Separated but topper
Meet the Kashmir achiever
Srinagar: Sama Shabir has often seen her separatist father being taken away for jail terms. She has spent hours in a jail waiting room before catching a glimpse of her father from behind a screen full of scratches in a dimly lit room. She has not been allowed to take her schoolbooks to the waiting room.
None of this has stopped Sama, daughter of top separatist leader Shabir Shah who has been in Tihar jail for nearly a year, from topping the CBSE Class XII exams from Jammu and Kashmir.
Sama, a student of Delhi Public School in Srinagar, has scored 97.8 per cent (489 out of 500). She, however, does not regret that her father is not around to join the celebrations.
"My father does not even know about it as we have no contact with him," Sama, 18, told The Telegraph. "But I'm proud of what he has been doing. He has spent 31 years in jail (overall) and (now that he has spent 10 more months) I'm more proud of him."
Shah, who has spent the prime of his life behind bars because of his separatist beliefs, was last arrested in July 2017 as part of the crackdown that followed the massive unrest in the Valley triggered by the death of Hizb commander Burhan Wani in 2016.
The supporters of Shah, who heads the Democratic Freedom Party, call him the Nelson Mandela of Kashmir because of the 31 years they say he has spent in jail in the state and outside. Amnesty International once described him as a "prisoner of conscience".
The separatist leader is married to a doctor and has two daughters, Sama being the elder.
Sama said her father was always in her thoughts but her focus never wavered from her studies.
"I remember visiting my father five times in Tihar jail in January this year. It was a two-hour travel to jail (from somewhere in Delhi) and I would even take my books along to read on the way," she said.
"Although I wanted to study in the jail's waiting room, where we had to spend three to four hours every time, they (the prison authorities) did not allow me to take the books there."
Sama regretted that she could not see her father properly. "It was a dimly lit room and the screen between us was full of scratches. We were allowed to speak through a mike and I could not see his face fully," she said.
The topper aspires to become a lawyer and believes that this is how she can fight the "injustices" faced by her family and Kashmiris in general.
"I have personally seen a lot of injustice and my family has suffered a lot. I want to be a lawyer so that I can be of help to people," she said.
Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti joined others in congratulating Sama. "Her hard work & determination has helped her overcome all odds & she is truly an inspiration for the youth of our state," Mehbooba tweeted.
In January, Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru's son Ghalib and Burhan's younger brother Naveed passed the state board's Class XII exams with distinction.