Caned For The Stick

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The camera caught him carrying a stick and police took him to jail as the family says the handicapped tailor, suffering with a serious disease, was shepherding the cattle home, reports Muhammad Younis

The Wanis’ of Padgampora spent the yearend in Srinagar’s High Court. The anticipation that the first sun of the 2020 might rise with the release of the much missed member of the family which had filled the members of the family with the energy to even brave the chilly cold with a happy heart.

From 9 am till the court’s last hour, their ears were cocked to every name summoned by the judge. But, much to their regret, the one they were waiting for wasn’t pronounced: Shabir Ahmad Wani versus Jammu and Kashmir government.

“His case was listed seventh, but the court chose to deal with other cases that day, and not the ones in line with that of Shabir,” said one of the family members.

At 5 pm, the whole family, comprising Shabir’s wife, Khalida Begum, their three children (the eldest son enrolled in third primary), his old parents, his two brother-in-laws and a sister-in-law from Bijbehara, left in utter dejection. To add to their crisis, the court went for winter vacations for around a month, the same day.

“I am not sure whether he would be able to cope with the situation inside the jail during this period,” said Muhammad Yousuf, Shabir’s father, heaving a sigh. Lodged in Central Jail Srinagar, Shabir has already completed around five months.

Post August 5, after the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state was stripped of its special status and downgraded into two federally ruled union territories, many people were rounded up, apparently to prevent a possible backlash. Some of them were flown to outside jails. Shabir was retained in Srinagar after being rounded up on August 18.

“When people were busy with BakrEid , ours was cut short,” regretted Yousuf. Allegedly, Shabir was charged with a stone pelting case. Yousuf said the video provided by the police as evidence, in which Shabir could be seen wielding a stick during clashes around Padgampora is misplaced. “Actually, when the clashes were going on, we were tending our bovine, roaming around on the road, towards home, and unfortunately, for that purpose, Shabir had had a stick in his hand. At a distance, a cop was videotaping the protests and caught Shabir mistakenly.”

Shabir is partially handicapped. One of his leg, according to his father, has undergone a surgery years ago. Since the operation hadn’t been totally successful, he still has complications every once a while. During the winter season, the problem amplifies – he suffers tremendous pain, and at times, his wound opens.

“In jail, the wound has started troubling him again,” said Yousuf. “Now the problem has worsened to such an extent that two persons have to help him in getting up; he is not even able to move by himself.” Yousuf met him on January 3.

Besides, Shabir has developed psychiatric issues owing to the miserable state his family was pushed into by the arrest. A professional tailor, Shabir is family’s sole bread winner. His earnings were barely able to eke out a quality living for his family, but now, even that has changed; the family has literally been pushed to wall.

Irrespective of the penury, the family had hired a counsel to take up Shabir’s case, four months ago. “He said that we needed not to come to the court as he was going to do all the necessary arrangements by himself,” said Muhammad Amin Dar, Shabir’s brother-in-law. “Three months after we came to know that he had attended a single hearing out of the four so we were forced to look for another counsel.”

Firdous Ahmad Mir, Shabir’s new counsel said that he feels helpless. After inquiring into the whole issue, he got to know that Shabir is diagnosed of locomotor disease (a dreadfully life-consuming disease in which the victim’s effected organs are removed in a systematic order), he immediately filed a writ petition for his immediate medical care.

“The unfortunate part was I expected that state would have no objection – as it’s the duty of a welfare state to save people if they are suffering from any disease – was opposed by the prosecution,” alleged Mir. “In a way, he defied what a group of doctors had already diagnosed.” Although the court issued an order for Shabir’s better treatment, the same wasn’t acted upon in true spirit. “So Shabir is suffering miserably in jail.”

The family claims they have spent almost one lakh rupees so far. Apart from the case charges, the whole family moves to jail every week bringing him medicines and other things. In such a situation, the debt on the family is piling up every day. “We have been borrowing money from our neighbours,” Yousuf said. “Everything could be good; debts would be paid, provided Shabir is back.” During the curfew restrictions, the family would hire a sumo to get his minor kids meet him in jail.

Wanis’ miseries don’t end here. Like Shabir, his eldest brother also suffers from somewhat similar problem in his leg. He has  underwent one surgery, from which he has developed complications, and is on medication. “The family has to buy his medicines also,” said Amin. “You tell me, how they would manage all this with nobody earning.”

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