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Jailed Hurriyat Leader Altaf Shah Diagnosed With Cancer, Family Urges Early Medical Bail

Anees Zargar |
Shah’s daughter said the family has appealed to MHA and PMO, as Delhi’s RML Hospital, where he is admitted, has no oncology department for further treatment.
Kashmiri separatist leader Altaf Ahmad Shah with his daughter, journalist Ruwa Shah

Kashmiri separatist leader Altaf Ahmad Shah with his daughter, journalist Ruwa Shah. Image Courtesy: Facebook/ ruwa.shah

Srinagar: The family of jailed Hurriyat leader Altaf Shah is pleading with the authorities to release him on health grounds as the ailing leader is in dire need of proper medical care that, his family says, he has not received so far.

Shah’s daughter Ruwa Shah, who has been waiting outside New Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital with her brother, waiting to see her 66-year-old father, has not been allowed to do so by the authorities so far. The doctor informed the family on Friday that Shah has been diagnosed with renal cancer.

“We spoke to a senior doctor today who informed us that it has spread to the whole body, including his abdomen, lungs and bones,” Ruwa told NewsClick.

Shah, who is also son-in-law of late Hurriyat ‘icon’ Syed Ali Shah Geelani, was arrested in 2017 by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with an alleged terror funding case and for “aiding militancy” in Kashmir. He has not been keeping well and has received treatment several times. His condition, however, deteriorated in the past two weeks and he is currently in the intensive care unit (ICU) in Delhi’s RML. His family has been demanding that he be shifted to a hospital where he can get “proper medical care”.

“There is no further treatment as there is no oncology department there (in RML). We can’t further treat him so right now he is just on vital support,” Ruwa added.

The family also blamed the authorities, including those at Tihar Jail, where Shah was lodged, for informing them “very late” about the inmate’s health. This, and the authorities not allowing them to meet their father and keeping him from medical care, has devastated the family, said Ruwa, who is a journalist based in Delhi. She said her mother had not yet been told about Shah’s condition fearing that she might not be able to withstand the news as she suffers from a heart ailment.

“We have been trying to knock every door possible. I have written letters to the Home Minister. When we saw our father two days ago, he was not even able to breathe properly,” she added.

Ruwa said she has made several fervent appeals to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Prime Minister’s Office via social media hoping for some relief.

“My incarcerated father has been diagnosed with acute renal cancer which has metastasised and has spread to other body parts, including bones. It is my whole family’s request to please allow us to see him and consider his bail application on health grounds,” Ruwa wrote on Twitter. She also shared a copy of the letter she has sent to the Home Minister, appealing to his office to consider his health as an emergency.

“Continued incarceration of Altaf Shah is inhumane as he is critically ill. Request @HMOIndia to release him on humanitarian grounds so that he can be with his family in such distressing times,” Mehbooba Mufti of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) tweeted.

Shah worked closely with Geelani and was part of prominent separatist outfit Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (TeH), formed in 2004. Geelani, who was 91 years old, also succumbed to multiple ailments last year while he remained incarcerated at his Srinagar home for more than a decade. Another Hurriyat leader, Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, who succeeded Geelani as Hurriyat chairman, also died in jail following which his family accused the authorities of denying him proper medical care.

Many rights bodies and regional political parties have called for release of incarcerated politicians from the region, including senior Hurriyat leaders like Shabir Shah, who has spent more than 30 years of his life in jail and has developed various health complications.

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