Jammu & Kashmir

Maqbool Bhat’s brother, others test positive for COVID in ‘overcrowded’ jail, families say ‘prisoners at risk’

Zahoor Bhat, younger brother of JKLF founder Muhammad Maqbool Bhat in Anantnag hospital (Photo: Kashmir Monitor)

Srinagar: On the morning of July 11, 2020, a call from Central jail Anantnag to the family of one of the inmates from Kupwara, was not less than a catastrophe.

The call made to the family of Zahoor Ahmad Bhat, who tested positive for novel Coronavirus, has left them worrying about their family member. The family says, he is a political prisoner, and was already unwell since one month and had developed a number of complications.

Zahoor is a younger brother of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) founder Muhammad Maqbool Bhat who was executed on February 11, 1984, at Tihar Jail in Delhi.

Bhat’s family said that he was kept in a separate cell from a last week after he complained of COVID like symptoms. Days before, he was taken for the test and his tests returned positive.

“We could have visited him but since we are not being allowed to meet, going there is of no use,” said one of the family members citing helplessness.

“The call has shattered all of us and increased our worries,” he said. “Being a COVID positive was not a big deal but not providing him the medical attention on time is.”

The incident has caused panic among the families of the inmates, many of them ‘political prisoners’.

A family member of another inmate from Srinagar, lodged in the same jail, said that many families and relatives had come to meet the inmates earlier and two elderly inmates had developed a chest infection.

The matter was later taken to Superintendent of Police, however; the family member said, no progress was seen regarding the issue.

Talking about the facilities, he said his brother is among the 200 inmates lodged at the space meant for 60 people only. He believes that overcrowding inside the jail is one of the reasons of inmates, many of them political prisoners, turning positive for COVID.

“They are at risk in these overcrowded jails. Despite their bad health conditions, no measures are being taken to save them. There are around 40 inmates having COVID symptoms but no treatment is being seen on ground for them,” he said.

A police official from central Jail Anantnag told Free Press Kashmir that Bhat had developed health issues and was consequently brought to district hospital Anantnag for the treatment.

After tests were done on July 5, he turned out to be positive.

He said that as Bhat’s tests came, all the other inmates were cautioned, to be aware and are scheduled for tests.

“Today we have done 100 tests along with few members from department,” he said.

He said all the inmates lodged inside the jail will be tested one by one in the coming days. “Besides them, few of the members with health staff including our ambulance driver was also tested,” he said.


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