Srinagar: Over six months have passed since political activist Bilal Sultani was put under preventive detention on August 5 last year. Awaiting his release, his wife and son have been counting days in distress and solitude.
Sultani, a nondescript lower-rung political worker formerly affiliated with the Awami Itihad Party (AIP) was one among hundreds arrested in the region as the Union Government took a unilateral decision to abrogate Article 370. The Bharatiya Janata Party-led Government further bifurcated the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories with most politicians including three former Chief Ministers – Omar Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti being incarcerated. The trio continues to remain under detention under the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA) till date.
Back home, Bilal's son, Shah Talal, is short of time as he was due to undergo a medical check-up in Delhi. Bilal’s wife says she cannot go alone.
"We were supposed to consult (a doctor) for my son's medical treatment in Delhi. However, I cannot go by myself, especially when the situation is not normal there," said Bilal's wife, Muzamil.
Just prior to Bilal’s arrest, his 13-year-old son had undergone a surgery for a Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis (SCFE), a common hip disorder among adolescents. "The doctor said he is supposed to be taken to Delhi for further treatment. However, we have been waiting for my husband's release since then," Muzamil said.
According to Muzamil, doctors had advised six months of rest to her son, for him to recover from the condition.
Muzamil owns a private school and she has been managing her home as well as work, but the past six months have been devastating for her, she said, mentioning that she had never been caught up in this kind of a situation previously. "I was alone with my son and my husband was in jail, following which there was a clampdown with no communication. I cannot even explain what i have been through," Muzamil said.
Unlike many others, Bilal was not slapped with the PSA having completed six months under detention.
According to his wife, Bilal was detained at Srinagar's Central Jail but was later shifted to SKICC, the convention centre where most politicians have been kept since their detention in August. The inmates were later shifted to MLA hostel, another government accommodation which has been turned into a sub-jail. While many leaders were released from detention and put under house arrest, Bilal, along with a few others including bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal, continue to be kept there.
Bilal, a candidate in the last parliamentary elections held in Srinagar Constituency in 2019, had joined hands with Faesal after the IAS-topper launched his own political outfit called the Jammu and Kashmir People's Movement (JKPM) under the Political United Front (PUF). Notwithstanding political upheaval, he had submitted his resignation from the party a few weeks ago in an attempt to return to his family.
Bilal’s family said that there was no clarity on his situation even after he made the decision to leave everything behind for the sake of his family. "He was even given bail in October last year by the Executive Magistrate but we still await his release," his wife said.