‘He’s a Student, Not Suicide Bomber,’ says Family of Banihal Car Explosion Suspect
Owais Hamid Rather, who is allegedly associated with the Hizbul Mujahideen, was a fun-loving youth and not interested in militancy, his brother said.
Owais Hamid Rather's father said he was never involved in any sort of activity that would make them believe that their son could do anything wrong.
Vehil, Shopian: Last week on Monday, Owais Hamid Rather, was dancing and singing at his cousin’s engagement.
Three days ago, he had returned home at Vehil village in south Kashmir’s Shopain after appearing for his semester exams.
The 19-year-old is a business management student at a Srinagar college, 60km away from his home. Since the last two years, he was living in a rented accommodation in the Baghat area of the city.
This week, on Monday, Rather was arrested and the Jammu and Kashmir police claimed he was a Hizbul Mujahideen suicide bomber who made an abortive attempt to target a CRPF convoy near Banihal in Ramban district on Saturday.
Police said Rather was attempting to carry out a Pulwama-like attack that claimed the lives of at least 40 CRPF troops when a local Jaish suicide bomber blew an explosives-filled car near CRPF convoy on February 14.
However, Rather’s family says he is a student and has nothing to do with militancy.
On Saturday, a private car plying on the Srinagar-Jammu highway, coming from the Kashmir side, caught fire and exploded near a CRPF convoy causing slight damage to a bus in the rear side belonging to the paramilitary force.
The incident took place at 10.30am near Tethar village in Banihal, about 120km south of Srinagar and 165km from Jammu. There was no report of any injury in the incident.
Police identified Rather as the attacker and said he managed to flee out of the burning car and was, as per the Director General of J&K Police, arrested 36 hours after the incident by a joint team of police and the Army near Jawahar Tunnel when he was trying to flee.
While producing Rather before reporters on Tuesday, the DGP, Dilbagh Singh, said Rather’s arrest was a "major success”, adding that IEDs were found inside the car he was driving.
Singh said the trigger mechanism for detonating the bomb was not working properly leading to a minor explosion in the car, while the second blast could not happen.
However, Rather’s family is shocked and can’t believe their son is involved in the alleged attack.
His father said Rather was never involved in stone pelting or any sort of activity that would make them believe that their son could do anything wrong.
“My son cannot become a militant. He was enjoying his life,” said Abdul Hamid Rather, who works in the agricultural department.
“There is no FIR against him or any sort of adverse report. He was never ever investigated by police.”
When Rather left for Srinagar on March 26, he told his parents that he had to play a cricket match.
Shopian is a militant hotbed and Rather’s village, Vehil, often remains tense.
“Because of the situation here, we had sent our son to Srinagar for studies. We would not call him home just because we wanted him to stay out of this and focus on his studies, which is what he was doing,” said Hamid.
Villagers are unable to comprehend that the boy who was more interested in his clothing and hairstyle and would visit his village once in a month is now being accused of trying to carry out a suicide attack.
Rather’s father said that as usual, he had a video chat with his son on the evening of March 26 and the next morning, his phone was switched off.
On Sunday, his father came to Srinagar but couldn’t find Rather. A day before that blast had taken place in Banihal, but police had revealed details of his namesake, who is from the Arwani area of Bijbehera, 35km from Rather’s village.
“Next day, we were summoned by police and they told us that he has been arrested in the attack,” Hamid said.
Rather’s elder brother, Aaqib, who is studying chartered accountancy, described him as a fun-loving youth who was interested in music, trekking and camping.
“He was going to complete his degree next year and we were planning that he pursues MBA,” Aaqib told News18, adding that they both wanted to open some business.
Rather was not interested in militancy or whatever was happening around, Aaqib said. “He was talking about trekking expeditions. He wanted to go camping to far-off places. Even, recently he got a camping tent,” said Aaqib, unable to understand what has happened with his brother.
Rather’s mother is still not aware of his son’s arrest. She is suffering from heart ailments and the family fears she might not be able to take the shock.
Hamid said this could be a case of mistaken identity or “his son was being framed”.
“I haven’t done anything in my life, except spending my earnings on my kids. I wanted to give them a good education,” said Hamid.
“I request police to investigate the case properly. He is innocent,” he said.
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