In 2010, Inaam Hussain, a 19-year-old boy, was standing outside his father’s shop in Srinagar’s uptown when a police vehicle whizzed through the dusty road and abruptly stopped, while the cops jumped out to catch the boys who threw stones on the police during the months-long protests against the series of killings in Kashmir.
The stone pelters, who had assembled in the main market area, gave the slip. Enraged over missing the catch, the cops chased the other bystanders, including Inaam. In a hurry, Inaam entered the compound of a nearby mosque to save himself from possibly being thrashed and arrested by the angry cops, but failed as he tried to climb over a wall to the other side of the mosque. Inaam was caught and booked under the black law called Public Safety Act (PSA), within hours of his arrest. Inaam spent the next few months in Kot Balwal Jail in the Udhampur district of Jammu region.
It took his family months to get his PSA quashed and subsequently release him from jail. Since then, he attends court regularly in relation to the other charges he was booked for. Years later, Inaam was offered a job in compensation for the land taken by the Indian Railways, which required him to obtain an NOC from the police, before he could join the service. Since there was a case pending against him in the police station, he had to pay a hefty amount as bribe to get the clearance certificate from the police for his job. All thanks to the ‘draconian’ Public Safety Act.
Like Inaam, hundreds of boys in Kashmir share a similar story.
The Jammu and Kashmir government on Friday revealed that it had arrested a total of 133 people under the provisions of PSA in the last one year, out of which 53 people are still languishing in different jails in the state.
“A total of 133 persons were arrested under the provisions of PSA and other Acts in 2015. Out of these, 80 people have been released or deported while 53 are still in jails. Three of the PSA detainees have been taken to the jails outside the state,” the government said in the state Assembly, on Friday.
The figures reveal how the state deals with the dissenters — with an iron hand, according to a human rights activist. The government also said it has arrested around 800 people in Kashmir in 2015; Srinagar topped the list with 337 arrests.
“Since January 2015 and January 2016, a total of 799 people across Kashmir were arrested. All except one person have been released,” the government said.
The government said that 337 people were arrested in Srinagar, 122 in Shopian, 15 in Budgam, 22 in Ganderbal, 70 in Baramulla, 34 in Kupwara, 13 in Kulgam, 10 in Bandipora, and 86 in Pulwama, in the last one year. Earlier in the month, the government said 199 youngsters were arrested in north Kashmir’s Palhallan village in the last nine years. Jammu and Kashmir spends an amount of Rs 18.34 crore annually on prisoners in different jails.
It is pertinent to mention that Hurriyat leader Masarat Alam has been slapped with 32 PSAs over the years. Similarly, hundreds of youngsters have been arrested under PSA, since the mass uprising in Kashmir in 2008.
The human rights group, Amnesty International, has termed the Public Safety Act as a “lawless law” and has advocated for its scrapping. In a recent report, Amnesty said that an estimated 8,000-20,000 people have been detained under the PSA since 1991 in Kashmir.
Amnesty in its report said: “Research has showed that the implementation of the PSA is often arbitrary and abusive, with many of those being held having committed no recognisably criminal acts. The PSA’s vague and over-broad provisions facilitate a range of human rights violations in practice.”
The Vice-President Hamid Ansari has, in November 2014, said that the use of laws such as PSA to commit human rights violations, “reflect poorly on the state and its agents.”
The human rights organisations and civil society groups have been calling for the scrapping of this law under which a person can be detained for up to two years in jail without any trial. Despite facing harsh criticism, the Jammu and Kashmir government continues to put hundreds of people in jail under PSA.