Rafik Choudhri’s story is a troubling reminder of how people can be wrongly accused and punished. The case is a classic example of anti-Muslim bias in the justice system, which is compounded if the person hails from Kashmir
SRINAGAR – Rafik Chaudhari, a young man from Jammu & Kashmir, was accused of rape and murder in Mumbai and spent seven years in jail before he was proven innocent by a Mumbai sessions court on 31 July this year.
The charges against him were related to the killing of a 74-year-old woman in a middle-class residential society where he worked as a watchman. He worked as a watchman and also drove a cab to earn extra money. One day, in February 2016, a resident in the society where he worked was found murdered. Rafik’s life was turned upside down due to the imprisonment and the subsequent trial and tribulations. “My mother fell extremely sick during my time in jail. I want to take care of her first,” Rafik said when ThePrint visited him 12 days after his acquittal.
Despite his acquittal and being able to return home, the emotional and psychological scars he carried from the prison will take time to heal. While the acquittal was a huge relief for his family members, Rafik remained in a state of inertia initially and struggled to decide where to start and how to face the world outside. His dream of buying a tourist vehicle and working in the hills also seems distant, making it difficult for him to plan for his future.
While he returned to Mumbai and resumed his job as a watchman at the same residential society where the murder occurred, his plans of saving money and buying a tourist vehicle to operate in the hills near his home seem distant now.
The case is a classic example of anti-Muslim bias in the justice system, which is compounded if the person hails from Kashmir. The police accused Rafik of the crime and claimed that he had also sexually assaulted the victim. They produced alleged physical evidence, and he was forced to sign a confession, which he later said was done under duress.
The case went to trial in 2016, and Rajik fought the charges for seven years. During that time, he suffered from depression and isolation. The police’s evidence fell apart. Eventually, the charges against him were dropped, and he was released in July 2023.
Rafik’s story is a troubling reminder of how people can be wrongly accused and punished, especially if they are seen as outsiders or minorities. The case also showed the endemic issue of communal hatred against Muslims, which made it difficult for them to access justice.