No to Political Vendetta!
Release Dr. Muhammad Qasim Faktoo immediately!
Dr. Muhammad Qasim: The Victim of Political Vendetta is a compilation of the case documents of Dr. Muhammad Qasim and articles written by various intellectuals and prominent citizens demanding an end to the 20 year long of his incarceration. At the occasion of the book release, CRPP would invite your attention to the long list of Kashmiri Muslims undergoing life imprisonment —around 45—in various jails such as Srinagar, Jammu, Udhampur, Tihar, Mumbai, Gujarat, Nagpur etc. At the outset it is a case of gross injustice reeking of political vendetta on Dr. Muhammad Qasim Faktoo who has spent twenty years of his life in prison. It is important to briefly look into the case of Dr. Muhammad Qasim to make sense of how political convictions, of being a Kashmiri Muslim sharing the political aspirations of the Kashmiri people for their right to self-determination itself is enough to earn the ire of the political establishment.
Dr. Muhammad Qasim was arrested on 5 February 1993 for his political views and to prolong his incarceration was booked under Sec.3 TADA, and Sec 302 read with 120-B CrPC. On 14 July 2001 the TADA Court in Jammu acquitted him citing that the prosecution had miserably failed to prove the case against Dr. Muhammad Qasim and the other accused. As the State of Jammu & Kashmir challenged the acquittal before the Supreme Court of India Dr. Muhammad Qasim was sentenced to life based solely on a confession statement made under section 15 of TADA. Even when the SC sentenced him to life it was mentioned that the “accused shall be given benefit of the period already undergone (undertrial period) by them”. After the completion of 14 years, the J & K High Court directed the Jail authorities to place Dr. Qasim’s case before the Review Board for consideration keeping in spirit with the observations of the SC. The Review Board recommended his premature release on 3 June 2008. Contrary to the recommendations of the Review Board the vindictive J & K government brought in the interpretation that the J & K Jail Manual Rule 54.1 debars TADA lifer convicts from release on completion of two thirds (14 years) of 20 years. (Govt. order No. Home-773(P) of 2009 dated 14.09.2009)
Amidst conflicting opinions in the High Court between a single bench judge which initially quashed the government order while a double bench upheld it taking refuge in the Rule 54.1 of the Jail Manual the long arm of political vendetta stood in between a forthright consideration of the outstanding situation and the release of Dr. Muhammad Qasim. On 31 May 2012, Dr. Muhammad Qasim completed 20 years of incarceration. It has been held unequivocally that despite the correspondence of Sec. 401 and 402 of the State Code of Criminal Procedure to Sections 432 and 433 of the Central Code the power of the executive is absolute and unfettered to remit sentence though it was willingly elusive in Dr. Muhammad Qasim’s case. As Dr. Muhammad Qasim has been sentenced to life under the J& K Manual which had made him ineligible to avail the provision of release after 14 years of imprisonment, then it logically follows that the same manual provides for putting a final end to his incarceration after the completion of 20 years. Without doubt what makes matters worse in Jammu & Kashmir is the overwhelming sense of vendetta vis-a-vis political prisoners.
The Indian State in the subcontinent and its counterpart in Jammu & Kashmir in particular have deliberately evaded the challenging question of evolving jurisprudence consistent with the question of political offences or offences the state deems are against the will of the State. The courts’ disquiet in developing jurisprudence towards dealing with political offences that are not borne out of individual interest of the alleged offender but of collective interest has resulted in adhocism and arbitrariness taking precedence over a possible judicial remedy in the ordinary law consistent with the already established precedence in international law. Perhaps for the first time the Calcutta High Court (CRR 463 of 2012 With CRR 1312 of 2012 With CRR 4000 of 211 on 8 August 2012) while recognising the right of the Maoist prisoners to be treated as Political Prisoners have brought in the question of the need to develop jurisprudence in dealing with political offences albeit the judgement confining its purview only till the rights of the political prisoner in the prison. Notwithstanding the fact that the above said judgment was based on the West Bengal Correctional Services Act 1992 and though there is yet to be a statutory recognition to political prisoners in Jammu & Kashmir, the Indian State has practically, to some extent, acknowledged the difference between political prisoners and other offenders. Since 1995 India allowed International Committee of Red Cross to visit these prisoners and ascertain their conditions within jails (though the distinction however remained confined to recognized jails and not detention centres like interrogation centres and police stations where the brutalities are perpetrated). CRPP is of the opinion that the need of the hour is to expand the ambit of the distinction of political prisoners from the domain of treatment of prisoners to the jurisprudence of conviction and penology.
Only in such a scenario can there be some safeguards, if not all, given the nature of the Indian State, to deal with such prolonged incarceration of prisoners for their political beliefs. Dr. Muhammad Qasim has undergone twenty years of incarceration. There are many more who might face the same fate if the democratic and freedom loving people of the subcontinent raise their voice against such inhuman and beastly face of the so-called democracy of the Indian State and its judiciary and executive. As in the case of Dr. Muhammad Qasim we need to demand the release of many of the 45 odd political prisoners serving life sentence in various prisons in the subcontinent. The list of the names many of these prisoners are provided as annexe though it is not an exhaustive one.
Putting Dr. Muhammad Qasim further behind bars goes against the very grain of all civil and political rights and freedoms assured by the Constitution of India as well as the International Law. The prolonged incarceration of Dr. Muhammad Qasim is testimony to the continuing repression and trampling of all freedoms of the people of Jammu & Kashmir for their political aspirations. As the State use every draconian law within its reach to the maximum (in Dr. Muhammad Qasim’s case the J & K Jail Manual, read with TADA) thousands of Kashmiri Muslims are kept behind bars in various prisons while hundreds languish in undisclosed torture and detention centres. CRPP appeals to every democratic and progressive sections in the subcontinent to raise their voice for the immediate release of Dr. Muhammad Qasim and his co-accused irrespective of his political convictions/beliefs as well as all the lifers most of whom have already finished ten years or more of the sentence.
Brief report about the proceedings of the Book Release Function: The book on Dr. Muhammad Qasmi was released at the Deputy Chairman Hall, Constitution Club, New Delhi jointly by Prof Jagmohan ( nephew of Shaheed Bhagat Singh) and Jeetan Marandi (people’s balladeer who got acquitted by the HC of Jharkhand from death sentence in a framed up case). Prof. Jagmohan in his address after the book release talked about the spirit that Jeetan had given to all of us after a prolonged people’s movement all over the subcontinent for his release. Both the speakers said it is a great victory for the people. Prof. Jagmohan pointed out that Bhagat Singh’s well known slogan of anti imperialism and revolution that he framed in 1917 correctly captured the dialectical relation between the two. Only the correct synthesis of this understanding can save us from these trying times of the growing fangs of fascist assault on the people on all fronts—socio-cultural, politico-economic. Besides he also talked about the need to take cue from the arduous struggle for the release of Jeetan Marandi that gives us strength and hope towards making it possible the release of all political prisoners including Dr. Muhammad Qasim. Thus while referring to the case of more than 40 odd lifers in J&K Prof. Jagmohan stressed the fact that when it comes to a political prisoner the system would always look for the convenient option ensuring that the notion of life imprisonment be for the entire natural life of the political prisoner and hence it becomes important that we demand for the release of all Kashmiri Muslim lifers lodged in different jails and have served around ten years in prison lest they be targets of political vendetta. It is important such books documenting the case and struggle for the release of political prisoners like Dr. Muhammad Qasim be taken to the wider sections of the people. This book release is a welcome step in that direction.
Jeetan Marandi while talking about his torturous experience on death row reminisced how his life from childhood facing abject poverty and forced to discontinue his school after 3rd division had to fight every moment to make his life worth living as a human being. The discerning mind of young Jeetan soon got attracted to the cultural group which used to visit villages and sing songs and act plays that depicted the everyday life of the villagers and the problems they faced. Soon Jeetan’s worldview transforms as he finds purpose in being part of the group and thus also being part of people’s initiatives to do away with their miseries. Sooner than later had he started singing for the people and their rights than he naturally became the target of state repression. In that context he identifies himself with the incarceration of Dr. Muhammad Qasim. The emotional and moving narrative of Jeetan proved beyond doubt how the struggle to keep one alive in the dungeons is as well the larger struggle to do away with all forms of oppression. He spoke about the need to dream even in adverse times and talk to oneself about the need to not give up hope even for a moment. To fight every minute, moment to keep the star beneath ones breast alive. The prisoner defines himself as well as the world around him in these moments of struggle to stay alive and that is what makes him and his convictions a cherishable dream. A dream worth dreaming in the isolated cell. In a dark cell (anda cell) where there is only some semblance of light at 12 noon every mosquito that sucks your blood, every lizard that creeps across, the spider and its cobweb, everything becomes your friend, as you struggle to make sense out such senseless creatures, meaning out of the life in isolation as you keep watching the lizard eat the insect for hours together. It is the desire to live even in that lifeless world that makes the political prisoner and his struggle inside the confines of the prisons a fight to keep one’s finest sensibilities alive and it the same that the mindless and violent state want him to lose forever. Jeetan feels that in this struggle always the news from outside of people protesting for his release, rallies and public meetings demanding his unconditional release all gave him hope and a strong faith in the strength of the people. And it is this united strength of the people and their struggle that can ensure that the terrible injustice of the kind of incarceration that Dr. Muhammad Qasim and his co-accused is going through can be done away with. The release of all such political prisoners in the subcontinent becomes the need of the hour as part of struggle to humanise ourselves.
Zahid a Kashmiri scholar talked about the need for a united struggle of the people of the subcontinent though their causes are different to defeat the designs of the Indian State to suppress all forms of political dissent. The political prisoners committee can be the right platform to realise that unity.
Prof. SAR Geelani, President CRPP, while presiding over the programme stressed the need for the struggle to unite for the release of all political prisoners in the subcontinent. There are thousands of Kashmiri political prisoners lodged in different jails in the Indian subcontinent though in the present programme we are raising only the case of life convicts in the context of Kashmir (more than 40 of them with many having completed more than 10 years)with specific reference to the continuing incarceration of Dr. Muhammad Qasim. The platform of CRPP is a definite step in the direction towards all forces fighting for the unconditional release of all political prisoners. While pointing out that the rights of the political prisoners has well been recognised in the international law he stressed that it is our duty to struggle to make the Indian State accept the category of political prisoners and their rights.
SAR Geelani Amit Bhattacharyya Prof. Jagmohan Singh
President Secretary General Vice President
Jeetan Marandi Rona Wilson
Secretary Secretary, Public Relations
List of Kashmiri Muslims Serving Life Sentence
1. AB Rashid, Udhampor was awarded Death but now changed into Life, Jammu District Amphala Jail
2. Aashiq Hussain Faktoo alias Dr Muhammad Qasim Faktoo Srinager Jail.
3. Ghulam Qadir Butt R/O Dooru Mir Maidan, Islamabad in Khutwa Jail now in Srinagar Jail.
4. Muhammad Ayoub Mir, Sadrabal Kot Bulwal Jail Jammu
5. Muhammad Ayoub Dar, Rawal Pora, Srinagar presently in Srinagar Jail, Life sentence by TADA court Jammu in 2009
6. Iqbal Jan, Bandipora Srinagar Jail
7. Mustaq Kaloo, Sopore co-accused with Iqbal Jan, Tihar jail, New Delhi
8. Mohammad Amin Wani, Banihal
9. Mehmood Toopiwal, Kangan
10. Abdul Waheed Thachi, Banihal
11. Jafar Umar Khanto
12. Javeed Khan, Nowpora, Srinagar Tihar Jai s/o M Shafi Khan Nowpora Srinagar 517-96 Lajpath Nagar Blast
13. M Shafi Khan @Prof Shafi Sharyati Hariwanun Khansahab in Sgr Jail.
14. Noor Muhammad Tantry, Tral, earlier in Tihar, now in Srinagar
15. Feroz Ahmad, Budgam Beerwa
16. Sh Raeis Delhi Tihar
17. Ishaq Pala s/o GH Rasool Tariq Shiekh, Manihal Shopian
18. Shabir Ahmad s/o M Abdullah Butt, Handwara Maratham
19. Mustaq Malik s/o Gh Muhammad Shah, Gund Handwara
20. Gh Muhammad Butt s/o Noor Muhammad Butt Koker Bagh Khag
21. Ab Hamid Teeli s/o GH Hasan Kokerhama, Kulgam
22. Nazir A Shiekh s/o Ab Rashid Batamaloo
23. Showkat A Khan Chotabazar present Nishat
24. Zakir Hussain alias Umar Faoorq, son of Ali Mohd of Malhar,
25. Fayaz Ahmad Shah of Babnad Shopian and Muhammad Syed Bhat of Dirhama Bijbehara.
26. Samiulla Sheikh R/O Patan Baramulla
27. Ghulam Nabi Soura, Srinagar, Kashmir Central Jail, Srinagar
28. Amin Dar Banihal, Jammu, Jammu Jail
29. Barkat Hussain S/O Neik Muhammad Pulwama, Kashmir Jammu Jail
30. Farooq Ahmad, Central Jail, Nagpur
31. Farooq Chopan, Central Jail, Mumbai
32. G. MuhammadWani, Jammu Jail
33. G. Qadir Butt Kupwara, Kashmir, Sub Jail, Kathua
34. Lala Hussain, Jammu Jail
35. Muhammad Akram Butt
36. Muhammad Aslam S/O Kamal Din, Jammu Jail
37. Muhammad Latif S/O Wali Muhammad, Jammu Jail
38. Muhammad Shafi S/O Abdal Karim, Jammu Jail
39. Muhammad Hussain R/ O Hadmat, Jammu Jail
40. Muhammad Shafi S/O Mohammad Abdullah, Jammu Jail
41. Muhammad Yousuf S/O Fetha Muhammad, Jammu Jail
COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS
185/3, FOURTH FLOOR, ZAKIR NAGAR, NEW DELHI-110025