Muslim Deeni Mahaz (MDM) Patron, Dr. Muhammad Qasim Fakhtoo, will be completing 26 years in prison on February 5.
Languishing in prison for the past 26 years, Dr Fakhtoo was arrested in February 1993 and slapped with Public Safety Act (PSA) first, and then subsequently awarded a lifer by the Supreme Court in January 2003.
Born in 1967, Qasim graduated in Commerce from Islamia College Srinagar. After tying nuptial knot with chief of Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DeM) Aasiya Andrabi, he went on to obtain various academic degrees like MA, MPhil in Islamic Studies and Maulvi Fazil from University of Kashmir.
In 1985, the J&K police had sought applications from youths for recruitment as sub-inspectors. Qasim also appeared in the selection test for the post.
According to a statement issued by Muslim Deeni Mahaz (MDM), Dr Qasim was first detained in 1993 under the Public Safety Act (PSA). After six years of imprisonment, a TADA court acquitted him of all the charges due to lack of evidence but police arrested him again at the Indira Gandhi International Airport New Delhi in 2002 when he was returning from London where he had participated in a conference on Kashmir.
“In 2003, he was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of involvement in murder of a Pandit activist, Hriday Nath Wanchoo who was killed in 1992, a charge denied by Qasim,” the statement said.
It said that the double bench of Supreme Court in its judgment had directed that Dr Qasim and other accused in the case be given benefit of the period already undergone by them in detention. Dr Qasim challenged his detention and the court directed the government to review his case.
On June 3, 2008 the government constituted a Review Board comprising then DGP Prisons and Principal District and Sessions Judge Srinagar, Hasnain Massodi, to consider Qasim’s release under the provision of J&K Jail Manual 2000. But the CID opposed the recommendations quoting rule 54.1 of Jail Manual which debars TADA lifer convicts from release on completion of two thirds (14 years) of 20 years. However, Dr Qasim challenged his detention in the High Court seeking directions as per the review board’s recommendation.
“The High Court quashed the impugned order and directed the government to consider the case on the basis of the Jammu and Kashmir Jail Manual,” the statement said. However, since then, the fate of his release continues to hang in balance. During his 26 year imprisonment, he has written more than 20 books on religious, social and political topics. His six books are in English and 15 in Urdu.”
Dukhtaran-e-Millat Monday said that New Delhi has again trampled its own justice system the example of which is Kashmir’s longest serving prisoner Dr Muhammad Qasim.
DeM termed it as political vengeance against a leader who is followed by people of Kashmir for his political belief and ideology.
A spokesperson of DeM said that last year on March 4 the government took him out of the Central Jail Srinagar and was shifted to Jammu jail.