Kashmir pro-freedom leader Altaf Ahmad Shah dies in India custody | Prison News

Altaf Ahmad Shah, a prominent pro-freedom leader from Indian-administered Kashmir, died while in custody of kidney cancer, his family said.

Shah, 66, has been held in the high-security Tihar prison in the Indian capital New Delhi for the past five years. He died early Tuesday while receiving treatment at a state-run medical college in the city.

His family, in the past, make some appeal to get bail or access better medical care for the Shah, who also has had high blood pressure and diabetes for many years, putting him on the high-risk list during the coronavirus pandemic in India is closed.

“At 10:30pm [Monday], he passed away in the hospital. They didn’t let us see him while he was talking. When he stopped talking, they gave us permission,” a member of the Shah’s family told Al Jazeera.

The family said Shah was transferred to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in New Delhi on September 24 after a long illness in prison. A week later, he was diagnosed with end-stage kidney cancer.

His daughter, journalist Ruwa Shah, took to Twitter to highlight her father’s deteriorating health and demand better treatment. She also wrote to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, asking to be released on medical bail.

“My incarcerated father was diagnosed with acute kidney cancer that had spread and spread to other body parts, including his bones. My whole family asked us to allow us to see him and review his bail application for health reasons,” Ruwa Shah said in a statement. tweet on September 30.

On October 5, Shah was transferred to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences hospital in the capital where he died.

Altaf Ahmad Shah with his daughter Ruwa Shah
Altaf Ahmad Shah with his daughter Ruwa Shah [Courtesy of Ruwa Shah]

Shah and six other prominent Kashmiri pro-freedom leaders were arrested by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) in 2017 for alleged money laundering.

Two years later, New Delhi unilaterally removed the special status of the disputed area and put many Kashmiri politicians and activists behind bars.

The Himalayan territory of Kashmir is claimed by both India and Pakistan, who manages its sections. The two South Asian nuclear powers have waged two out of three all-out wars over territory.

An uprising against New Delhi’s rule in Indian-administered Kashmir began in the late 1980s and has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people to date.

The rebels want to merge Indian-administered Kashmir with Pakistan or create an independent state. Shah belongs to a group of nonviolent separatists demanding self-determination of the inhabitants of the region.

A policeman walks inside the Tihar prison in New Delhi on March 1
Shah is the third Kashmiri prisoner to die in custody in the past four years [File: Mansi Thapliyal/Reuters]

Shah is the third Kashmiri prisoner to die in custody in the past four years. Their families say the incarcerated deaths reflect a lack of proper medical treatment for Kashmiri prisoners held miles away from their homes, which makes it very difficult for their families to visit them. in various Indian prisons.

In December 2019, 65-year-old Ghulam Muhammad Bhat, a resident of northern Kashmir’s Kupwara district, died in prison in the Uttar Pradesh state city of Prayagraj after five months in custody. He was suffering from some illness when he was arrested.

Last year, another prominent pro-liberal leader, 77-year-old Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai, died of COVID after a year of confinement at a hospital in the Indian-administered city of Jammu.

Shah is the son-in-law of the iconic pro-independence leader, Syed Ahmed Shah Geelaniwho died last year during his decades-long home confinement.

In a message of condolences on Twitter, Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said he was “deeply saddened” by the Shah’s death in captivity in India.

“The Modi regime refused to treat him despite knowing he was a cancer patient. Homicide in custody is the norm in Modi’s India,” he wrote.

Since losing its special status and being declared a federally administered territory in 2019, Indian-administered Kashmir, the country’s only Muslim-majority region, has seen a major uprising. violent repression against its political leaders.

Families and lawyers of detainees have warned of mistreatment and abuse of more than 1,000 Kashmris held in prisons outside the region.

“Health care is not a concern for prison authorities. Surname [prisoners] GN Shaheen, spokesman for the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association, told Al Jazeera.

“By law, they (the authorities) must provide the basic necessities of life, including health care with dignity in prison. Not all prisoners have been convicted. Even during a trial, detainees face health problems that can take their lives. It reflects the situation in prisons.”


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