His children have never seen him at home, grown up in mother’s shadow
Srinagar: Separatist leader Dr Mohammad Qasim Faktoo, who has earned the distinction of being longest serving detainee in J&K, is completing 22 years in prison on Saturday.
Faktoo was arrested over three years after eruption of armed struggle in Kashmir in 1989.
He was jailed under TADA in 1993, a year after he married to Dukhtaran-e-Millat chairperson Asiya Andrabi.
A Delhi court quashed his detention in 2002 but Crime Branch of J&K police challenged the decision in the Supreme Court. The year long trial concluded in 2003 with the apex court awarding life imprisonment to Faktoo on charges of his alleged involvement in murder of noted Kashmiri Pandit human rights activist Hriday Nath Wanchoo in 1992.
Faktoo has denied the charge and accuses the government of persecution for his political views.
“When H N Wanchoo was killed on December 5,1992, I was outside the State. I returned on December 8 and condemned his killing. I had never imagined that I would ever be charged for his killing,” Faktoo told Rising Kashmir in Central jail, Srinagar in 2012.
He said two months after Wachoo’s killing, he was arrested and lodged in infamous Papa-2 interrogation centre. “CBI implicated me in his killing and produced a challan against me in the TADA court. I was severely tortured and forced to sign some papers, which were later presented as my con¬fession statements before the TADA court,” he had said.
“How could have I schemed to liquidate a friend of the freedom movement,” Faktoo had said.
Wanchoo was abducted and his bullet-ridden body was recovered from a locality in the vicinity of the then Jammu and Kashmir Police headquarters in December 1992.
In 24 years of marriage with Faktoo, Asiya lived with him for less than three years and that too underground.
“We have been married for 24 years and haven’t spent more than 3 years together. Only a woman can understand pain of living without her husband and I am used to it now. My only hope is Allah. The government has only given us the hope to wait for his dead body to come out of the Jail,” Asiya Andrabi told Rising Kashmir.
She said her husband is suffering from multiple ailments due to his prolonged detention.
“He had glaucoma seven years ago. His left eye is at an advanced-stage of glaucoma with an alarming decrease of vision. The doctors are saying that because of his confined vision into the cell, he has developed the disease,” Asiya said.
Today (May 31), Fakoo is completing 22 years in jail.
After he completed 14 years in jail in 2008, a government panel had recommended his release but the government approached High Court for his prolonged detention.
The single bench of HC ordered that Faktoo being a TADA convict be released after 20 years which he completed in 2012. But government did not release him and instead it approached division bench of High Court, which observed that “life sentence is meant for life”.
His lawyer Mian Abdul Qayoom said they have filed a writ petition against the verdict.
“We have filed a writ petition against the verdict, which is still being heard in the court. As per state law, Faktoo has completed his life term and we are hopeful that he will be released. As per the law of the land he is free to go and we will prove it in court. Life imprisonment in the State means 20 years and Faktoo has already completed it,” he said.
On completion of his 20 years in jail, Faktoo had sought High Court’s intervention on the basis of Jammu and Kashmir manual rule 21.2. However, the same Judge who had asked government to consider his release on completion of his 14 years in jail declared that life sentence means life term and the prisoner has to spend his whole life in prison.
“I usually went to see him twice a month. I hate frisking in the jail. There is no privacy in the jail,” Asiya said.
Faktoo’s children Mohammed and Ahmad have never seen their father at home and have grown up under the shadow of their mother.
“My sons have never seen their father at home. Last time when the news came about Faktoo sahib’s release one of my son broke down when a journalist asked him about it,” Asiya said.
Faktoo has done PhD in Islamic studies in jail in 2006 and is going to pursue D-lit. The family claims more than 125 students completed their graduation, post-graduation under his guidance.
“He (Faktoo) is going to pursue doctorate in literature. He is also helping many detainees to complete their degrees,” said her wife.
Hurriyat (G) spokesperson, Ayaz Akbar demanded that Faktoo should be released with immediate effect.
“He should be released forthwith. State government has deliberately kept him in the jail because of his freedom ideology. His detention is illegal,” he said.