Video Editor: Rahul Sanpui
Lazim hai ke hum bhi dekhenge
Wo din ke jis ka wada hai
Jo lauh-e-azl mein likha hai.”
This song of revolution, written by Faiz Ahmed Faiz in 1979, cheered a group of detainees from Jammu and Kashmir, on their way to a jail in Uttar Pradesh. Qazi Shibli, a Kashmir-based journalist and editor of an online news portal, The Kashmiriyat was among the 20 people who were arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir police under Public Safety Act during the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019.
Shibli was at home on 27 July when he was summoned by the J&K Police. On the days that followed, Shibli was kept at the police station and interrogated at regular intervals. His crime? He had reported and later tweeted about a leaked government order of additional troop being deployed in the Valley.
He was slapped with Public Safety Act on 8 August and flown out of Srinagar jail on the next day. After spending 9 months in Bareilly jail, Shibli finally returned home on 25 April.
The Journey From Srinagar to Bareilly With Faiz’s ‘Hum Dekhenge’
Describing the mood inside the flight when the PSA detaineed were being shifted to Bareilly jail, Shibli said, “We didn’t know where we were being taken. I saw only sad faces around me which had a lot of despair. I wanted to cheer them up.”
So, Shibli and “a 28-year-old boy from Kupwara” hatched a plan. “We started singing a nazm of Faiz Ahmed Faiz - Hum Dekhenge. The sound of the plane was loud, so we raised our pitch. Soon, everybody started clapping. Some even joined us in singing. The policemen look at us in amazement.”
Shibli continued, “One of the officers came up to me and asked how come we were so happy when even they didn’t know where we were being taken.”
At 12.30 PM on 9 August, Shibli and others reached Bareilly jail.
The ‘Lonely Ghetto’
Shibli, like the rest of the detainees, were kept in solitary confinements at the Bareilly jail. “We were not allowed to talk to anyone or meet anyone. It was completely a ghetto kind of a structure. We would just be allowed to walk around a confined place for one hour every day.”
“I asked them for some books and that’s how I mostly spent my time - with books.I used to sing and the other guys would probably beat the buckets and the iron rods of the jail. And that’s all we possessed.”Qazi Shibli
Breaking the ‘Anti-National’ Bias Against Kashmiris With Bollywood Songs
Shibli won some more hearts with music, this time inside the prison.
He said, “When I went into the jail, there was a notion among the policemen that terrorist sympathisers have been brought. Though they never told us anything but we could hear the policemen speaking among themselves that they are terrorists, terrorist sympathisers, stone pelters, anti nationals. We used to hear all sorts of things about us. And that is the time when I realised that there is a need to bridge this gap
which has been created by the mainstream media of India.”
And what better way to bridge gaps between hearts but with Bollywood songs.
“I started singing Bollywood songs.And this notion that Kashmiris are anti-India and everything that is Indian.It was music that helped me remove this notion.”Qazi Shibli
Shibli was fairly successful when a policeman came up to him with a song request. He recalls. “I remember was a policeman coming to me, who was a Dalit policeman.
He came to me and said that he wants to listen to a song which was a Kishore Kumar song, “Aane wala pal jaane wala hai”.”
The 56-Day Wait to Meet Family
While Shibli was away, his family members did not know his whereabouts for the longest time. They considered him “missing”.
“It was only after 56 days that I was allowed to meet my family.It was my sister and my brother. Earlier, for 45 days, during my lodgement in Bareilly,my family was not informed about my whereabouts.”Qazi Shibli
On the 57th day, when his sister and brother came to meet him in the Bareilly jail, they could only do so for half-an-hour, Shibli said.
Walking Out of Jail With The T-Shirt With ‘119 Holes’
Shibli had left home in July in a t-shirt and a pajama. By April, that t-shirt had 119 holes, was shabby and was worn out from use. Yet, Shibli decided to wear it on the day when he walked out of jail.
“When I was released on 23 April, I walked out of the jail wearing this t-shirt. Because I wanted to tell the world what was done to me, a journalist.”Qazi Shibli
Shibli said, “There are a lot of others who are facing crisis, hardships, who are still booked, who are still being silenced in the name of law and order. There are a lot of us who are still in jail.”
Over four thousands of people have been detained in Jammu and Kashmir over fears of protest and unrest since the bifurcation of the state in August 2019, AFP reported in October quoting government sources.