Picture Of Irfan Hurra.
Srinagar: A resident of Alialpora village in Shopian district of South Kashmir, Waseem Sheikh left his studies to shoulder responsibilities of his family when his father Bashir Ahmad left work due to illness some years back. Today, Bashir Ahmad sits with his family, devastated, cursing his fate and longing for his son.
19-year-old Waseem worked as a daily-wager with a local cable network in Shopian town to support his family. On August 8, he was arrested and detained under Public Safety Act (PSA) alongwith hundreds of other Kashmiris following the government’s decision to abrogate Article 370 granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
Waseem was among four persons picked up in the Alialpora village. But, what has hurt the family even more was his transfer to a jail outside Jammu and Kashmir. Since his arrest, neither his parents nor his three sisters have visited Waseem.
Also read: Children in Kashmir Left Scarred by ‘Arbitrary Detentions’
“We have never travelled outside the valley and we are too poor to visit Waseem even now,” Bashir says. He says the family lived on his son’s earnings and they could save only a little for his younger daughter’s marriage. Most of it was spent on food and medicines.
Waseem did not just buy medicines for Bashir but for also for his mother and himself too.
“My son was himself diagnosed with a heart condition in 2015 and since then he has to undergo occasional tests as well,” Bashir says.
The family has no clue why Waseem was picked up but, they suspect it probably happened because he had been picked up by the army earlier in March 2019. “He was working on a street-pole, repairing a cable in the town when soldiers picked him up. They beat him up before releasing him but took his id card,” he added.
Since his detention in August, his brother-in-law, a cab driver, has managed to visit Waseem detained at a jail in Uttar Pradesh only twice.
Hundreds were detained in the wake of abrogation of Article 370 on August 5 including lawyers, businessmen, trade leaders, activists and politicians. Among the detained are three former chief ministers of erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir – Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah and his father Farooq Abdullah. An octogenarian, Farooq continues to serve detention under PSA at his Gupkar home in Srinagar.
Earlier in December, Union Minister GK Reddy informed Parliament that as many as 234 prisoners belonging to Jammu and Kashmir have been detained in Uttar Pradesh while over two dozen are detained in Haryana prisons. On January 10, the civil administration revoked the PSA of 26 individuals, a few of who were detained in UP and Rajasthan jails.
For Mohammad Maqbool Hurra, a resident of Gulbugh village of Ratnipora area in Pulwama district, visiting his son Irfan at a UP jail was a back-breaking journey. “I left without knowing where I was going. We had to book a flight to Delhi and then undertake another day’s travel to the jail premises. My son leads prayers and teaches Quran, he is not a criminal,” Maqbool told NewsClick.
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In its report in the post-August situation in Kashmir, Amnesty International India termed these detentions arbitrary, which are prohibited under all circumstances. The rights body said people in Kashmir were not formally detained and that there is a clear pattern of authorities using administrative detentions on politicians, activists and anyone likely to hold a dissenting opinion before and after August 5, including women and children.
According to official data from the Srinagar central jail, none of the detainees of the 235 persons shifted from the central jails outside Jammu and Kashmir since August have been transferred back. As many as 85 detainees were shifted to Agra jail alone including the head of Kashmir High Court Bar Association, Mian Abdul Qayoom.
For the families of those detained since August like Waseem and Irfan, the wait is crushing and so is the distance.