The wife and children of Sarjan Ahmad Wagay, popularly known as Barkati and ‘Azadi Chacha’, Tuesday appealed to the government to release him on humanitarian grounds after completing 600 days in prison.
Police arrested Barkati, a cleric and leader of Ummat-e-Islami, on October 1, 2016 after his videos chanting rhythmic “freedom slogans” went viral during months of wide scale protests following the killing of militant leader Burhan Wani.
His wife Shabroz, who travelled to Press Enclave here from her home in south Kashmir’s Shopian district, along with dozens of her relatives and neighbours, said her children were facing hardships in the absence of her husband.
“We have no one to look after us in his absence. My children are not able to focus on their studies so they have stopped going to the school. I mostly remain busy in courts to seek bail for my husband,” Shabroz said during a demonstration.
Barkati’s electric manner of sloganeering pulled huge crowds to numerous “freedom rallies” across southern Kashmir during the months-long demonstrations earning him several sobriquets like “Azadi Chacha” and “Pied Piper of Kashmir”.
The passionate crowd puller was booked under Public Safety Act (PSA) many times since his arrest. Despite courts quashing his detention orders six times Barkati was not released.
Barkati’s daughter, 12-year-old Sughra said she and her younger sibling, Azan, 7, were not able to concentrate on their studies because of the trauma of their father languishing in jail.
“Our mother remains busy in seeking bail for our father in dozens of cases slapped on him one after another and it has been going on from past two years,” Sughra said, adding the family was preparing to hold a sit-in demonstration in Kulgam on September 7.
“We have tolerated much. We too want to study and want to live a normal life like others. We appeal to the government to release our father.”