For the best experience, open
on your mobile browser or Download our App.

Kashmiri Journalist Fahad Shah Returns Home

Shah was arrested by the State Investigation Agency of J&K Police on terrorism charges for publishing an article in his news outlet The Kashmir Walla in 2011.
Fahad Shah, editor of The Kashmir Walla, at his home in Srinagar. Photo: Umer Asif.

New Delhi: Kashmiri journalist Fahad Shah, who was granted bail in a terrorism case by the J&K high court last week, returned home on Thursday (November 23) after spending nearly two years in jail.

According to family sources, his brother, Peerzada Akib Shah, had gone on Wednesday to Jammu, where Fahad Shah was languishing in Kot Balwal jail after his arrest by the State Investigation Agency (SIA) earlier this year in connection with an article in his digital news outlet, The Kashmir Walla.

Akib, who works as a contractor, furnished the bail bond and a surety of Rs 50,000 each and completed other legal formalities, after which the jail authorities released his brother.

“It feels good to be back home,” Shah told The Wire in his first interview after walking out of jail.

“It feels different to be with your family and friends. I have been through a lot in these long years which has changed me at multiple levels. My health has also deteriorated.”

Shah, who started The Kashmir Walla as a blog in 2009, lives in the Aanchar locality in Srinagar’s Soura area.

His home was swarmed by relatives – some of whom were seen carrying sweets – and friends soon after the news of his return broke on Thursday morning.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), the Committee to Protect Journalists said that it welcomes the release of Shah while urging the authorities to lift the ban on The Kashmir Walla‘s website, which was put in effect by the Union government under provisions of the Information Technology Act.

Shah, who has extensively written on Kashmir for national and international media outlets, was arrested by the SIA, the elite counterterrorism agency of the J&K police, on charges of terror funding and waging war against the country, among others.

The SIA had filed the case at the CIJ Police Station in Jammu in 2020 in connection with an article titled ‘The shackles of slavery will break’, which appeared in The Kashmir Walla in 2011 and which the agency sought to describe as an “act of terrorism”.

The author of the controversial article, Aala Fazili, a scholar at the University of Kashmir’s Pharmaceutical Department, was also booked and arrested by the SIA.

After a special court framed charges in the case, Shah’s outlet was banned earlier this year.

However, the high court struck down the charges of waging war against the country and terror funding under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 (UAPA) against Shah while linking the publication of the controversial article to the freedom of speech and expression.

Hearing his bail application, a division bench of the high court observed that invoking charges of terrorism against Shah for an 11-year-old article “collide[s] head long with the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution.”

Dismissing the prosecution’s argument that the publication of the article was a terrorist attack on India, the division bench observed:

“If this argument is accepted, it would literally turn criminal law on its head. It would mean that any criticism of the central government can be described as a terrorist act because the honour of India is its incorporeal property.”

Shah has also been booked by the J&K police in three cases related to the reporting of two encounters in Srinagar and south Kashmir’s Pulwama, as well as of allegations that the Army was forcing the management of a private school in Shopian to organise Republic Day celebrations.

He has been granted bail by the courts in all three cases.

The high court also quashed the proceedings against Shah under the Public Safety Act (PSA) while castigating the authorities for depriving him of his “constitutional and legal rights”.

The court also termed the grounds of his PSA detention as “mere surmise” and “vague and bald assertions”.

Amnesty International has termed the PSA, which was set up to curb the menace of timber smuggling in Jammu and Kashmir before the onset of insurgency in the early 1990s, as a “lawless law” which is used as a “revolving door” policy for suspects against whom security agencies have little to no evidence in order to keep them “out of circulation”.

Make a contribution to Independent Journalism
facebook twitter