Srinagar, May 13 (KMS): In occupied Kashmir, senior All Parties Hurriyat Conference leader and Chairman of Democratic Freedom Party, Shabbir Ahmad Shah is subjected to torture, rigorous interrogation and is kept with criminals, rapists, murderers and thieves in Delhi’s Tihar jail, it has been learnt.
Shabbir Shah’s daughter Sehar Shah who is a student, when during a media interview in Srinagar asked about the plight of her father in the Indian jail where he is not even provided proper food, said, “Despite all of that, I know he is locked up for a cause; for which, he has sacrificed his whole life – freedom of Kashmir.”
Instead of becoming weak due to harassment, she went on to add, we became stronger; we prepared ourselves for the worst. “Because my father has given his life for a cause, I must be strong too.”
“Despite innumerable and continuous miseries brought to my father, he remains steadfast, strong and brave, and unshakable in his commitment towards the [freedom] cause; his resolve remains as strong as it was about fifty years back when he started his long and just struggle towards a much-cherished goal of resolving the Kashmir issue,” she said.
Sehar Shah, who is just 18-year old, seems so determined when she says that she knows he is locked up for a cause; for which, he has sacrificed his whole life – freedom of Kashmir.
She narrates the ordeal of Shabbir Shah and the family in the following words:
“For the most of my life, I have been seeing my father through a window of glass; so small that I could barely see his face; so blurred that I couldn’t picture him but only his shadow-like-thing.
In the jail, I could neither touch him nor see him clearly; instead, I put my hand on the glass-window and so did my father. It felt like we were holding hands. From what I could figure out, he has turned so weak – like a skeleton.
Visiting my father, Shabbir Shah, in Tihar Jail, New Delhi, has always been emotionally overwhelming for me; for long, we have been sitting on either side of the big wall – connected through a telephone. Once the jail authorities switch-off the telephone line, I couldn’t hear his voice anymore through the sound-proof glass.
Last time I met him in the jail, he said, “Shera, you’ve grown taller than your mother. You’ve become a big girl. Aap meri bahadur beti hai na? (Aren’t you a brave daughter?)”
But the journey from metro stations to my father in the jail was long. Female forces’ personnel would check me thoroughly at the gate of the jail; they used to grab my face so harshly – that it hurt – to check if I was hiding something in the mouth. And the rude abuses were harsh too.
Lights out. Suddenly, the authorities would shout – niklo niklo, mil liye bahot! (Get out, the meeting is done).
“Your father will never be released” – I have had heard that innumerable times. I have been suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and clinical depression. I have consulted doctors across India; I have been taking heavy doses of anti-psychotic drugs and anti-depressants too.
I recall an incident in 2019 when I had written a poem for him. I kept the paper, with my thoughts inked on it, in my pocket when I accompanied my mother to the jail.
In 2019, during my twelfth standard examinations, I could hear my father’s voice as I wrote the paper. I was so traumatised that, unlike earlier, I couldn’t stay up till Fajr.
At the checking point, a female cop frisked me; she removed my hijab, pulled my hair saying, Tum aatankwadi ho. (You are a terrorist). She found my poem. And she handed it over to one of her colleagues, a Tamilian officer who couldn’t read English.
In aatankwadiyo or inke gharwalo ko sabse buri saza deni chaiye, (These terrorists and their families should be punished badly)” she said.
It is a gift for my father, I had said. Nonetheless, she called another cop and asked him to tear the poem in front of me. And spit on it. They laughed and spoke in the Tamilian language that I didn’t understand.
My mother, being aware of my medical condition took me away.
Back home in Srinagar, I would see my father everywhere. I was hallucinating; I thought my father is here with me.
I broke all the mirrors and glasses in the cupboards.
The high doses of medicines would make me sleep. And in the dreams, I would see my father again.
There was a dream I saw recurrently: my mother wakes me up and say, “Sehar, baba ko release kiya.” (Sehar, the father has been released). I would get up fast and cry loudly. I would ask my mother half asleep, “Baba, kahan hai? Niche hai? (Where is the father? Is he downstairs?)
My mother – Dr. Bilquees Shah, a doctor by profession – had to take childcare leave for me as my condition worsened in the first quarter of 2019.
Meanwhile, she would also follow up on my father’s court case.
People languishing in jails have encountered untold hardships and have made immense sacrifices. It not only affects them but their families too.
I have had seen months of Ramadan when my father would be under house-arrest, if not the jail. He would always check that our plates are full; and fuller of the policemen keeping a watch on him.
It felt so good when Baba would say, ‘Shera bhook lagi?’ (Shera, are you hungry?) And I would deny saying, ‘Nahi, nahi. Nahi lagi.’ (No, I’m not). A shared laughter would follow. But this Ramadan, he is not at home. It is just me and my mother; and it feels so empty.”
Sehar Shah is a student and will be joining college this year.