Prisoners: Kashmir Beyond AFSPA

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The progressive states of the 19th Century were not the first to extol themselves for liberating or trying to liberate/ safeguard people such as Kashmiris in Kashmir, Lankans in Sri Lanka, Cubans in Cuba, Irish in Ireland, Scotts in Scotland from their sad fate by brutality, demolition, propaganda, and oppression. They were drawing from a rich tradition of illustrious leaders who were troubled by the growing cries for “Rights and Freedom” who used to dilute every call in the name of Religion, Separatism, Hooliganism, minority and paint the demands of people in all paints they knew of. They used to ask “What would become of our religious and political institutions, of moral force of the Governments, and of that conservative democracy which has saved us from complete dissolution if ‘contagious and vicious principles’ are untied to prevail.”

The vicious principles they talked about was a complete principle of autonomy, ideas of Freedom, and doctrines of Republicanism to the people. The fateful lands struggling for their Right to self Rule are stoutly mashed in the name of Terrorism, Separatism and Anarchy.

We all the 1 and z, nooks and Corners, evens and Odds of the dispute back Home.

When the civil Society of India or elsewhere talks about Kashmir, the first idea that comes to their mind is AFSPA, a draconian Law. They discuss the law thoroughly, Many of them, in fact most of them have by hearted the sections, Cons of this draconian law. However the less talked about vaguely formulated act, PSA which allows detention for up to two years without charge or trial on the purported presumption that they may in the future commit acts harmful to the state, hence preventive detention akin to Preventive war of the U.S in Iraq. And the least talked problem is Oppression. A prototype of harassment, terrorization, and deliberate disregard for the civil and political rights of those who are critical of the government has emerged over a period of time. Many of those detained are prisoners of conscience, held only for their peaceful political views. The Indian Civil Society needs to view Kashmir through a broader Spectrum, beyond Afspa. However the Right to Information has been snatched away from us, Hail Oppression.! Somehow The Kashmiri Journalist fraternity is to be blamed too for keeping us alien to the issues we face as a nation. The Chains of journalists are self bound though. I am referring the plight of Prisoners languishing in various Indian Jails here some of whom have been atrociously caged for more than a decade.

The recent hyped release of Masarat Alam should not create the illusion that arbitrary detention of peaceful dissenters in Jammu and Kashmir has ceased. There are people who are serving detention from more than a decade now. We have painful stories of detainees like Ghulam Qadir Butt, Mehmood Topiwal doing rounds on the internet. There are detainees who have been proven innocent after many years, some of them after serving dozens of Years of Imprisonment. “They are not also able to meet their lawyers and do not receive proper medical care”, a report released by HCBA in February 2015 said. 

An unjust model of tyranny has been unveiled against the detainees a person is detained on Free Will and if the person is granted bail in some case, he is slapped with a PSA and if the court quashes the PSA, a new Dossier is slapped upon the person subjecting him to at least 6 more months of Detention. The vaguely formulated act allows for detention for up to two years without charge or trial on the purported presumption that they may in the future commit acts harmful to the state.

People detained under the PSA also run a high risk of being tortured, as many are denied access to family or lawyers for long periods of time. Torture is widely used in police stations and interrogation centres in Jammu and Kashmir to extract confessions or information, to humiliate or punish detainees, leading to dozens of reported deaths in custody.

In February 1998, political activist Ghulam Ahmad Dar was given electric shocks, had wooden rollers rolled over his thighs and had his hands beaten with a pistol butt.

In a span of less than one year starting July 2010, 5503 children were arrested on the charges of Stone Pelting read an RTI filed by Advo Babar Jan Qadri on 21, November 2011. It further Stated that 34 Minors were in Jail at that point of time. More than a Thousand Juveniles have been already booked under PSA. 3 are impeding a death sentence, 24 have been sentenced to life, more than 32,000 Under Trial. The Source to the figure is a Blog otherwise we have No source to either the number or condition of Detainees.

Lawyers in Jammu and Kashmir have consistently challenged specific PSA cases in the courts, but the government has blatantly disregarded court orders quashing detention orders or granting bail. Such disregard completely undermines the role of the courts to protect human rights in Kashmir. The Media in Kashmir has also been unable to perform its duties and stand up for the basic roles of the Free Press. 

“Security concerns in Jammu and Kashmir are obviously a top priority for the government. However, the conflict does not justify imprisoning people on free will or who have not committed any offence and have not used or advocated violence” a report released by PUCL says

Qazi Shibli is Founder Member of Rights Group

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