Srinagar, India, Oct 11 (EFE).- A prominent separatist leader of Indian Kashmir, Altaf Ahmed Shah, who was under imprisonment, died overnight at the age of 66, just days after being diagnosed with acute renal cancer.
“Abu (father) breathed his last at AIIMS, New Delhi. As a prisoner,” Altaf’s daughter Ruwa Shah tweeted early Tuesday.
According to Ruwa, a journalist by profession, six days after an appeal to the Indian Home Minister Amit Shah and an order from the Delhi High Court on Oct.3, Altaf was shifted to the premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), where he breathed his last.
The All Parties Hurriyat Conference, a coalition of separatist parties in Indian Kashmir, had also appealed to the government to release Altaf on bail on “humanitarian grounds and let his family look after him.”
Altaf, a prominent member of the separatist group Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, founded in 2004 by his father-in-law and iconic Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, was arrested along with six other separatist leaders in 2017 in a terror-financing case and lodged in Tihar jail in New Delhi.
People from Altaf’s family informed EFE that his wife was in New Delhi ever-since he was shifted to the hospital, but was denied one last meeting with her husband.
Altaf’s only son, Anees ul Islam, was sacked from government service in October 2021, they added, allegedly for his father and grandfather’s anti-India politics.
Ruwa was prevented from traveling abroad in 2021 for the same reasons, they further added.
Altaf, a resident of Srinagar, the main city in the disputed region, is the third Kashmiri separatist leader to die under custody since 2020.
A prominent pro-freedom leader and close associate of Geelani, Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai, 77, died at a Jammu hospital, after being transferred there from a jail in May 2021.
Geelani, 91, the most popular separatist voice in Kashmir valley, died at his Srinagar residence on Sep.1, 2021, where he was under house arrest for at least ten years.
New Delhi has cracked down on the Kashmiri separatists especially after August 2019, when the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party led government unilaterally revoked the region’s semi-autonomous status and bifurcated it into two federally ruled territories.
Hundreds have been jailed since then and a tight security has been put in place to prevent any protests.
The volatile idyllic Himalayan territory has been at the center of India-Pakistan hostilities since 1947, when British rule of the subcontinent divided it into two new countries.
The two neighbors have fought three major wars, including two over Kashmir in 1948 and 1965.
Kashmiris launched an armed revolt against Indian rule in 1989, demanding complete independence or its merger with Pakistan.
India accuses Pakistan of abetting the Kashmir insurgency, calling it terrorism, a charge Islamabad denies. The over 30-year-old conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives. EFE