Dr. Bilquis Fights Two-Front War, Her Husband’s case and Serving COVID-19 Patients
SRINAGAR, APRIL 16—Inside a well-laid out room, Dr. Bilquis Shah is sobbing quietly while flipping through her jailed husband Shabir Ahmad Shah’s pictures. Minutes later, she kisses her daughter and leaves for Jawahar Lal Nehru Memorial (JLNM) hospital to fight a battle with COVID-19.
For Dr. Bilquis, it is a two-front war—to fight her husband’s case and combat deadly infection. And she fights at both fronts with ease and dedication. Unmindful of her own safety, she serves the hospital for 20 hours while her daughter remains alone at her home. But she has not given up.
“Since the hospital was declared as COVID 19 centre, I have spent most of the time in treating positive cases and counselling people who are in quarantine. I have dedicated my life to the service of people,” Dr. Bilquis said.
With her separatist husband, Shabir Shah languishing in Tihar Jail and an elder daughter studying in London, Dr. Bilquis’s younger daughter stays at home all alone. “I have had no time for my family. After I leave for the hospital, my daughter goes to her aunt’s home. When I come in the dead of night I pick her up. Sometimes, I pick her up at 2 am”, she said.
Enforcement Directorate had arrested Shah in 2017 on money laundering charges and since then he is incarcerated at Tihar Jail in New Delhi. Last year National Investigation Agency (NIA) booked Shah and two other jailed separatist leaders Masarat Alam and Asiya Andrabi in the “terror funding case”.
Even Dr. Bilquis, who is Resident Medical Officer (RMO) at JLNM Hospital, was repeatedly summoned by the Enforcement Directorate for questioning which had a cascading effect on the family. Later, her daughter Sama Shah was also summoned but she was away in London to pursue law.
Shah, who has spent a total of 33 years in jail at different intervals, heads the Democratic Freedom Party (DFP). His wife Bilquis Shah is a doctor and the couple have two daughters---Sama being the eldest.
“Such is my duty that I recently forgot to send the money order to my husband in Tihar Jail. And when I took some time off to send a money order, the post office guys refused, saying they cannot deliver in lockdown. Later in the evening, my daughter told me it is an online process. Then I had to go again and bang the officials for deceiving me. Every month I had to send Rs 6000 to Shah Sahib for his daily needs”, said Dr. Bilquis.
Even during three to four-minute weekly phone calls, she asks him to take precautions and wash hands properly. “My husband has spent 33 years in jail and I have never asked the authorities to free him. Since it is pandemic, they should at least shift him to Srinagar jail”, she said.
Despite her domestic issues, she reaches the hospital at 9.30 am and leaves by 1 or 2 am. “Earlier, nobody was willing to enter the COVID wards. I gave them confidence. Now everything is streamlined. Even my family was very scared after they came to know that I am attending to COVID patients. But by God’s grace I am now discharging my duties to the best of my capabilities”, said Dr. Bilquis.