Dr Mohammad Qasim Faktoo is among Kashmir’s longest serving prisoners. Born in downtown Srinagar in 1967, he has spent around 28 years in jail. It was jail, where he did his post-graduation and then doctorate in Islamic studies. Dr. Faktoo was arrested in February 1993 and slapped with Public Safety Act (PSA) first, and subsequently awarded a lifer by the Supreme Court in January 2003. The case of Dr. Muhammad Qasim epitomises how political convictions, of being a Kashmiri Muslim sharing the political aspirations of the Kashmiri people is enough to earn the ire of the political establishment. Faktoo wrote his own autobiographical account titled the compilation ‘Twenty years of imprisonment: Dr Muhammad Qasim Faktoo – A case of political vendetta’. He offers a chilling account of his life and unravelled the diverse machinations and tactics employed by the Indian regime to break and co-opt him.
Law, Lawyer and Listing in Qasim’s case before courts
The legal framework applied in the case of Dr Qasim and other alleged co-accused demonstrate the colonial policing, excessive legalism of indefinite incarceration, bureaucratic paper work, elevation and gallantries in prolonged military occupation of Kashmir.
Dr Qasim’s trial which commenced in the year 1993 under Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) and other substantive offences involved the bureaucratic classification of laws, based on the profiling of Individual on the basis of “who they are and what they are likely to do”.
After the TADA court Jammu acquitted Qasim and other two alleged accused in 2001,the occupying authority (Government of IOJK) challenged the acquittal order before supreme court of India solely On “confessional statements “ recorded under Section 15 of TADA. Supreme court set aside the Acquittal order of TADA court and sentence him to undergo imprisonment for life. However the accused were given benefit of the period already undergone by them.
In 2012 the alleged accused persons who had undergone more than 20 years in Jail and a right accrues to them to be considered for Remission under the provisions of Jail Manual prepared on the basis of J&K Prisoners Act. Under the relevant provisions contained in Jail Manual and J&K Prisoners Act applicable in the state, the sentence of imprisonment for life means a sentence for a period of 20 years. Earlier the omer Abdullah led Government rejected to Review board’s recommendation for the release of Dr Qasim.
The recommendation order was challenged by the lawyer of Qasim before the Jammu and Kashmir High which dismissed the petition and ruled “Life imprisonment cannot be equivalent to imprisonment for 14 years or 20 years, rather it always meant as the whole natural life,”
Neither the occupying authority nor Judiciary appreciated the established mechanism under J&K Jail Manual rather this case was exceptionally decided to show that the counterinsurgency laws constitute their own legal jurisdiction premised on political imperatives of punishment.
Thus this case is significant not because of the new interpretation of Law but the lawyers and the listing of case has also a role.
Reversing the order of Law, Lawyers and Listing of Dr Qasim’s case. The administrative authority and state agencies played important role to get in bench hunting so that the case would be listed to particular bench.
The lawyer representing State Additional advocate general was elevated as High court after the case was decided.
The law which was interpreted by Judge bypassing all four statutory interpretations and coming with colonial interpretation promoted him as the Chief Justice.
Asiya Andrabi about her Husband Qasim Faktoo
In one interview of 2014, Asiya Andrabi mentions, “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”. She said her husband is suffering from multiple ailments due to his prolonged detention. “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.
In 2014, she also mentioned the impediments to meet her husband and added that “I usually went to see him twice a month. I hate frisking in the jail. There is no privacy in the jail.” How Indian state punished him to make an example out of him. 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. His son Ahmed mentions that “My brother says he thought I was the lucky son, with my father being home at the time. I was – for three months. Then they arrested him again. I don’t remember that day. I have no memories. I have no family photographs. All I carry today from that time is a void.
Ahmad ibn Qasim’s Video Appeal:
Ahmad bin Qasim, son of Qasim Faktoo and Asiya Andrabi, prominent resistance leaders from disputed Kashmir, came up with a video appeal. He talked about his family and especially his father Qasim Faktoo who is being held in an Indian jail for alleged murder and anti-state activities. For 21 years now, he has not seen him under the open sky.
Narrating his worries, Ahmad mentions that Qasim Faktoo is currently in Udhampur Jail, where the resistance leader and chairman of Hurriyat, Ashraf Sehrai was lodged. Ahmad is worried that his father might meet the same fate the way Ashraf Sehrai was pushed to the brink of death and only taken to hospital when the state realized that Sehrai will not survive anymore. He also talks about his conversation with his father and the psychological impact of continual solitary confinement on the health of his father. How state did not allow Qasim Faktoo see the day light from months, and let alone humans, he has not be able to see birds and animals. Any assistance from the family of Qasim Faktoo whether that is food, clothes and medicine is being withhold in the name of legal formalities.
In one of this articles, Ahmed writes, “sometimes I wanted to tear the prison down and carry my father home. I felt I was entitled to have him beside me. He was my father, but the occupation laid hands on him, so strong that I feel hesitant in calling him mine. He showed me his back once. There were scars from severe torture. When I touched them, I felt like I was reading a horror story that I was a character in. But I was his son; I used to smile and smile like a child committed to not crying. I wanted to be brave like him. He was my hero. He was my Superman and those scars knitted together formed a cape.” Ahmed writes, In jail, my father did not cry foul. He never calls himself a victim; he is a fighter. He completed his PhD in prison. He helped drug addicts and criminals inside the prison. He has authored over 20 books behind bars – on religion, civilisation and most of all, on the criminality and lawlessness that the Indian occupation stands on.
Qasim mentions in his video message, “I never saw my father so weak as I see him now and this is why I feel they have pushed him to the limits of his patience and he wishes to meet his lord instead of bearing this pain anymore.” While talking about his father Qasim equally mentions the ordeal of each and every Kashmiri household who have suffered due to the Indian occupation of Kashmir. Ahmad mentions, even now in the month of Ramadan everyone is shifted to one barrack except his father. When request was put forth in front of jail authorities, they denied any relief and even denied him food to starve him. Whenever food is provided, it is rotten. Qasim also mentions, the Indian state is using starvation and withholding medical treatment to rapidly kill his father. A son talking about the possible scenario of his death, attests and conveys that, “if tomorrow he dies, it will not be a natural death but a systematic murder.” He mentions, “his father told him, now, the next life is better for him.”