'Feel unsafe at home': J&K residents accuse security forces of raiding houses, arresting 'innocent' Kashmiri youth under Public Safety Act

  • The slapping of Public Safety Act (PSA) on over 150 youths from Kashmir for indulging in stone-pelting on security forces has fuelled anger in the Valley

  • Muneer-Ul-Islam, a resident of Karimabad area of Pulwama, was detained by security forces on 8 August; he has been sent to Agra jail

  • Residents say that they feel unsafe in their homes as the army has been raising houses in the night; a woman was beten up during one such incident

Srinagar: The slapping of Public Safety Act (PSA) on over 150 youths from Kashmir for indulging in stone-pelting on security forces has fuelled anger in the Valley and has left people, especially women, frightened. Labelled as a draconian law, the PSA has often faced widespread opposition from the residents of Kashmir.

Muneer-Ul-Islam, a resident of Karimabad area of Pulwama, was detained by security forces on 8 August. He was taken to Central Jail in Srinagar before being shifted to a jail in Agra.

Muneer’s mother Rubeena said that around 2 am on 8 August, security forces entered their house and took Muneer away. On 14 August, the family received information of Muneer’s detention under PSA issued by the District Magistrate of Pulwama. Rubeena argued that she won’t be able to visit her son in the jail in Agra, and claimed that she wasn’t allowed to meet him at Pulwama police station when he was detained.

 Feel unsafe at home: J&K residents accuse security forces of raiding houses, arresting innocent Kashmiri youth under Public Safety Act

Representational image. AP

“My son is innocent,” she claimed.

Though Muneer’s family members approached the Jammu and Kashmir home department requesting them to not send their son to Agra, their appeal was turned down.

Since its introduction in 1978, the PSA was employed by the ruling government against political opponents till 1990, and then to suppress separatists. Currently, it allows the government to detain anyone over the age of 16 without a trial for a maximum of two years.

Earlier, the PSA allowed the forces to detain individuals within the state, but it was amended in August 2018 to allow individuals to be detained outside the state as well. In 2016, after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, hundreds of youths were detained under the PSA. Several international human rights organisations, such as the United Nations and Amnesty International have objected to the arbitrary use of the Act.

Twenty-year-old Mamoom Rasool, a resident of Karimabad area of Pulwama and the brother of a slain militant, was also taken away on 8 August during a night raid and detained under PSA.

“The army and Special Operation Group (SPG) searched our house during the night of 8 August when we were sleeping and detained my son,” said Ghulam Rasool Pandith, Mamoom’s father. Mamoom is a student of BA second year at Government Degree College Pulwama. His family was informed that their son had been sent to Agra.

Ghulam stated that there is no FIR filed against Mamoom and he had never been held before, and that caused the family members to wonder why he was detained under the PSA.

As per local sources, five youths, including the two from Pulwama, were sent to a jail in Agra on 8 August. Two of them were released later.

Unsafe at home, says resident

Detention of Kashmiris under the PSA since the abrogation of Article 370 on 5 August has fuelled anger and tension in Karimabad, a village in Pulwama district, and adjoining areas.

A resident of Karimabad said she is scared and feels unsafe at her own home. She added that owing to the fear people don’t go out after six in the evening.

On 24 August, two residential houses were raided, and a woman was reportedly beaten by the Indian Army at Daramdora village in Keegam of Shopian district.

Mushtaq Ahmad Hurra, the owner of one of the two houses, claimed that his daughter was beaten when she raised the alarm while the army was raiding their house. He added that the security forces even damaged household items.

“If they came to search the house, they could have done it, but they beat our daughter and slapped her. This is very unfortunate. We are not even secure in our houses,” he alleged.

Another house that belongs to Bashir Ahmad Wani of Daramdora was also raided by the army. "They came at 1 pm and told us that laws have been changed and that the law is in their hands now,” he claimed.

Wani said the rice stored at the house was scattered by the security forces and many items like batteries and refrigerator were damaged.

Wani and Hurra said two youths from their families went to Saudia Arabia in 2017 to work as labourers, but neither one of them have returned or contacted their respective families since then.

Wani alleged that while raiding their house, the army also took away the clothes of his son, who is in Saudi Arabia. A group of residents of the village have registered a complaint at the nearby police station against the raids.

Raids despite no disturbances

Local residents said they have been told that they are only allowed to say morning (fajr) prayers in the mosques and are disallowed from entering their places of worship at other times.

At Keegam, the residents claimed that the army has asked them not to even announce azaan on loudspeakers during the daytime.

"On the day of Eid-ul-Azha, they told many villagers to disclose what type of animals they were going to sacrifice. However, we avoided divulging any details out of fear of the wrath we may invite,” said a local resident, who didn’t wish to be named.

He said not a single untoward incident has taken place in the area, and despite that, the army is entering and raiding houses in the area during the night leaving the residents frightened.

“Youths are being picked by the army. They are beaten to a pulp. This must be stopped,” said a resident of Tral, wishing anonymity.

When asked about the raids on houses, a Srinagar-based police spokesperson said the district police authorities in Shopian will look into the matter.

“We have brought it to the notice of the concerned Superintendent of Police. He will look into the matter,” he said.

The author is a Srinagar-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com

Updated Date: Aug 29, 2019 18:33:34 IST