Sopore: Eid-ul-Fitr, a day of celebration for Muslims across the world, became an occasion of deep sadness for families whose loved ones are jailed under the draconian Public Safety Act in Jammu and Kashmir.
Unlike previous years, the J&K Government released no political prisoners on this Eid, dashing any hopes for the families to be reunited with their incarcerated members on the religious holiday.
Some of these families spoke to Kashmir Reader, where they expressed their anguish and pain. Many of these families have their sole bread winners taken away from them.
Ishrat is 28. Her husband Tanveer Ahmad War is in Kot Balwal jail. She said she spent the Eid day at her father’s house in Soura, Srinagar. “There was no Eid for me. It was just another day of waiting for my husband’s release from jail,” she said. “I will celebrate Eid on the day my husband comes out of jail.”
“I was at least expecting a phone call from my husband, but I am sure they (authorities) must not have allowed him to call. Now I am planning to visit Kot Bilwal jail in Jammu to meet with him,” she said.
Tanveer Ahmad War, 31, is physically challenged. He has been in jail for the second time under Public Safety Act for his alleged involvement in stone throwing. War was granted bail in all the 14 cases filed against him by Baramulla Police, but despite the bail orders – one of them granted by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court – he was kept in jail. After the High Court order, instead of being released, he was slapped with another PSA and sent to Kot Bilwal jail.
The story of 45-year-old Lateef Ahmad Kaloo, a pro-freedom activist and member of Muslim League, is well known to people in the town. He was arrested by Sopore police on27th of August in 2016 on charges of taking part in anti-India protests. His PSA detention was quashed once in December last year, a second PSA was slapped on him in March 2017 and he was sent to Kot Bilwal jail.
His wife Gulshan Begum, a resident of Syed Sultan Arampora in Sopore says that Kaloo was kept in Kot Balwal jail in Jammu from nine months before being moved to Srinagar Central Jail a few days back because of his sick health. “He is suffering from a severe prostate ailment,” she said.
“For the last ten months, I haven’t been to my parents’ home because I am busy in the judicial process to get a bail for my husband. My three small kids cried most of the time when they were missed their father. But a few days before Eid, when my husband was shifted to Srinagar jail, they finally were able to see their father.”
Gulshan says she tried her best to “keep my kids happy on Eid day”. She says she got them things they liked most but they weren’t feeling joyful. “They didn’t eat anything. Their father used to take them out on Eid but this Eid was not at all like Eid for us.”
She says her husband told her that Kot Bilwal jail in Jammu “is the worst of all” jails. “When I saw my husband in Srinagar jail, I didn’t believe my eyes. He had grown so weak,” she sadly recounts, although happy that her husband has got some relief because he was shifted to Srinagar.
“His next hearing is on 4th of July. I hope the court grants him bail and the Sopore police release him instead of slapping another PSA on him,” Gulshana hopes.
Hanifa Begum’s husband, Haji Sheikh Mohammad Yousuf (76) from Iqbal Nagar in Sopore continues to languish in different jails of Jammu & Kashmir for the last ten months. This is his third PSA detention, slapped one after the other as courts granted him bail in November 2016 and again in March 2017. Hanifa Begum told Kashmir Reader that this was not the first Eid when her husband was in jail. “It has happened before as well. He is a pro-freedom activist and a member of Jamat-I-Islamia since his youth, so we have spent many Eid days without him. But this time it was torturing because in the past, my two sons were alive. Now both have been martyred,” she said.
Yousuf’s two sons have been killed over the past fifteen years. Mohammad Altaf Sheikh was killed by unknown gunmen at New Colony Sopore in the year 2015, and Abdul Roaf, a PhD scholar, was killed in Srinagar in 2001. Yousuf’s wife, his daughter-in-law and her three kids are what is left of the family that once brought this house abuzz on days like Eid.
“Keeping such an old man in jail, and that too an old man who has women and small kids at home, is not a punishment for him but for us,” Hanifa Begum lamented.
Arrested during the 2016 uprising on August 8, Haji Mohd Yousuf Sheikh has been kept in Baramulla sub-jail.
Hafiza Begum too has a story of despair and pain about her husband, Ghulam Mohammad Khan Sopori (70), who is imprisoned in Kot Balwal Jail in Jammu for the past two a half months under the Public Safety Act. She told Kashmir Reader, “We celebrated many Eid days without him in past but today we missed him a lot as he is very old and sick. We were hopeful this time that the authorities might release him but they preferred to keep him jail, even on the day of Eid.”
At least they should have allowed him to call to us. What kind of democracy is this, where, on festivals like Eid, people are not allowed to wish their families.”
Chairman People’s League, Khan Sopori of Badambagh, Sopore is associated with Syed Ali Geelani-led Hurriyat Conference. He was arrested from Sopore on February 15 and continues to languish in jail under Public Safety Act, a second in succession.