Srinagar: Two minor daughters of jailed Kashmiri separatist leader Shahid-ul-Islam have sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention towards his release on the plea that “none of the allegations levelled against him having been proved”.
Aftab Hilali Shah aka Shahid-ul-Islam, a close aide of Kashmir’s chief Muslim cleric and separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, is among a dozen prominent separatists arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in 2017 on various charges including alleged funding for terror and subversive activities in the Valley. He is presently lodged in Delhi’s Tihar jail.
The NIA had in January this year filed a charge-sheet in a special court in New Delhi’s Patiala House Court Complex against Shahid-ul-Islam and eleven others including amir of chief of Jama'at-ud-Da'wah, Hafiz Saeed, and Hizb-ul-Mujahedin ‘supreme commander’ Muhammad Yusuf Shah alias Syed Salahuddin saying they hatched “conspiring to wage war" against the government by carrying out “secessionist activities” in Jammu and Kashmir.
But Shahid-ul-Islam’s daughters Suzanne Shah and Sundas Shah have in a letter to the Prime Minister said that the NIA has failed to prove the charges against their father. They have sought PM Modi’s “immediate personal intervention” to ensure justice is delivered to the family.
The letter copies of which were released to media in Srinagar on Wednesday claims that Shahid-ul-Islami is languishing in a 8x6 feet cell of high-risk ward of Tihar Jail for past many months and has been kept “with criminals and drug addicts”, which “exposes him to obvious threat to his life”.
Recounting a recent meeting with their father in prison Suzanne and Sundas who study at Srinagar’s Christian missionary Presentation Convent School have said they could barely recognise him. “A diabetic with hypertension, arthritis, the frail and pale looking dad has already lost 15 kilograms of weight, because of denial of medicare. We were told. It was but natural that our eyes welled up with tears as we could not bear with seeing his sunken eyes,” the letter says.
It adds, “We could only feel his helplessness as he could not plant a kiss on our foreheads, his usual expression of love for us. We too felt very bad in absence of a physical contact with our loving and caring dad.”
The sister-duo has said that it was after eleven long months of “a life like that of orphans” that they could see their father although he was reluctant to meet them. “Thanks to God, the Almighty and then to our mother, a source of strength to us in these testing times, who motivated our Daddy to allow us to meet him in the jail. Despite our strong desire, Daddy was reluctant to meet us there. We could realise the reasons of his reluctance only when we had his first glimpse. We were shocked to see him in a very bad shape and worn out as he stood on the other side of a thick glass wall in between,” the letter says.
It also says, “Leave alone touching him, the glass wall was too thick to let our words reach him. One intercom in the poorly-ventilated room was the only means to converse”.
The letter pleads that being school-going kids, the sisters do not know much about the India, Pakistan and Kashmir politics but their visit to Tihar Jail “reminded us of union of Kulbhushan Jadhav with his aged mother and wife in a prison in Pakistan”.
It further says that during their 30 minutes interaction through intercom “we came to know that during this scorching heat of around 45 degrees Celsius, he sleeps on the hard floor with mere two blankets provided by the jail authorities. Exposed to insect bites, as marks were visible on his face, he doesn’t even have a pillow to get proper sleep”.
It goes on saying, “But then, even meeting Daddy couldn’t end without horror. When we’re still to finish our conversation with him, the phone line snapped and the lights went off”.
“Not even a whisper from Daddy, it was all dark around as we stood dumbstruck, someone shouted time is over. Thus we were denied even a chance to say good bye to our Dad! We pray that no daughters have to visit Tihar again. Amen!”
The letter claims that Shahid-ul-Islam has a pro-dialogue stance aimed at peaceful settlement of Kashmir, “for which he was attacked twice by unknown gunmen”.
“We never expected that peace-loving and moderate voices like him, will be treated so shabbily in the world’s largest democracy,” it says and adds, “We the helpless daughters of jailed and ailing man humbly appeal the governments of India and Pakistan to stop ill-treating the political detainees and their families as even criminals and their families have right to be treated humanely”.
The letter concludes by saying that in the country where Prime Minister's “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” slogan has rekindled hope among the hopeless disadvantaged girl child, “we are unable to attend to our studies...For us our home is like a prison, while Daddy has been jailed for months, with none of the allegations levelled against him having been proved...We look forward to an immediate personal intervention by your good self”.