Bilal is undertaking a long uncertain journey all the way from Pulwama's Karimabad to Agra in Uttar Pradesh to find out any information about his 17-year-old son. Bilal’s story is echoed in the entire village where over a dozen young men were detained by the security forces in the first week of August post the announcement of the abrogation of Article 370 by the Indian government.
A report suggests that the forces have detained over 300 young men in different parts of the country under the Pubic Safety Act 1978, with many being detained in Agra. The Director General of Police (DGP) of the Union Territory on Sunday, September 22, said that the young men have been put under arrest to ensure peace in the region and are being kept in accordance with the protocol of the jail manual. The DGP also claimed that the families of the men are being allowed to meet their sons.
However, residents from Karimabad village say otherwise. "I am going all the way to Agra, I don't even know if I will find him there, if he's alive or dead,” said Bilal. Talking about the detention of his 17-year-old son Razzaq, he said, “My son was picked up by security forces and the CRPF on the night of August 5 at around 2 in the morning. He was pulled into a car and taken away. It was only after three days that we found out that he's in the Pulwama line. It took us another ten days to find out that he has been put in the central jail. And it is only a month later that we found out that he is being detained in Agra."
Holding a picture of his son in his hand, he added, "My son was the most innocent boy in the village. He used to always smile and crack jokes with everyone. He had never even picked up a stone in his life. He was enrolled in the B. Com programme and I had so many aspirations for him. I wanted him to find a good job." Razzaq’s brother, 20-year-old Rashid said, "My mother is traumatised. I want to run away from home, now that my brother is gone I know they (the forces) are coming for me. I have been beaten up by the forces multiple times when they raided our home on five to six occasions. I was even held in jail thrice. This is the reality of each and every household here. I see all my friends and relatives being tortured by the forces every single day, what is our fault? The fact that we are Kashmiris?"
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Unlike Bilal, many others do not have the means to travel to Agra to find out about the fate of their children. Speaking to NewsClick, Wafina, mother of another teenager detained in Agra said, “My son was picked up in the initial phase of detentions post the abrogation of Article 370 on August 8. Following this, he was kept in the Central Jail here in Pulwama. Then, I at least had a clue as to where he was or how he was, now I'm told by some people that he is so traumatised that he is unable to even talk."
Wafina's son Karim was picked up in a midnight raid like many others, "They barged in when he was sleeping, he was dragged out of the house while my daughters and I were locked in another room. First, the forces had fired at our doorstep,” she said.
“We haven’t been allowed to meet our son yet. We were falsely assured that he will be released on August 16, but it's been close to two months now and we have no idea where he is," she added.
As one ventures further inside the village, the pattern of detentions remain the same.
"I don't know when I will be able to see my son next, and I cannot afford to travel to Agra,” says Abdul Rahman, who is in his sixties. Rahman's son Ashfaq was also one of the many men who were picked up in the first phase of detentions. "He is married and has two very young children - a one year old boy and a four year old girl. We don't know if we will be able to bring him back for his children," he added.
Fresh series of detentions have been reported from the region. In Parigam, allegedly five more men have been detained in the last week. Residents claim that the youngest of them is in his 30s. Currently, the families are being allowed to meet with their sons who are still locked up in a local police station. However, the locals are unsure if this will last in case the boys are charged with PSA and taken out of the state.
Also read: Jammu and Kashmir: Detentions Under PSA Rises After August 5
The anxieties of the residents are also heightened as two of the young men were previously publicly tortured in the area and had suffered grave injuries.
*All the names have been changed to protect the identity of the people NewsClick had spoken to.