fears in Valley that ‘another innocent Kashmiri is being framed’.
At his Alia Kadal residence in Old City, Bilal Ahmad Kawa’s mourning relatives and neighbours are beating their chests in utter helplessness: “This is how they frame innocent Kashmiris…”
These wails and cries started emanating from this archetypal downtown neighbourhood after Bilal was passed as the “proclaimed offender” in the 2000 Red Fort Attack, 17 years after.
Among other things, a sectional Delhi media is hailing Bilal’s detention a long overdue, following his “long hiding”. But his family says their son, a leather trader, has been frequenting New Delhi since 2000 and had never gone into hiding.
“All these years,” says Zubair, Bilal’s family member, “he didn’t receive any police summon or enquiry. And even if he was involved in any such case, then why wasn’t he arrested earlier?”
It’s shocking, he says, how Bilal—“who doesn’t carry any criminal record”—has been suddenly named as a ‘mastermind’ in such a big ‘terrorist attack’.
Visibly shocked and sad, Zubair says Bilal was only carrying Kashmiri collard and bread in his bag at the time of his detention by a joint team of the Special Cell of Delhi Police and Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad at Delhi’s IGI Airport on Jan 10. He was travelling to Delhi from Srinagar for medical checkups.
“If it takes only a few hours for police to detain a stone pelter,” Zubair continues, “then how come such a ‘mastermind’ who must’ve travelled to Delhi countless times after 2000 on trade trips remained in hiding all these years? Where were their Intelligence agencies till now?”
This is not right, he fumes: “How long will the Indian police and agencies frame and ruin Kashmiris like this?”
Even after the J&K police have assured assistance to the family, Bilal’s mother Fatima fears the damned fate—already lived by many Kashmiri mothers, whose sons were indicted in the false cases and were set free after decades of prison life.
“This is not right,” she wails. “How can they frame someone so innocent like you, my son? This is not right…”
Bilal has been named as “suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist” in December 22, 2000 Red Fort Attack when reportedly LeT men sneaked into the 17th century monument and opened indiscriminate fire on the guards of 7th battalion of Rajputana Rifles, killing three persons, including a civilian, before managing to flee through the Fort’s rear wall.
Quoting some anonymous police officer involved in Bilal’s detention, the media reports are claiming that a large chunk of money to carry out the attack was transferred in Bilal’s account by Arif, the main conspirator of the Red Fort attack, in 2000.
“This is all lie,” says another lamenting relative, amid the growing wails and cries at Bilal’s residence. “He was barely 17 when that attack happened. And how can someone transfer money in the bank account of a minor, who did not even have any account back in the day?”
Devastated, Bilal’s two minor daughters and his wife are still in Delhi — unable to make sense of the sudden turn of events in their life.
Back home, his mother is driving herself mad: rubbing her hands and shaking her head in grief.
“He has nothing to do with any terror-related activities,” she says, pleading. “All these years he was living here and was not in hiding. This is wrong…”
If at all he was involved in any such case, her relative breaks in, then how come they took so long to arrest him? “They are simply framing another innocent Kashmiri.”
Far away from his house, Bilal on Thursday was produced before Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Deepak Sherawat in Delhi. After his interrogators submitted that the accused had to be taken to J&K and some places in India for “further investigation and arrest of his associates involved in the crime”, a Delhi court remanded him to 10 days of police custody.
Back to limelight with the leather trader’s detention, the case earlier saw Delhi police filing a charge-sheet against the main accused Arif, alias Ashfaq, and 21 others in February 2001.
The case history prepared by the police further claims that Arif had set up a computer centre in Gafoor Market in Okhla in New Delhi in 2000—before his men did a recce of the Red Fort.
“They entered it through the Lahori Gate with assault rifles, magazines and hand-grenades hidden under their jackets on Dec 22, 2000,” the police report claims, “and carried out the strikes, before fleeing through the Fort’s rear wall and escaped in auto-rickshaws.”
But 17 years after, the way the case has taken a twist has shocked Bilal’s family and fraternity alike, both vouching for his innocence.
“We’re shaken how Indian media is already passing our son as the ‘a long time runaway’ offender,” says an elderly man at Kawa residence.
“His brother who lives in Delhi told us that Bilal is still being questioned for his alleged role in this case. But the Indian media is hell-bent to indict him for the crime he never committed.”