SRINAGAR: The 1st additional sessions judge Srinagar on Wednesday directed the J&K government to shift resistance leader Syed Asiya Andrabi and her personal secretary Fehmeeda Sofi to Central Jail Srinagar.
The 55-year-old Andrabi, who is chairperson of the all-women pro-freedom group Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DeM), was lodged in Amphalla jail in Jammu, from where she was brought to Srinagar on Tuesday night.
Andrabi and Fehmeeda Sofi were booked under the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA) in May this year and lodged at Amphalla jail. The High Court quashed the PSA order against them on August 31.
“Andrabi was sent to judicial custody in Central Jail,” said advocate Muhammad Abdullah Pandit, who along with advocate Shafqat Hussain represented Andrabi before the additional sessions judge. He said that she and Sofi were being sent to Central Jail in an old case that is still in trial.
“Andrabi and Sofi were driven from Amphalla jail to Srinagar at around 8 pm on Tuesday,” said Nahida Nasreen, DeM general secretary. “The police van reached the women’s police station (in Srinagar) at 5 am Wednesday. From there they were brought to court at 10:40 am.”
Andrabi, who is an asthma patient, told Kashmir Reader in the court premises that she suffered acute asthma attacks in the Jammu jail. “It is a hot place that is dangerous for a patient like me,” Andrabi said at the court where she was brought by a team of about 12 cops.
“I faced emergencies several times but the jail authorities did not take me to hospital,” she said.
While Andrabi and Sofi were seated in the main hall of the new court complex, more than two dozen DeM activists made a beeline outside to meet their chief. All of them were veiled and had brought water bottles and other items with them.
Sofi, who was born in 1986, told this newspaper that Amphalla jail has a capacity of “only 15 female prisoners”. “But the police have lodged 35 women in the jail,” she said.
Sofi, a graduate from Maulana Azad Urdu National Urdu University (MANUU), said that most of the female prisoners were ‘criminals’. “It was a tough situation, but you won’t believe, when Asiya Baaji and I left to go to Srinagar on Tuesday evening, the female prisoners wept,” she said.
Sofi said that Andrabi would teach Qur’an and other Islamic literature to the prisoners.
A resident of Sikh Bagh Lal Bazaar, Sofi comes from a business family. Her father died in 2011 after a brief illness. “I studied in a darasgah run by DeM in our area. In 2003, I joined the organisation for its Islamic ideals,” she told Kashmir Reader. “My father also wanted that I live the life of a true Muslimah.”
In 2006, during the infamous sex scandal, Sofi was the youngest DeM activist among eight to be booked under PSA. “All of them were married except me,” she said.
The DeM had launched a massive campaign against those involved in the scandal.
The DeM general secretary said that besides being the personal secretary to the DeM chief, Sofi was like the “daughter of Andrabi”. “Her mother has voluntarily given Sofi to Andrabi,” Nasreen said.
Sofi said that she has been living with Andrabi at her Soura residence. The DeM chief has two sons and both are students. Her husband, Dr Qasim Faktoo, is serving a life term in Central Jail Srinagar.
Nasreen said that the government did not bring Andrabi and Sofi to court since August 31, when their PSA was quashed. “That day, both of them fell seriously ill and they were admitted to two hospitals in Srinagar, from where they were shifted to Jammu,” she said.
On being asked whether any politician met her during her detention in Jammu, Andrabi said, “No one came… Once Yasin Malik of JKLF tried to meet me in Srinagar hospital, but he was not allowed.”
Andrabi, a staunch pro-Pakistan leader, said that the current situation in Kashmir was “grim” and “nothing can be done this time.”
On offers of dialogue from the government, Andrabi said, “The starting point of dialogue is the right to self determination.”