Special Reports

Book on Kashmir’s Mandela, Dr. Qasim Faktoo released

New Delhi: “Dr. Muhammad Qasim: The Victim of Political Vendetta,” a book on the Kashmiri Mandela, Dr. Muhammad Qasim,  was released here on 23 April at the Constitution Club by Prof Jagmohan (nephew of Shaheed Bhagat Singh) and Jeetan Marandi (people’s balladeer who was acquitted by the HC of Jharkhand in a framed up case). The book is a compilation of the case documents of Dr. Muhammad Qasim and articles written by various intellectuals and prominent citizens demanding an end to his 20 year-long incarceration.

Prof. Jagmohan talked about the spirit that Jeetan had given to all of us after a prolonged people’s movement all over the Subcontinent for his release. Both the speakers said it is a great victory for the people. Prof. Jagmohan pointed out that Bhagat Singh’s well-known slogan of anti-imperialism and revolution, that he framed in 1917, correctly captured the dialectical relation between the two. Only the correct synthesis of this understanding can save us from these trying times of the growing fangs of fascist assault on the people on all fronts — socio-cultural and politico-economic.

He also talked about the need to take a cue from the arduous struggle for the release of Jeetan Marandi that gives us strength and hope towards making it possible the release of all political prisoners including Dr. Muhammad Qasim. While referring to the case of more than 40-odd lifers in J&K, Prof. Jagmohan stressed the fact that when it comes to a political prisoner, the system always looks for a convenient option ensuring that the notion of life imprisonment be for the entire natural life of the political prisoner. Hence, it becomes important that we demand for the release of all Kashmiri Muslim lifers lodged in different jails who have served around ten years in prison. It is important that such books documenting the case and struggle for the release of political prisoners like Dr. Muhammad Qasim be taken to the wider sections of the people.

Jeetan Marandi, while talking about his torturous experience on the death row, reminisced how his life from childhood facing abject poverty had forced him to discontinue his school after the 3rd standard and he had to fight every moment to make his life worth living as a human being. Young Jeetan soon got attracted to the cultural group which used to visit villages and sing songs and act plays that depicted the everyday life of the villagers and the problems they faced. Soon Jeetan’s worldview transformed as he found purpose in being part of the group and thus being part of people’s initiatives to do away with their miseries. Soon he started singing for the people and their rights which  naturally made him the target of State repression. In that context he identified himself with the incarceration of Dr. Qasim. The emotional and moving narrative of Jeetan proved beyond doubt how the struggle to keep one alive in the dungeon is connected to the larger struggle to do away with all forms of oppression. He spoke about the need to dream even in adverse times and talk to oneself about the need to never give up hope even for a moment. The prisoner defines himself as well as the world around him in these moments of struggle to stay alive and that is what makes him and his convictions cherishable — a dream worth dreaming in the isolated cell. In a dark (anda) cell, where there is only some semblance of light at 12 noon, every mosquito that sucks your blood, every lizard that creeps across, the spider and its cobweb, everything becomes your friend, as you struggle to make sense out of such senseless creatures, making a meaning of life in isolation as you keep watching the lizard eat the insect for hours together. It is the desire to live even in that lifeless world that makes the political prisoner and his struggle inside the confines of the prison a fight to keep one’s finest sensibilities alive and it is the same that the mindless and violent State wants him to lose forever. Jeetan felt that in this struggle always the news from outside of people protesting for his release, rallies and public meetings demanding his unconditional release, gave him hope and a strong faith in the strength of the people. It is this united strength of the people and their struggle that can ensure that the terrible injustice of the kind of incarceration that Dr. Qasim and his co-accused are going through can be done away with. The release of all such political prisoners in the Subcontinent becomes the need of the hour as part of struggle to humanise ourselves.

Zahid a Kashmiri, a scholar, talked about the need for a united struggle of the people of the Subcontinent to defeat the designs of the State to suppress all forms of political dissent.

Prof. SAR Geelani, while presiding over the programme, stressed the need for the struggle to unite for the release of all political prisoners in the Subcontinent. There are thousands of Kashmiri political prisoners lodged in different jails in the Subcontinent though in the present programme we are raising only the case of life convicts in the context of Kashmir with specific reference to the continuing incarceration of Dr. Muhammad Qasim. While pointing out that the rights of the political prisoners have been recognised in the international law, he stressed that it is our duty to struggle to make the Indian State accept the category of political prisoners and their rights.

See also Statement issued by the Committee for The Release of Political Prisoners

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 May 2013 on page no. 5

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