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Aasiya Andrabi – The Iron Lady of Kashmir

Muhammad Raza Malik

A Delhi court recently ordered framing of charges against the Dukhtaran-e-Millat chief and Iron Lady of Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, Aasiya Andrabi, and her two associates. They have been booked under the charges of waging war against India, sedition and conspiracy to commit acts of militancy in India. Special Judge Parveen Singh ordered putting Aasiya Andrabi and her associates – Fehmeeda Sofi and Naheeda Nasreen – on trial for different offences punishable under various sections of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The three Kashmiri women leaders were arrested in April 2018 and remain lodged in New Delhi’s infamous Tihar Jail till now. The charges are scheduled to be formally framed on 18 January.

It is unfortunate that after failing to suppress the Kashmiris’ just struggle for securing their inalienable right to self-determination through the worst kind of state terrorism during the last over seven decades, India is now using its investigating agencies like National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) as well as judiciary as tools to intimidate the Kashmiris into submission. During the last four years, the NIA and ED have arrested several Hurriyat leaders and activists including Aasiya Andrabi, Muhammad Yasin Malik, Shabbir Ahmed Shah, Masarrat Aalam Butt, Nayeem Ahmed Khan, Fehmeeda Sofi, Naheeda Nasreen, Altaf Ahmed Shah, Farooq Ahmed Dar, Merajuddin Kalwal, Peer Saifullah, Ayaz Muhammad Akbar and Shahid-ul-Islam. They have been lodged in New Delhi’s infamous Tihar Jail without the basic facilities including medical care and hygienic food even during the times of coronavirus pandemic, putting their lives at great risk. Most of the illegally detained Hurriyat leaders were already suffering from various ailments and the continued illegal detention has badly affected their health. It is a fact that India has been using its courts to punish people like Aasiya Andrabi who have been challenging India’s illegal occupation of their motherland. They are not presented before the courts on the dates of hearing of their cases and if their cases come up for hearing, the courts put the next hearing on the dates falling after months.

Aasiya Andrabi is a popular leader, who has been playing an important role in the ongoing Kashmir freedom movement. Her pro-freedom activities have always unnerved the Indian authorities, who have resorted to political vengeance to punish her and her family. She has spent many years in jails of IIOJK and India for her stance on the Kashmir dispute. Aasiya Andrabi was arrested by the Indian police in 1993 for her pro-freedom activities and was released in 1994. She faced months of arrest in 2007 to 2009. She was again arrested during the 2010 mass uprising and was kept under illegal detention for two consecutive years.

Aasiya Andrabi loves Pakistan to an optimum level and considers Kashmir and Pakistan a single entity. She is a strong advocate of Kashmir’s accession with Pakistan. Every year, she celebrated Pakistan Day on 23 March and Pakistan’s Independence Day on 14 August. In these events, the proceedings used to start by singing the national anthem of Pakistan. She hoisted the Pakistan flag and sang the Pakistani national anthem in IIOJK on 23 March 2015 and for this a case was registered against her. Last time, Aasiya Andrabi was arrested along with her associates Naheeda Nasreen and Fehmeeda Sofi by the NIA in April 2018 on the charges of waging war against India. On 06 July 2018, they were shifted from a Srinagar jail to New Delhi by the NIA.

The Indian authorities have also kept Aasiya Andrabi’s husband, Dr Muhammad Qasim Fakhtoo, behind the bars for the past over 27 years and the actual objective is to break her resolve. Dr Muhammad Qasim Fakhtoo was first arrested in 1993 under draconian law, 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 Delhi Airport in 2002 when he was returning from London where he had participated in a conference on Kashmir. In 2003, Dr Fakhtoo was sentenced to life imprisonment by Indian Supreme Court in a fake murder case. He challenged his detention and the court directed the Indian government to review his case. A Review Board constituted by the authorities in 2008 and comprising the then DGP Prisons and Principal District and Sessions Judge, Srinagar, Hasnain Massodi, recommended release of Dr Fakhtoo but the CID opposed the recommendation. However, Dr Fakhtoo challenged his detention in the High Court seeking directions as per the review board’s recommendations. The High Court quashed the impugned order and directed the authorities to consider the case on the basis of the Jammu and Kashmir Jail Manual. However, since then, the fate of his release continues to hang in balance. A scholar and author of many books and a favourite Hurriyat leader of the Kashmiris, Dr Fakhtoo has been accorded imprisonment till death to break his resolve and punish Aasiya Andrabi.

India has planned to victimize Aasiya Andrabi and keep her behind the bars for her whole life. The latest order by a Delhi-based kangaroo court about framing of charges against Andrabi and her associates Fehmeeda Sofi and Naheeda Nasreen under sedition is indicative of Modi-led fascist Indian government’s evil designs. However, it is a fact that being the Iron Lady of Kashmir, Aasiya Andrabi has refused to submit to India’s machinations, and she is facing the illegal detention in Tihar jail with great courage despite suffering from multiple ailments.

The victimization of Kashmiri Hurriyat leaders like Aasiya Andrabi must be a matter of serious concern for the international community and human rights organizations. They must come forward in a big way and impress upon India to immediately release all illegally detained Kashmiri political prisoners.

(The writer is a Senior News Editor at Kashmir Media Service and can be reached at razamalik849@yahoo.com)

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