In the wake of outrage over acquittal of self-styled faith-healer Gulzar 'Peer' in a sexual exploitation case, police Sunday took Gulzar into "preventive custody" in Central Kashmir's Budgam district, fearing law and order disruption in parts of Kashmir.
Gulzar—who was arrested by police in 2013 on charges of raping girls on the pretext of "purifying their soul"—was set free by Principal District and Sessions Judge Budgam Syed Tauqeer on Thursday, remarking "the prosecution has failed to prove the guilt against the accused persons including Gulzar beyond any shadow of doubt."
The acquittal has triggered widespread resentment in Kashmir, with separatist leaders terming it "a part of government's plan to promote licentious activities."
Gulzar was taken into preventive custody this afternoon from Shamasabad village in Budgam district.
"We have taken him into preventive custody as there are apprehensions of breach of peace and public tranquility due to his presence in the area," Sub Divisional Magistrate, Khansahab, Muhammad Aijaz told Greater Kashmir.
He said there are "reliable inputs from various sources that his presence in the area would disrupt law and order situation."
Sources said police "devised a strategy to avert showdown with his followers" while re-arresting him.
"The police was keeping a tab on his movement since his release from Central Jail Srinagar," they said.
Gulzar had arrived in his native village of Shamsabad on Saturday.
"The police was waiting for the moment when less people are around him, to nab him. As soon as our source informed us about the ideal situation, we arrived in the village and took him into custody from his residence," police sources said.
Meanwhile, Director General of Police, K Rajendra Kumar has directed prosecution wing of Police to explore possibilities to go for appeal against Gulzar's acquittal.
"I have directed the prosecution wing of PHQ to examine the judgment," Rajendra told Greater Kashmir. "We would like to go for appeal against it."
Deputy Director Prosecution, PHQ GowharHussain Mir said they are going to file acquittal appeal on the directions of DGP.
"We have received the judgment and are processing it for sanction for filing the acquittal appeal," he confirmed.
State's Law Secretary Muhammad Ashraf Mir said they will give sanction for filing the appeal.
"As and when Home Department will forward the case to us, we will give our go-ahead for filing the appeal," Mir said.
On May 19, 2013, some girls who were undergoing studies in an institute run by Gulzar lodged a written complaint with Police Budgam alleging they were sexually exploited by the self-styled faith-healer.
Subsequently, the police registered a case FIR No. 40/13 U/S 376/RPC in Police Station Khansahib.
The investigation into the case was carried out by a team of officers headed by ASP Budgam.
The victims recorded their statements before the Judicial Magistrate U/S 164-A.
After completion of the investigation, the police produced challan in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate Budgam on July 7, 2013.
The four girls who had accused Gulzar 'Peer' of sexually exploiting them have also decided to challenge the acquittal in the High Court.
The four girls Saturday appeared at Press Enclave here and protested.
"The court verdict is against the Supreme Court guidelines. We will appeal against the decision in the High Court and fight for justice," the dejected victims told reporters.
Quoting various Supreme Court judgments, they said: "The release of fake faith healer and rapist is murder of justice. The Supreme Court has clearly ruled that if a girl says that she has been molested or raped by someone, the accused should be strongly punished. We wonder how and why the witness of five girls was turned down."
"He raped at least 40 girls in his so called 'Hujra-e-Khaas', we wonder how he has been released," said one of the victims.
The victims were aghast as to why their medical certificates which, according to them, confirmed the rape also were not given any weight.
"We had produced our medical tests as well but that too were not considered by the court so we have decided to knock the door of High Court."
"We dared to raise the issue only to get justice. In future no victim can raise voice against sexual exploitation if criminals are let off," they said.
They appealed the civil society to help them in getting justice and saving other girls. "We also appeal High Court Bar Association to come forward to provide us legal help. The society has to make a collective effort and take pledge that rapists are awarded stern punishments," they added.