Dr Qasim Completes 24 Years In Jail

SRINAGAR: Chairperson of Muslim Deeni Mahaz (MDM), Ashiq Hussain Faktoo alias Dr Muhammad Qasim, who is undergoing life imprisonment, on Sunday completes 24 years in jail. It was during this period of his imprisonment that Qasim completed doctorate in jail while he teaches inmates pursuing different courses through distance modes.

Born in 1967, Qasim graduated in Commerce from Islamia College Srinagar. After tying nuptial knot with chief of Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DeM) Aasiya Andrabi, he went on to obtain various academic degrees like MA, MPhil in Islamic Studies and Maulvi Fazil from University of Kashmir.

In 1985, the J&K police had sought applications from youths for recruitment as sub-inspectors. Qasim also appeared in the selection test for the post.

“For the selection, he was demanded Rs 25,000 as bribe. Since he was not in a position to pay the amount, in spite of completing all other formalities, he was not selected. The incident changed his life,” said MDM spokesperson.

With the help of an associate, Tariq Ahmad Sheikh of Hyderpora, Qasim met a militant leader, Muhammad Abdullah Bangru in 1990. During the same year, he was appointed as spokesperson for the Hizbul Mujahideen militant outfit.

He was first detained in 1993 under the Public Safety Act (PSA). After six years of imprisonment, a TADA court acquitted him of all the charges due to lack of evidence but police arrested him again at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi in 2002 when he was returning from London where he had participated in a conference on Kashmir.

In 2003, he was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of involvement in murder of a Pandit activist, Hriday Nath Wanchoo who was killed in 1992, a charge denied by Qasim.

The double bench of Supreme Court in its judgment had directed that Dr Qasim and other accused in the case be given benefit of the period already undergone by them in detention.

Dr Qasim challenged his detention and the court directed the government to review his case.

On June 3, 2008 the government constituted a Review Board comprising then DGP Prisons and Principal District and Sessions Judge Srinagar, Hasnain Massodi, to consider Qasim’s release under the provision of J&K Jail Manual 2000.

But the CID opposed the recommendations quoting rule 54.1 of Jail Manual which debars TADA lifer convicts from release on completion of two thirds (14 years) of 20 years.

However, Dr Qasim challenged his detention in the High Court seeking directions as per the review board’s recommendation.

The High Court quashed the impugned order and directed the government to consider the case on the basis of the Jammu and Kashmir Jail Manual.

Dr Qasim in various interviews claimed that during his detention in various jails, some persons approached him with “offers.” “In 2008, an emissary of Government of India approached me and offered to get me released if I stood against a senior pro-freedom leader. I refused and my detention was prolonged again. The same emissary had met me in 2005 offering Assistant Professor’s post at Islamic University (of Science and Technology, Awantipora) which I refused,” he said in an interview.

He also claimed that in 2002, some officers from Intelligence Bureau (IB) asked him to participate in elections. “I was lodged in Talab Tiloo jail and the IB people even offered me Education Portfolio (in government). At that time some Hurriyat (Conference) leaders were ready to participate in elections. I had to pay a heavy price for my refusal as I was awarded with life imprisonment. In 1993, a senior bureaucrat offered me and my wife safe passage from Amphalla jail to some foreign country but we refused,” he said.

Qasim’s Detention ‘Political Vendetta’: Mirwaiz

Hurriyat Conference (M) chairperson, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, on Saturday said that all those who have been serving life imprisonment and continue to be in jail, including Dr Muhammad Qasim and others are being victimized for more than 14 years and the only reason for their continued detention is “political vendetta” against them for defending the birth right of their nation.

A spokesperson of Hurriyat Conference (M) said continuing the arrest of such people despite the passage of more than 14 years in jails was an example of how democracy was being torn to shreds through the Indian judiciary as these people continue to be held in various jails of Jammu Kashmir and in different jails throughout India.

Glaring Example Of Lawlessness: Jama’at

 Jama’at-e-Islami (JeI) Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday said that Kashmiri youth are facing the worst type of political “revenge” for raising the voice against “human rights violations”.

In a statement issued here, a spokesperson of JeI said, “any person raising his voice for the right to self-determination meets the same treatment. To suppress the just voice of the people, the government machinery is utilized in a brutal way and such activists are taken into custody and involved in various baseless cases to make their release impossible and by tactical mechanisation are sentenced to various punishments by the courts.”

The spokesperson said that hundreds of such examples can be cited in this regard and at present hundreds of Kashmiri youth are languishing in the local as well as outside jails hopelessly waiting to get justice.

“So far a number of such youth have been put to gallows including Mohammed Maqbool Bhat and Afzal Guroo and some like Muzaffar Ahmad Rather are waiting for the same fate.”

JeI said, “thousands of innocent youth have been so far killed in custody without following the due process of law and a good number of them have disappeared in air whose whereabouts are unknown yet.”

“Scores of others have been sentenced to life imprisonment and are losing their precious life time in different jails. Normally a life convict is released after completing ten twelve years in a jail but the convicts affiliated to the Kashmir issue are discriminated on political and ideological basis and thereby subjected to the worst type of political vendetta,” the JeI statement added.

The JeI said that Dr Mohammad Qasim is a glaring example of this “lawlessness” who despite spending twenty four years in prison amid various fatal infirmities is still not released.

“On political basis, life imprisonment has been defined as imprisonment till death which in other words means death penalty,” the JeI added. “These judicial verdicts have no weight at all which is a clear picture of lawlessness prevailing over here, he said.”

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