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Panic grips Anantnag jail: Maqbool Bhat’s brother tests COVID positive

Zahoor Bhat, younger brother of JKLF founder Muhammad Maqbool Bhat in Anantnag hospital (Photo: KM/Special Arrangement)

Srinagar: An inmate incarcerated under PSA in Anantnag district jail has been tested positive for COVID-19 and shifted out to the district hospital even as sources said that at least 10 prisoners have developed symptoms of the infection.

Zahoor Ahmad Bhat, younger brother of JKLF founder Muhammad Maqbool Bhat, was shifted from district jail (Mattan) to Anantnag district hospital on Friday afternoon, sources told The Kashmir Monitor.

Zahoor’s COVID-19 sample had been taken when he complained of fever and chills in the jail earlier this week.

Officials in the hospital said that Zahoor was administered medicines and injections, and his sample was also taken before he was taken back to the jail.

The sample eventually came out to be COVID-19 positive on Friday.

He was eventually shifted back to the hospital, sources added.

His family came to know about it Saturday morning.

In March this year, Zahoor was slapped with third PSA in a row. He had been shifted from Rajasthan jail to sub-jail Kupwara in February and eventually moved to Anantnag jail in March.

A family member of one of the inmates held in the jail said there were “hardly any precautionary measure taken by the authorities.”

“The jail has become a hotspot of the virus. It has a capacity of 60 inmates but around 200 have been lodged in it,” said brother of an under-trial prisoner in the jail.

He said that due to COVID-19, the court hearings in under-trial matters had been delayed.

“My brother’s last hearing was before the COVID-19 lockdown began. Our next hearing is slated on August 4, and that too may be postponed,” he said.

The family member appealed to the authorities to release on bail at least those under-trial prisoners who are unwell.

In-charge Superintendent, Anantnag Jail, Sheroz Ahmad, confirmed that Zahoor had been tested positive and shifted out.

He, however, said the authorities were taking “all the precautionary measures and medical team was on the job.”

DIG Prisons, Mohammad Sultan Lone, told The Kashmir Monitor that all the inmates will be tested for COVID-19.

Asked about the families alleging lack of precautionary measures and overcrowding in the jails, Lone said that “there was overcrowding in almost all jails in Kashmir”.

“Do they want them to be shifted to Jammu? Would they be happy with that?” he said.

As per official figures, there are a total of 3,628 inmates in 14 jails across Jammu and Kashmir as against a capacity of 3,232.

Eighty eight percent of them are under-trials, 7% are booked under PSA, and only five per cent are convicts.