By Owais Farooqi
Bandipora: Her father in jail since two years and her mother dead four years ago, 18-year-old Maria is taking care of four younger siblings in her home in Bandipora’s Hajin town. Maria recently qualified the Class 10 Board examination but circumstances are not conducive for her to continue studies.
Maria’s father is a senior Muslim League activist in Bandipora. Mohammad Asadullah Parray has been languishing in Kot Balwal Jail in Jammu for the past two years, according to his relatives.
Asadullah was detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA) on August 13, 2015. His brother said that the detention under PSA has been renewed thrice, the latest extension orderd on December 28 last year.
“Despite the previous PSA orders being quashed by court, the authorities are ever-ready with new dossiers against him,” his brother Bashir Ahmad said. “The latest PSA is on the charge that Asadullah organised a rally in jail on Eid after Burhan Wani’s killing.”
Asadullah is associated with the Muslim League for the past eight years. He was a militant before that, his brother said, but shunned the path of violence. “He became associated with militants due to excesses committed by the Ikhwan. He was tortured by them on several occasions,” Bashir Ahmad said. “He spent 10 years in jail prior to 2008, when he joined Muslim League.”
Asadullah’s children are hopeful that their father will be set free. Osama, the youngest child, is a Class 3 student. He met his father 4 months ago in Kot Balwal Jail. “My maternal uncle took me with him to visit papa in Jammu. I miss him so much,” he said.
For Maria, her father is innocent and she wants him to be set free. “We are proud of our father. Demanding freedom is no sin. He should be released for our sake,” she said, adding that her father “is being wrongly detained despite court orders which have quashed his detention several times.”
Maria said that the children used to meet their father during court hearings in Srinagar, but for the past 8 months no court hearing has taken place, “for reasons best known to the authorities who have detained him,” she said.
Maria said she was 14 when her mother died. “Osama was only 4 when our mother left us,” she said. “Sumaya, 17, is in Class 10, Sabreena is in Class 7, and Insha is in Class 6. However, 11-year-old Ulfat is not mentally sound and has left studies due to various disabilities.”
“If our mother was alive, I would have been able to meet my father every now and then,” Maria said and broke down in tears.