No politician or trade leader, ex-member of panel on jobs completes 5 months in Valley jail

The family of Shakeel Qalander groping in the dark for reasons behind his arrest and the possibility of release. File   | Photo Credit: Nissar Ahmad

Neither a politician nor leader of a trade body, Shakeel Qalander, who was a member of a committee headed by eminent economist C. Rangarajan to formulate an employment policy for J&K in 2010-11, completed five months of detention on Saturday, with the family groping in the dark for reasons behind his arrest and the possibility of release.

The relatives and family members of Mr. Qalander, who is from Srinagar’s Kanitar area, huddle together every Wednesday and Saturday — the days of the week when a blood relation is allowed to visit the Srinagar Central Jail and ascertain his well-being.

“It was around 3 a.m. on August 5, when policemen surrounded our house, scaled the boundary wall and barged in,” recalled Mr. Qalander’s son Ahtisham Qalander, who is an IIT graduate. “The whole family was confused about the raid. My father was shifted to a local police station. It took us hours to locate the [specific] police station since none of our family members had ever been there,” he added.

Detained apparently as part of preventive measures under Section 107, a magistrate’s order against Mr. Qalander read: “I have been given to understand that you and your associates are about to organise processions and such meetings which are likely to deteriorate the law and order situation.”

Owning a well-known local furniture brand, the detained entrepreneur was a regular speaker at a civil society group the Kashmir Centre for Social and Developmental Studies (KCSDS) as well as at public functions, debates and television shows and also wrote newspaper columns.

“My father is well read and understands the dynamism of economy,” said his son. “He would get invited frequently for lectures. Most of his lectures would focus on the economic welfare of J&K. He has been apparently detained for having an opinion. If he was such a threat, would the previous regime make him a member of the Rangarajan committee?” wondered the younger Mr. Qalander, who left work on his start-up initiative in New Delhi midway to return to oversee the family business. The enterprise provides employment to about 50 locals.

The family said it had assured the district administration that Mr. Qalander would sign a bond, as required under Section 107, undertaking “not to cause any law and order issue”. Two separate notes by different police wings including the CID, underlining that “his release will have no adverse impact on the ground situation” have failed to secure the industrialist’s release even after 152 days, his son added.

“Hundreds of locals remain jailed. It seems the administration has forgotten it has even arrested my father. There is no other reason to prolong his detention. A state has to not only safeguard lives but also the dignity of its people. The prolonged detention is aimed at hurting our dignity,” he added.

The family claimed that the administration had furnished no fresh grounds or evidence or witnesses, as required under the law, to prolong his detention. “The release of businessman Mubeen Shah from the Agra jail recently did rekindle the hope that my father too would be released soon. However, with each passing day, we are grappling in the dark, and losing hope,” said Mr. Qalander’s son, while demanding his immediate release.

More than 6,000 people, including members of civil society groups, were arrested in the August 5 clampdown in Kashmir. According to authorities, about 1,200 people still remain detained, including some 200 politicians and activists, and “were being released in a phased manner”.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2022 12:50:17 AM |

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