On this day, last year, prominent advocate Mir Shafqat Hussian died after battling for life at a hospital in Delhi. A year later, his colleague in his fight for justice, remembers the man and his mission.
By Mir Urfi
IN a Covid-crippled day last year, I had a young visitor at my home. He was incarcerated for many years, and as soon as he saw me, he broke down.
“When I heard about Mir Shafqat Hussian’s demise, I felt as if my father has passed away,” he cried.
He said whenever he would be jailed, his parents wouldn’t take much pains to seek his release.
“It was Shafqat who would fight for my freedom,” the youth told me. “On hearing about his death, I felt a hollowness like the one in an orphan’s heart.”
I discovered this deep and devotional public connection with the people’s advocate soon after joining him in 2003.
Before working with him, I was not much aware about Kashmir’s human rights situation. I largely believed that things had returned to normal.
But Mir Shafqat Hussian opened my eyes to the blatant use of power and the plight of peoples’ rights in the valley.
Back then, a major issue was the frequently-slapped Public Safety Act (PSA).
In case of PSA detentions, the advocate would often tell me, justice in the first place is not the release of the detained but to bring them to jails close to their homes, “so that their parents could be less troubled by not having to travel outside Kashmir to meet their children”.
Shafqat started practice in 1992 and during that time there was gross and rampant abuse of PSA. Many lawyers at that time would file petitions against the lawless law and in his decades of work, he fought such cases in thousands.
By 2008, he was the lone lawyer to fight PSA detentions in Kashmir.
As courts and offices remained shut during 2016 protests, the parents of the PSA detainees approached Shafqat. The lawyer used his own money to buy digital equipment so that he and his team could file writ petitions to seek release of these youth.
It was a great time of hardship for our firm as we were not earning anything. And yet he sponsored the legal help for the captives of Kashmir. He tirelessly worked from home, forgetting about his own personal life and falling health.
I am witness to the fact that Shafqat played a pivotal role in helping the Amnesty International to highlight the rights abuse in Kashmir.
He would tell them, “don’t trust me”, and instead ask the rights activists to visit the family of victims and witness their pain first hand. He was in constant pursuit of telling world the true picture of Kashmir.
The legendary lawyer passionately fought for justice.
When the families of those detained would come and meet him, they would feel relieved after he would counsel and console them.
In fact, many of his clients over the years have repeatedly told me that they would feel that they have won half the battle after meeting Shafqat.
People would fall in love with him. I always felt it was something spiritual.
Mothers of the incarcerated youth especially would come and kiss his forehead. He would tell them that he was their son and would behave like one.
“Be patient with them,” he would always tell us. “Remember their children are jailed and we must let go if they at times are not at their best behavior. Don’t think just as a lawyer but also as a human being; try to understand their pain.”
I hold his advice in my heart.
Shafqat undoubtedly believed that there was conflict yet he stayed away from politics. As a lawyer he always believed that his role was to fight for the justice within the legal framework.
But that didn’t make his job easier.
I remember once a man came to our office to confess how he was tasked to execute the lawyer.
“But I returned from your door twice,” the man informed the unfazed Shafqat. “First time, I walked away, from your office door after hearing you counselling a youth.”
Another time, the advocate’s likely-assassin had broken down outside his chamber, hearing Shafqat counselling a detained youth’s old mother.
It was indeed the lawyer’s goodwill that even changed the heart and mind of his enemies.
Justice for him was about easing pain of people. It’s impossible to find another Shafqat.
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