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Poll fight to prove 'innocence'

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MUZAFFAR RAINA   |   Srinagar   |   Published 01.11.08, 12:00 AM

Srinagar, Nov. 1: Iqbal Jan can’t go out and campaign. Prison rules don’t allow that.

But the young man, who some months back had sought the President’s permission to die, is determined to fight it out — not for the sake of winning but for proving his “innocence”.

Come November 17, the 29-year-old undertrial, locked up for the past two years in Delhi’s Tihar jail on hawala charges, will be in the fray from Bandipora, 65km from Srinagar, as a candidate of the Panther’s Party.

“He was framed by Delhi police and will now contest Assembly elections from Bandipora as a Panther’s Party candidate. We sent the papers to him in Tihar jail where he filled the documents. They were sent to Panther’s Party president Bhim Singh and the nomination paper was filed after his clearance,” Salma, one of Iqbal’s four sisters, said.

“My brother is fighting the poll to prove his innocence.”

Sources in the office of the state’s chief electoral officer said Iqbal’s nomination paper had been accepted. “He is only an accused. This could not be a reason for his disqualification,” an official said today.

Victory in the November 17 poll, the first phase in Kashmir’s seven-phase election, will not automatically ensure Iqbal’s release. But his family says he will at least be in a position to be heard if he becomes a member of the Assembly.

The resident of Sonerwani, a village in Bandipora, was arrested in November 2006 after Delhi police claimed they found on him Rs 5 lakh which was to have been “passed on to militants”.

His relatives say nobody has bothered to listen to their brother’s side of the story. A frustrated Iqbal then wrote to President Pratibha Patil for permission to die if she couldn’t ensure his release.

In the letter, Iqbal blamed Delhi police for falsely implicating him for “rewards and promotions”.

“I was abducted on November 16 but Delhi police claimed to have arrested me on November 27 (2006). I had gone to Delhi to clear the dues of some dealers from whom I had purchased gas cylinders and pipes,” the letter said.

Panther’s Party chief Bhim Singh said: “I want to prove that Kashmiris are nationalists who are against the government and not the Union.”

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