Draconian detention law spells nightmare for Kashmiris

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More than 400 Kashmiris held under law which allows detentions without trial for up to 2 years. A letter from a detainee addressed to his family in Indian-administered Kashmir says he remains “confined to four choked walls”.

The detainee, held under provisions of the 1978 Public Safety Act (PSA), with another 22 Kashmiri men in an Indian jail, asks his family and friends to pray for him.

A copy of the letter available with Anadolu Agency says: “We are 23 Kashmiri brothers here and all of us are confined to solitary prison cells. Neither can we talk to each other nor can we shake hands but only remain confined to the four choked walls.

“Please pray for us as we are in helpless condition,” the detainee, who did not wish to be named, writes to his family.

The mass detention of thousands of Kashmiris began last August when the Indian government stripped the region of its special provisions.

From thereon, hundreds of people, particularly young men, have been lodged in faraway jails under the PSA Act, described by Amnesty International in 2016 as a draconian law. Three former chief ministers of the region have also been booked under the law, that allows the government to detain a person for up to two years without a trial.

The restive Muslim-majority state has been under lockdown for the last seven months.

While some restrictions have eased, high speed internet still continues to remain blocked in the region with a complete ban on social media.

‘Whole world shattered’

Ateeqa Begum, a widow from the region’s main city, Srinagar, has been on her toes since Aug. 6 when her 22- year-old son was arrested on his way to buy medicine.

“It has been 205 days when my son was arrested without any justification. I don’t know in what condition is he right now, it kills me when I think about it,” Begum told Anadolu Agency.

Her son, Faisal Aslam Mir is one of thousands in the region who was detained and moved to a jail in harsh conditions.

Mir’s imprisonment in Agra jail, 1,100 kilometers (700 miles) from Srinagar has left his mother at her wit’s ends.

“I want to cry aloud. I have not seen my son for the last seven months. My whole world is shattered now,” she said.

The Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, a human rights group, said in its annual report that at least 412 people have been booked under PSA from Aug. 5 to Dec. 31.

Most continue to remain in jails as the high court in the region has overturned less than two dozen of detention orders since Aug. 5.

‘Punitive’ detention

In most of the cases, PSA detentions after Aug. 5 do not show fresh activities attributed to the arrested person.

Many dossiers accessed by Anadolu Agency show detentions have been primarily slapped on previous activities or charges over which a person has already been punished or bailed out.

Mir’s police dossier mentions that “keeping in view your profile and past activities and circumstances, you are main disgruntled element in implementing programmes of secessionist ideology which in turn will lead to large scale law and order problem. Thus to stop you from doing that, it is imperative to detain you under PSA.”

“I would have been content if my son had done something wrong and then he would have been arrested, but he has not done anything,” Begum said.

“In the year 2013, he was involved in protests but not anymore. He was living a normal life now,” she said.

Advocate Ghulam Nabi Shaheen who deals with such cases told Anadolu Agency that PSA is a black law, it is not preventive but a “punitive” detention.

“When you detain a person again and again on the same crime and keep him in most unfavorable conditions, the detention automatically becomes punitive.”

He said the law on the subject is very clear that you have to keep the detainee to the nearest possible jail away from his home and provide him the necessary legal assistance. “Unfortunately this does not work out in Kashmir,” Shaheen told Anadolu Agency.

Anadolu Agency contacted government advisor Farooq Khan on the issue, but the officer neither took the phone call, nor responded to the text message.

Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965 and 1971 — two of them over Kashmir.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.

Begum longs to meet her son, but for now, it seems she has to gear up for a long wait.

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