Dr Qasim Faktoo, Kashmir’s longest serving detainee, battles eyesight loss

SRINAGAR: Kashmir’s longest serving detainee Dr Mohammad Qasim Faktoo battles partial blindness as his defiant family says they wouldn’t appeal government for his release.
Faktoo, who has served 20 years of imprisonment and is now running in the 21st year of incarceration, was shifted from Central Jail Srinagar to the SMHS Hospital under police custody for treatment. Of the multiple ailments he is being cured for, his family says the most threatening is the damage to his eyesight.
“He had glaucoma seven years ago, and it has resurfaced now. His left eye is at an advanced-stage of glaucoma with an alarming decrease of vision. The doctors are trying to prevent further damage to the eye, but he can’t see clearly with it,” Faktoo’s wife Asiya Andrabi, who heads Kashmir’s only all-women outfit Dukhtaran-e-Millat, told Kashmir Reader on Tuesday.
“Glaucoma has started to affect his right eye as well,” she added.
Faktoo, who completed doctorate on the ‘Status of Sunnah in Islamic Thought and Shariah’ in jail, has been serving lifer following his arrest in February 1993. He was sentenced for his alleged involvement in the murder of human rights activist HN Wanchoo, and was briefly freed in 2002.
After he completed 10 years, and then 20, in jail, his family had moved High Court against his detention. However, the court rejected the plea, saying the life imprisonment means “imprisonment for lifetime.”
As he undergoes treatment for multiple disks in back, cardiac ailments, and colon problems with prolonged detention believed to be reason behind his declining health, his family is reluctant to appeal the government for his release.
“We never appealed the government (for his release) because we don’t regret being part of this freedom struggle. And we have no intention whatsoever to appeal the government in future as well,” Asiya said.
She, however, said they would challenge the detention before double bench of the High Court.
“Dr Qasim has served his jail term. Let us see what happens in the court,” Asiya said.
Meanwhile, doctors at the SMHS Hospital are hopeful of Faktoo’s recovery. Dr Manzoor Qadir Keng, who heads the Government Medical College’s Department of Ophthalmology told Kashmir Reader that Faktoo is responding to treatment.
“Such patients need specialized medical examination which is not possible in the jail. So, he was shifted to SMHS Hospital where we have been able to control the problem in his eyes. He is responding to treatment,” he said.
Dr Keng said the final assessment about the damage to his vision could be made in the coming days.
“He already has myopia, and right now we cannot say how much eyesight is damaged. We shall be able to speak about his eyesight after medical examinations that are to follow,” he added.