Faktoo completes 24 years in jail The extraordinary tale of separation, sacrifice and suffering ‘We’ll rather live without him than want him to compromise’

Srinagar, Feb 05:
Ahmad, 17, has not spent even a day with his father, his elder brother Muhammad, 25, only spent nine months of his entire life with him while their mother, Syeda Asiya Andrabi spent only two years of 26 years of her married life in the company of her husband, Dr. Qasim Faktoo who completes 24 years of incarceration on Sunday.

Ahmad bin Qasim, an 11th standard student studying science, said while his elder brother Muhammad bin Qasim had at least some luck spending nine months of his life in his father’s company when he was briefly released during 1999, he had not even spent a single day around his father.

“One of the biggest regrets of my life is that I did not spend even a moment of my life around my father despite him being alive,” Ahmad told Rising Kashmir.

Ahmad was born in December 1999 after his father was rearrested, months after his brief release.
“A father’s presence is very important for the upbringing of boys but I never saw my father in my life outside the bars of a jail and his absence from my life created several problems in my life,” he says.
Ahmad’s school used to have parent-teacher meetings every month and every month he would seek an excuse about his father’s absence.

However, Ahmad missed his father more for the fact that there was no one at home who could keep track of what he was doing at school.
“Mothers usually are more loving and caring and fathers keep track of what is happening around the lives of his children but despite our father being alive, he could not do those things,” he says.
Though everyone lives with a hope no matter how weak it may be, Ahmad realises that the chances of his father’s release are bleak.

“My father is a man of principle and he will not compromise on those principles,” he says. “He has been acquitted in all cases yet continues to be under arrest for his political and religious ideology.”
In a way, Ahmad has come to terms with a life where his father would continue to live behind the bars.
“I don’t think they will release him as long as he does not compromise on his ideology and I will rather live without him than want him to compromise and we know he will not compromise even for his children,” he says. “The maximum I can do is pray for his release.”
Ahmad’s elder brother, Muhammad too shares his pain, the pain of living without a father in their lives.
Talking to Rising Kashmir, Muhammad, who is doing his Masters in Information Systems in Malaysia, says life has been extremely difficult for him.
“I met Abu a few days back and he told me that I was snatched from his lap when he was arrested and I wept,” he says. “Life has been difficult ever since.”
Muhammad says he could not spend a normal childhood and in absence of his parents, with his father in jail and mother living underground, he started spending most of his time with friends, playing cricket, going to cafes, doing what teenagers do in teenage, not being afraid of anyone, coming home late, and not being reprimanded by anyone at home.
“In absence of my father, I felt I was not answerable to anyone,” he says. “And when my father was released for nine months in 1999, it was for the first time in my entire life that I felt I could ask questions that a son usually asks his father.”
Like Ahmad, Muhammad too believes his father is being incarcerated because of political vendetta against him.
“I have been reading about why my father is suffering but it is worth it because of the cause he is fighting for and the cause is bigger than me, Ahmad, my mother or my father,” he says.
Muhammad’s and Ahmad’s mother, Syed Asiya Andrabi, the chairperson of Duktaran-e-Millat (Daughters of Faith), who has only spent two years of 26 years of her married life with her husband told Rising Kashmir that the absence of Faktoo from their lives had a deep impact in the lives of her children.
“My husband and I were both prepared for worse and when he was arrested, people used to be martyred in detention,” she says. “However, the upbringing of our children suffered a lot.”
Andrabi says Muhammad was just seven-months-old when Faktoo was arrested and the children were brought up in absence of their father while she too had to live underground.
“I first went underground in 1994 and lived an underground life till 2004,” she says. “When Dr. Sahab (Faktoo) was released briefly in 1999, we lived in a rental house and spent a little time together but he was arrested within nine months and after a while we were blessed with Ahmad, who has not seen his father outside jail ever in his life.”
Narrating instances when she had to face problems due to her husband’s absence, she says, “Sometimes I used to accompany them to a barber’s shop and the barber would ask me questions why wasn’t their father accompanying the children instead.”
Abdrabi says she had to change various schools of her sons due to her underground life as Police used to come harass her children at schools, which impacted their education, psychology.
“They used to suffer from fear psychosis and as a result, at times, lived with different names and identities,” she says.
However, in September 2004, Abdrabi decided to abandon the underground life and started living at 90-feet Road at Soura.
“During my underground life, their uncles and aunts took care of them and in 2009 one of their aunts took Muhammad to Malaysia for studies,” she says.
Faktoo, the Chairman of Muslim Deeni Mahaz (MDM) completes 24 years in incarceration on Sunday.
The 46-year-old Faktoo is serving life imprisonment for his alleged involvement in the murder of a human rights activist H N Wanchoo in 1992.
However, the counsel of Faktoo rejects the charges and alleges that he was implicated through fabricated evidences.
Faktoo is the longest serving convict in Central Jail, Srinagar.
During his imprisonment in July 2006, he was awarded Ph.D. in Islamic Studies and is presently working toward his second Ph.D. programme.
He has authored 14 books and delivered lectures to university students and more than 125 students completed their graduation and post graduation in prison under his guidance.
High Court Bar Association has released a book ‘The Victim of Political Vendetta’ which is the compilation of court cases and chargesheets filed by the State and discusses the judgments and cases filed against Faktoo.
MDM says after completing 14 years (mandatory period of life imprisonment) in February 2008, State Review Board recommended his release but the government rejected the board’s recommendations.
They say the High Court asked the government to reconsider the Review Board’s recommendations for his release within 90 days in June 2010.
“Government of India yet again showed its ruthless attitude and challenged the order before the double bench of the J&K High Court and the High Court while setting aside the Single Bench’s order said his case can be considered only after 20 years and made an important observation that irrespective of the provisions, that is, Sections 401 and 402 of the State Code of Criminal Procedure, which corresponds to section 432 and 433 of the central code, the power of the executive is absolute and unfettered to remit sentence (LPA No: 120/2010),” MDM says.
In 2013, Faktoo’s counsel argued that he had completed 20 years in prison which as per the Jail Manual and Prisons Act amounted to life imprisonment.

However, last year on November 16, a single bench of the High Court dismissed his plea for early release.
The single bench had observed that life imprisonment cannot be equivalent to imprisonment for 14 or 20 years and said life sentence meant imprisonment for life.

The State government has also opposed his release with the same argument that “life” means imprisonment till death.
“Dr Muhammad Qasim is suffering incarceration for holding political beliefs that are unacceptable to the ruling establishment,” a senior advocate of the J&K High Court Syed Tasaduq Hussain said.

Human rights activist, Advocate Syed Arshad Andrabi said the government had also trashed the concrete recommendations made by jail authorities for granting remission to him as the ruling regimes is afraid of him.
Jama’at-i-Islami spokesman, Advocate Zahid Ali Lone sees his unflinching commitment for the cause of the oppressed and suppressed people of Jammu Kashmir as a reason for his continued arrest.
faisul@risingkashmir.com