In the afternoon of 22 November, at the office of the deputy superintendent of Jail 1 in Tihar Central Jail, Chinmay Kanojia, an advocate, was waiting to meet Syed Shahid Yusuf, the son of Hizbul Mujahideen’s chief Syed Salahuddin, for the first time. At the time, Kanojia and the advocate Jawahar Raja were representing Yusuf. Kanojia waited for about half an hour, during which time the clients of all the other lawyers in the room had arrived. Every 20–30 minutes or so, Kanojia said, he would enquire about his client, but the jail official would just shuffle some pages in his register, note down Yusuf’s name again, and ask Kanojia to wait.
In late October last year, the National Investigative Agency arrested Yusuf for his alleged involvement in a case in 2011—according to a chargesheet filed by the NIA at the special court in Delhi, he had received funds “to fuel and fund the secessionist and terrorist activities in J&K.” Before his arrest, Yusuf had been employed with the Jammu and Kashmir government’s department of agriculture. Since 1 November, he had been lodged in a high-security ward at Tihar jail.
Yusuf finally appeared more than two hours later, Kanojia recalled. He immediately handed over a blood-soaked vest to the lawyer. “Sir, yeh lijiye, yeh evidence hai,” Kanojia said Yusuf told him—take this, it’s evidence. When Kanojia asked him what had happened, Yusuf said, “Sir, bahut maara hai. Aap yeh please mere parivar walon ko de do, aur Kashmir mein batayen ki aisa ho raha hai mere saath”—They have beaten me a lot. Please give this to my family and tell people in Kashmir that this is happening to me.
On the night preceding Kanojia’s visit, 18 inmates of the high-security wards, a majority of whom were Kashmiri Muslims, were severely beaten up by the security personnel in charge of these wards—the Tamil Nadu Special Police (TSP) and the Quick Reaction Team (QRT). The day after he spoke to Yusuf, Kanojia filed a petition before the Delhi High Court, which was heard by the bench presided by the acting chief justice Gita Mittal. The bench constituted a three-member committee—comprising Lorren Bamniyal, an appellate registrar in the high court, Reetesh Singh, a joint registrar, and Harsh Prabhakar, a legal-aid advocate—to visit the jail and investigate the incident.
Four days later, the committee submitted its report to the court. It did not hesitate to identify and describe the excesses committed by the jail’s security staff during the incident. The committee stated, “The incident is a gross violation of the fundamental human and other legal rights of prisoners who have been subjected to severe physical torture without any justifiable reason.”