Kashmir's longest serving political prisoner, Mohammad Qasim Faktoo, undergoing life imprisonment in Srinagar central jail, is fast losing his health for want of proper medical care, his family has accused.
Asiya Andrabi, wife of Faktoo and chief of women separatist group Dukhtaran-e-Millat, said the health of her husband was deteriorating as jail authorities were not taking things seriously. "He is losing his eyesight very fast and doctors have advised us for his laser surgery to stop further damage to his sight. But how can that happen when the jail authorities are not ready to accept its seriousness," Andrabi told HT over phone.
Srinagar central jail superintendent Mohammad Ayoub Bhat, however, refuted the allegation. "Mr Faktoo is hale and hearty. Just two days back I met him and we had a cup of tea together. He never told me that he has some problems with his eyesight," Bhat said.
The former Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen commander and currently head of Muslim League close to Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Faktoo, (46) has been incarcerated for the past 20 years out of the 23 years of militancy.
He was arrested among others for allegedly murdering a human rights activist, Hirday Nath Wanchoo, on December 5, 1992, which he denied saying he was being targeted for his political beliefs.
Andrabi further said Faktoo needed constant physiotherapy sessions to manage his pain caused due to multiple disk slips (in his back bone).
"For 15 days continuously we took him to bone and joint hospital for physiotherapy sessions," Bhat responded.
However, Andrabi retorted by saying the physiotherapy sessions were a long-term mode of treatment. "It takes months to recover from acute pain caused due to slipping of disks in one's backbone. They took him for some days and then stopped," she alleged. The jail SP, on the other hand, said they were constantly monitoring his health status inside the jail. "He is being taken to hospital regularly whenever our internal doctors ask us for the same," Bhat said.
With militancy slowly waning and the prisoner inclined to separatist politics, the state government has been opposed to his release even after two decades. A court recently upheld the government's stand against the prisoner that a life term means putting a person into jail till death.
However at the same time, a court of double bench in a detailed judgement maintained that the prisoner of such calibre 'does not deserve' to be in jail. It acknowledged his contribution to improve the lives of his inmates in jail.
In prison, he completed his Ph.D degree in Islamic studies and is presently working for his second PhD program. More than 125 students completed their bachelors' preparatory program, graduation, post graduation under his guidance.