Having suffered injures almost all over his body allegedly due to severe beating by army men in Sopore on Aug 21, Qari Naseer Ahmad Sheikh of Halmatpora village in Kupwara is in shock; a mere mention of security personnel or clashes raises his heart beats alarmingly.
The family has shifted him to Srinagar for better medical care. His younger brother Shiekh Ashiq accompanies him to cardiac surgeons at Khyber hospital for treatment.
Qari Naseer (29), a Hafiz, Fazil and Molvi and Qari, was Imam at Masjid Shameswari Fatehkadal, here. Presently, he is lying on a bed at his old city room, here, not able to sit and stand up freely.
Narrating the tale of torture, Qari Naseer says: "On 21st Aug I was returning to my home at Halmatpora (Kupwara) after two months to see my ailing daughter. At around 4:30 AM we left in a van from Batamaloo bus stand. There were 7 policemen and three civilians including me in the van. We were stopped by the police and the CRPF at several places en route and allowed to go ahead.
"Finally, our vehicle was stopped by the army near fruit mandi crossing, Sopore bypass. After checking our identity cards, the army personnel allowed the policemen and two civilians travelling in the van to leave. They asked me about my profession. When I replied I was an Imam in a local mosque in Srinagar, they got agitated and asked me to stay there for some verification.
"I implored them to allow me to leave but they shouted at me and said that Molvis in mosques were provoking the people for violence. I pleaded before them that I have never provoked anyone. In anger one soldier shouted they will fully investigate about me and they took me in an orchard some 200 yards from the spot.
"They asked me to hug an apple tree in the orchard. When I did this, two of them caught hold of my arms, forced a piece of cloth into my mouth and started ruthlessly beating me.
"For more than half an hour they took turns to beat me with bamboo sticks, kicks and gun butts.
"They took my phone and started checking the call details and gallery. There was a Tarana (Islamic song) which irritated them further and they blindfolded and bundled me in an armoured vehicle and took me to a nearby camp where they searched my bag and found two dresses of clothes. They asked me to change as my clothes which I was wearing were torn apart.
"They wanted me to admit that I have links with militant organizations and I have received money for provoking the people in Friday sermons, which was not true. I told them that I was simply an Imam, but they threatened me of dire consequences if I didn't obey their diktats. When I remained defiant, they again started kicking me. I was lying on the ground and crying in pain.
"An army man with two guns came closer to me and said that they will kill me in a fake encounter and take my picture with AK 47 rifle. I thought those were the last moments of my life and I was shivering.
"On gun point they asked me to write on a piece of paper that I was questioned by forces and left untouched. They threatened me to sign it. I signed it to save my life.
"Thereafter, I started vomiting. Seeing my health condition deteriorating they again bundled me in an army vehicle and threw me on Sopore Byepass road. I remained on the road for five minutes. Luckily an ambulance of Kupwara hospital was passing through the road, the driver of the ambulance saw me lying on the road. I wept and requested the ambulance driver to carry me to Kupwara hospital.
"The driver took me to sub district hospital Kupwara where I was admitted and next day I was discharged," Qari Naseer said.
A Srinagar-based defense spokesman when contacted rejected the charge. He said: "The army has not beaten up any person in Sopore on Aug 21 as the army is not deployed near fruit mandi crossing on bye-pass road."
SHO Sopore when contacted told Greater Kashmir that Sopore police station has not received any information of beating of an Imam by the army.