Srinagar: Mian Abdul Qayoom, the 76-year-old president of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association, who has been jailed since the Centre’s Article 370 move on August 5, has been suffering from serious illnesses that require medical treatment that he is not being given, say his family.
Qayoom was arrested from his Srinagar residence on the intervening night of August 4 and August 5 and later shifted to Central Jail in Agra. On February 7, he will complete six months of detention.
“We apprehend that you (Qayoom) will motivate people to agitate against abrogation of Article 370,” the police wrote as grounds of his arrest, according to a civil society report released in October.
“He’s a diabetic patient and surviving on a single kidney. He has lost more than 10 kg in prison. His Creatinine level has also gone up to 1.8 in prison, which is dangerous,” said his nephew Mian Muzaffar, who has been making the regular journey to Agra to meet his uncle.
“We fear he is slipping from our hands. If he continues to be in prison without treatment then his health will deteriorate further,” said Muzaffar. “He should be released on health grounds now. Why treat him as a criminal and keep him away from his family for all these months?”
Muzaffar said for the past 25 years now, the senior advocate has been surviving on a single kidney, adding that he also had a bullet injury in 1995 for which he was operated on nine times in the past.
“One of his leg nerves are damaged due to a bullet injury because of which he limps when he walks,” said Muzaffar. “All of his health issues have worsened in prison.”
“All his four daughters are married. His wife is unwell and is also diabetic,” he said.
Qayoom’s family are scared at the fate of another Kashmiri prisoner, 62-year-old Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, who died inside a jail in Pragyaraj in Uttar Pradesh. Bhat’s son Haneef Bhat was earlier told that his father’s PSA conviction will not be pursued further. However, when Haneef reached the jail in Uttar Pradesh, to his shock, he was informed there that his father had died in prison. He returned with his father’s dead body.
According to Muzaffar, as grounds of detention for Qayoom, police have cited previous FIRs against him dating back a decade. He says there is no fresh FIR or case against him which require his arrest and continued detention.
“There is a Supreme Court order that says you can’t detain a person unless he has a fresh FIR. The authorities can’t detain a person until there is any fresh activity from the person. Qayoom sahib was detained for his past records and his continued detention is a clear violation of Supreme Court ruling,” said Muzaffar.
“Imprisoning a senior and respected lawyer who has over four decades of legal practice in the high court and Supreme Court as a senior counsel and in such conditions is a violation of all democratic and legal norms,” he said.
Muzaffar said his uncle was first arrested for three months for his ‘previous record’, which was mentioned in the detention order, and then, his detention was extended for three more months.
“When the government says normalcy has returned now, how come such respected members of the society like my uncle are still under detention far from their homes?” he asked.
Elected as Bar Association president 20 times, Qayoom had repeated the feat in 2018 as well.
“He would often fight cases of poor people and detainees without charging them any fee,” said Muzaffar, adding that about 70% of his legal practice was free of cost.
Qayoom is lodged in a cell with Mohammad Yasin Khan, the head of the Kashmir Economic Alliance who was also detained on August 5. The cell also housed Kashmiri Malaysian business leader Mubeen Ahmed Shah who was released after three and a half months in detention so he could undergo surgery and medical tests in New Delhi.
The government recently also revoked the detention of former Kashmir bar president Nazir Ahmad Ronga and district bar president Abdul Salam Rather among 26 people who had been detained under the provisions of Jammu and Kashmir PSA, 1978, after August 5.
Majid Maqbool is a journalist and editor based in Srinagar, Kashmir.