Introduction Irfan Mehraj is a journalist based in Srinagar, Kashmir. He is the founding editor…
The Kashmiri Female Political Prisoners Who You Must Know
Many Kashmiri Muslim women languish in various Indian prisons for advocating Kashmir’s right to self-determination. Here are 5 such political prisoners:
Syeda Asiya Andrabi:
Founder and chairperson of one of South Asia’s biggest women’s organizations Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DeM), Asiya Andrabi, 60, is one of the most prominent woman pro- freedom leaders of Kashmir. Andrabi is a science graduate in biochemistry, biotherapy, and bacteriology. Andrabi is the first woman resistance leader from Kashmir who has been booked under anti-dissent Public Safety Act 20 times since 1993. In 1998, she was arrested for opening Rehabilitation Centers for widows and orphans of rebels and political dissidents killed by the Indian State. Andrabi opened educational institutions for girls throughout Kashmir. During the civilian pro-freedom uprising of 2010, she was held for two consecutive years as she was instrumental in mobilizing women for the pro-freedom cause. She has spent 13 years of her life in jail intermittently. In the year 2018, she was detained along with her two aides and shifted to Tihar Jail, New Delhi, where she remains to this date. The charge against Andrabi is simple: she fiercely advocates Kashmir’s liberation from Indian rule and challenges their attacks on the Muslim identity and religious freedoms. In October 1990, Andrabi married Ashiq Hussain alias Dr. Muhammad Qasim, a resistance scholar who happens to be Kashmir’s longest-serving political prisoner. The couple has only spent 4-years-together in the 30 years of their marriage. The 60-year-old Andrabi suffers from life-threatening diseases such as angioedema, urticaria, arthritis, asthma, and bronchospasm. She has two sons who are not allowed to talk to her.
25-year-old Insha Jan was arrested by the Indian National Investigation Agency, along with her old father, Tariq Shah, for their alleged involvement in assisting Kashmiri pro-freedom armed combatants. They were accused of providing them with food and logistics. The detention of the duo has hit the family hard, especially Insha Jan’s mother, Naseem. Insha Jan’s father used to drive trucks to support his family. Besides the mental trauma that has been inflicted on the family, the detention of Tariq Shah has also made the family’s basic survival difficult. The National Investigation Agency of India also raided Insha Jan’s house and confiscated her belongings and even the flooring sheets and curtains of her room.
Born in 1986 in Lal Bazar area of Srinagar, Sofi Fehmeeda joined women’s organization Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DeM) in 2002. She was first booked under the draconian anti-dissent Public Safety Act when she was studying in Class 10th. Since then she has been put behind bars every now and then due to which she could not continue her formal education and was forced to leave the studies while pursuing graduation. Presently, she is Press Secretary of Dukhtaran-e-Millat. Sofi has been slapped with PSA 9 (nine) times, for being involved in the resistance movement against the occupation. On April 20th, 2018, Sofi was arrested by the National Investigation Agency of India and charged with sedition. Since then, Sofi has been imprisoned in Tihar Jail, New Delhi. She was first arrested in the year 2005 when DeM started a campaign against state-led sexual exploitation of Kashmiri women in various parts of the Srinagar city. Sofi vehemently participated in the campaign and protested against the infamous sex scandal involving Indian politicians and bureaucrats, which led to the arrest of eight DeM members in 2005, her being the youngest of them. Sofi Fehmeeda’s old mother awaits her return from prison. Because Sofi is jailed thousands of miles away from her home, this has only increased the sufferings of her family. Sofi suffers from various medical ailments due to a lack of healthcare and hygienic food in jail. She has gastric acid reflex, suffers from joint aches, and severe lower back pain, for which she needs an urgent surgery that she has been denied.
Born in Srinagar, in the year 1964, Nahida has spent her last 5 years, thousands of miles away from her home and family, in the infamous Tihar Jail, New Delhi. Nahida is the General Secretary of the Kashmiri pro-freedom and socio-religious women’s organization, Dukhtaran-e-Millat. Nahida, a graduate in Zoology, and also in Islamic Sciences, was one of the earliest members of DeM. Nahida was jailed for her political beliefs. The charge sheet against her accuses her of “waging war against India” and “creating disaffection among people against the State of India”. In reality, she was jailed for being involved in Kashmiri self-determination movement and the empowerment of Kashmiri Muslim women. The 58-year-old suffers from various medical ailments but has been denied proper healthcare in jail. She has two sons and a daughter, who are not allowed to talk to her.
41-year-old Hina Bashir Beigh was jailed by the special cell of Delhi Police along with her husband. The couple was accused of having links with militant organizations. Hina’s sister- in-law, however, has maintained that the detention of the couple is illegal and the accusations are completely “baseless and false”. The families of the couple have asserted that Hina and her husband have been targeted because of their Kashmiri Muslim identity. On 8th June 2020, Hina tested positive for COVID-19 while in the custody of the National Investigation Agency of India. Afterward, Beigh was not even allowed to speak to her lawyer. The family of Hina applied for bail on medical grounds. The Indian State has released prisoners all across India, due to the ongoing pandemic, but the bail application of Beigh was rejected despite her having contracted the virus.