Separatists call shutdown after govt shifts two leaders from Srinagar jail
Kashmiri separatists called a shutdown on Wednesday in protest against the shifting of prominent prisoners Qasim Faktoo and Shafi Shareati from Srinagar central jail to the Jammu region on Saturday night.
Militant-turned-separatist Faktoo, the husband of Dukhtaran-e-Millat women’s group founder Asiya Andrabi, has been in jail on murder charges for more than 25 years. He is among a handful of separatists to have spent so many years in prison.
He did his PhD in Islamic studies from prison, has published several books and helped students prepare for and complete their graduation and master’s degrees.
Shareati, a former professor of Persian in Kashmir University, has been incarcerated for 15 years on several charges of alleged involvement in militancy.
Director general of police SP Vaid confirmed on Sunday that these two were moved out of Srinagar in accordance with the state government’s order.
A statement by three separatist leaders said Faktoo has been shifted to Udhampur jail, while Shareati was taken to the Hira Nagar sub-jail in Kathua.
They are among about 40 prisoners, including militants and their sympathisers, who were taken away from jails in Kashmir after Lashkar-e-Taiba militant Naveed Jhatt escaped from Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital when he was taken there for a checkup on February 6. Two policemen were killed in the escape.
Separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik said in a statement that political prisoners were made scapegoats after the failure of the authorities to prevent a prisoner from escaping. “Both prisoners are suffering from ailments and shifting them is akin to playing with their lives,” statement said.
Faktoo’s organisation, the Muslim Deeni Mahaz, called the government’s move a “well-sorted conspiracy to kill the ailing leader”.