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How to invent a militant

Every time he hears about the arrest of a terror suspect, Tariq Ahmed Dar flinches. “My heartbeat stops for a few seconds… I close my eyes and pray — hope he is not one of me.” A report by Naziya Alvi. Living under the shadow of terror | Nanavati report

india Updated: Sep 29, 2008 13:17 IST
Naziya Alvi

Everywhere he goes 29-year-old Tariq Ahmed Dar carries a newspaper clipping — his passport to freedom.

A Hindustan Times story dated January 24, 2007, paved the way for the Kashmiri model’s freedom after he was called an Indian spy and jailed for 40 days in Bangladesh, then branded a terrorist in India and thrown into Tihar jail for more than three months.

Every time he hears about the arrest of a terror suspect, Dar flinches. “My heartbeat stops for a few seconds… I close my eyes and pray — hope he is not one of me.”

Dar’s life is an eloquent story of how the global attention on terrorism has made it easier for security officials to bring terror charges against innocent people across India.

“I just want to plead to the public and the media; do not brand these young boys as terrorists or militants until the court holds them guilty,” he says.

“There is no tag worse than that of an anti-national. There is a need to set up a special committee to look into the arrests made by police in the name of terrorism.”

Dar comes from a prosperous family in Srinagar that trades in handicrafts. His father Ghulam Nabi Dar is also well known as a poet and writer.

Dar used to travel frequently to Bangladesh on work, and on his friends’ insistence, once took a shot at modelling. He became a huge success. Then 27, Dar won the Mr Bangladesh contest in 2003.

That is where the dream ended.

On September 15, 2006, Bangladeshi authorities arrested Dar, accusing him of being an agent of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), India’s external intelligence agency.

“That’s the price I paid for being a Kashmiri Muslim who visited Bangladesh.”

A nerve in his right foot remained numb for three months, he said, alleging it was the result of torture in prison. After wide public outrage, he was released and deported to India.

But as soon as he landed at Delhi airport, he was picked up by Delhi police, on an input from the Intelligence Bureau that accused him of having links with the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba.

“I was taken to court at least six times. Not even once the magistrate cared to look at me. I would wait for his attention hoping to tell my grievance. But for him I was a file. He would extend the remand and send it back.”

Finally, a court discharged Dar, the result of an effort spurred by the HT report that narrated his saga.

“This (HT) article is my claim to innocence. Every time I travel abroad I attach its photocopy along with my documents. No innocent should suffer like this.”