The Jammu and Kashmir government has made a series of arrests under the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA) to quell the ongoing protests in the valley and those, who have been detained without trail, include a psychiatric patient, an aid worker, and a human rights activist.
According to sources, more than 250 people, including separatist leaders and stone pelters, have been detained under what Amnesty International termed a “lawless law”, under which a person can be detained without a trial for at least six months.
Earlier in the month, the government slapped the PSA on 32-year-old psychiatric patient, Riyaz Ahmad Dar, for being a “chronic stone pelter” and for participating in all the “Challo calls” given by the separatists groups, after the death of militant commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani on 8 July, according to a dossier prepared by police.
Dar, a Bachelor in Arts from Amar Singh College in Srinagar and father of two infant children, has been going through treatment at the Government Psychiatric Diseases Hospital for the last ten years. Medical records seen by Firstpost and the patient profile file number in the hospital describes Dar as “a known patient of a major depressive disorder from last ten years”.
However, despite Dar's family producing medical records to ascertain his innocence, the Kashmir police still went ahead and arrested the alleged accused and slapped the PSA on him.
“His condition in the jail will deteriorate because he needs constant medication, it is long legal battle and proving his innocence will be expensive,” Maimoona, Dar’s, wife told Firstpost. The police denied commenting on this particular case.
CPM MLA from south Kashmir’s Kulgam district, Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami, told Firstpost that such draconian laws were causing the victimisation of youths by alienating and creating resentment among the successive generations of Kashmiri youth. In most of the cases, Tarigami said, the Act was slapped on youth without “grounds being substantive and valid.”
“Slapping a PSA is unnecessary, should be stopped and harassment of the people should be put to an end. This will do no good,” Tarigami, told Firstpost.
Towards the end of August, Hassan Babar Nehru, head of the NGO Ababeel and a lawyer based in the mountains region of Doda in Jammu, was arrested and booked under the PSA. A fierce critic of present the state administration he had, according to his colleague, “exposed” lapses of the district administration by protesting outside Deputy Commissioners office against non-implementation of decisions taken for welfare of the people of the district. “It is an act of vengeance of the administration, nothing else,” Syed Asim Hashmi, president, Doda Bar Association, told Firstpost.
Those who know Nehru, describe him as a passionate aid worker who slept in a truck for five days during the relief carried out in the initial days of 2014 floods in Kashmir. And most recently, he had been involved in evacuating victims of traffic accidents, Doda had the highest rate of road accidents in entire Jammu and Kashmir.
The dossier prepared by the DC against Nehru does not mention current Kashmir unrest anywhere and Shanaza, Nehru’s wife, says he has been even blamed for leading a procession in connection with death of an infant at District Hospital and “communising the situation”. It is another matter that the state government for dereliction of duty suspended the doctor.
Shanaza, said that her husband had never differentiated between Hindus and Muslims when it came to his work and those who have benefited from his relief work have been people from both the communities. “When my husband used to give blood to people who were injured in accidents, he didn't check if his blood was given to Hindus or Muslims. These are politically motivated charges and should be revoked,” she said.
Kashmir's Sheikh Abdullah had introduced Public Safety Act (PSA) in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1978 against timber smuggling, but since then its use has been often been criticised by politicians across the political spectrum. Human rights groups have long called for its abrogation. Despite facing harsh criticism the Jammu and Kashmir government continues to put hundreds of people in jail under the PSA.
Successive governments in the state have used the law to crush dissent and crush political opponents. Last week, one of the most vocal critic of this Act, Human rights activist Khurram Parvez too was arrested under PSA, raising questions over states' use of the controversial laws to deal with the unrest.
Parvez, was arrested on 15 September; earlier he was barred from travelling to Geneva to participate in a UN Human Rights Council session. His work on the mass graves of Kashmir, documentation of Human rights violations in Kashmir has earned him fame across the world. As many as 52 activists, scholars, writers and lawyers have written an open letter demanding his immediate release
Parvez is programme coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, he was not given any reason at the time of his arrest but was set free by a court only to be arrested and slapped with a charge under PSA later. He has been a vociferous critic of the government.
SSP of Srinagar described him as an “anti-social element known for his anti-national activities” and that he has “achieved a prominent position in separatist camps under the hidden cover of being a human rights activist”.
In November 2014, vice-president Hamid Ansari has said that the use of laws such as PSA to commit human rights violations, “reflect poorly on the state and its agents.”
In a recent report, Amnesty said that an estimated 8,000-20,000 people have been detained under the PSA since 1991 in Kashmir. In its report on the law, the rights group organisations says: “Research has showed that the implementation of the PSA is often arbitrary and abusive, with many of those being held having committed no recognizably criminal acts. The PSA’s vague and over-broad provisions facilitate a range of human rights violations in practice.”
Bashir Sidiq, general secretary of Jammu and Kashmir high court bar association said it is most misused law in the state and that he was not surprised that Pervaiz, the rights activist, was not even read the charges against him when arrested.
“It is unique practice here, if the (state government) wants to book you under PSA even if you get bail after an year, you will be again arrested after you come out of the court. They never challenge the bail because the grounds in most of the cases are pathetic,” Sidiq said.
In Kashmir, officials say, over 3200 stone pelters and trouble makers have been arrested by the police since July. Out of these, around 2500 have been released on bail while over 500 are in police and judicial custody and 250 have been booked under PSA.