22 September, 2020

Convicted By People’s Court

Kashmiris refuse to forgive a ‘peer’ accused of rape. Even the high court upholding his acquittal failed to get him out of jail.

Gulzar Ahmad Bhat
The Self-styled darwash, Bhat became popular with his sermons on sufism Fall from Grace Four girls in his seminary accused him of rape; he was tried and acquitted, but remains in jail
Photograph by Javed Ahmad
Convicted By People’s Court

Gulzar Ahmad Bhat alias Gulzar Peer, a self-styled darwash (sufi holy man), is in jail even after the court acquitted him as the government fears the locals will protest violently if he is rel­eased. The court pronounced him ‘not guilty’ of  raping girls in his seminary at Shamsabad hamlet of Budgam district, around 30 km from Srinagar. Bhat had thousands of followers in the Valley—until his fall from grace with his arrest on May 19, 2013 under Section 376 of Jammu and Kashmir’s Ranbir Penal Code.

After his acquittal and protests against his release, the state government has been invoking the preventive detention law, Public Safety Act (PSA), to keep him behind bars. Now he shares the fate—as well as living space—with the large numbers of young men and former militants held in Srinagar’s Central Jail, most of them under PSA.

A local cult figure, Bhat was arrested from his seminary named Noorni Fatima Zuhra after four minor girls alleged Bhat had raped them. In their statement under Section 164 of the Criminal...



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