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Jamaat-e-Islami J&K activists and separatists face prolonged jail, frequent police questioning in the aftermath of Pulwama attack

Pulwama: The family of 35-year old Bilal Ahmad Lone from Nikkas, Pulwama, has not been able to talk to him for over one-and-half month after he was sent to Kot Bhalwal jail in Jammu. A Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir activist, Lone was arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir Police in March following the detention of several members of the separatist organisation on 24 February. Jamaat-e-Islami J&K activists were arrested 10 days after a convoy of CRPF was attacked killing at least 40 of its personnel.

Last month, Bilal's younger brother met him at the jail, but his wife and other family members couldn’t talk to him as cellphones are not allowed inside the prison.

 Jamaat-e-Islami J&K activists and separatists face prolonged jail, frequent police questioning in the aftermath of Pulwama attack

Adfar Jan, wife of Jamaat-e-Islami activists Bilal Ahmad Lone points to his image on her phone. Image courtesy Nisar Ul Haq

Bilal has been imprisoned under the Public Safety Act (PSA), a law under which a person remains incarcerated without trial through an executive order issued by a Deputy Commissioner (DC).

Scores of Jamaat-e-Islami J&K activists along with other separatist leaders, who were arrested after the 14 February attack on the CRPF conoy at Lethpora in the southern district of Pulwama and released on bail, are being re-arrested under fresh cases and also frequently called to police stations, claim their lawyers and human rights activists.

Human rights lawyer, advocate Shafaqat Hussain, said that a number of activists of Jamaat-e-Islami J&K and other separatist organisations have been re-arrested after fresh cases were filed against them despite the fact that courts released them on bail.

"I have been pleading some 40 cases of Jamaat-e-Islami J&K activists and other separatist activists. We have been challenging their detention. They are being arrested on spurious grounds. The cases are registered against them under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), some sections of which deny bail for many months. There are also those who have been imprisoned under the PSA," he said.

Bilal’s wife, Adfar Jan, said that she was worried about her husband’s health as doctors had removed his gall bladder to treat him for gallstones few months before his arrest. She informs that her husband was also required to take medicines regularly for a thyroid disorder.

"I have not been able to speak to him and I don’t know whether he takes medicines. My whole life has turned upside down. I have to take care of two children, who miss their father. Our financial condition has worsened after my husband’s arrest," said Adfar at her house. Her face was covered with a headscarf during the interview.

Bilal was running a shop where he sold wood panels and wallpaper in Pulwama town, which lied only few miles away from his home. The shop now remains mostly shut after his arrest. "The shop is opened only for some days by Bilal’s younger brother,” said Adfar. She said that her husband was not even brought for regular hearings in the courts in connection with the case.

Deputy Commissioner, Pulwama, Syed Abid Rashid Shah, said that he was not aware of the exact number of PSA orders issued from his office, but he said that it was for the police's responsibility to ensure regular hearings.

Sixty-one-year-old Mehraj Azeem, a resident of Nishat area of Srinagar, has filed a petition before the Jammu and Kashmir High Court against the ban on Jamaat-e-Islami J&K and the subsequent arrest its activists and leaders. The court, in the last week of March, had issued a notice to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to respond with a reply over the petition against the ban. Counsel for the petitioner, advocate Syed Musaib, said that they are still awaiting a reply.

In the writ petition, Azeem described the ban as a precedent of the British era colonial regime in India as well as the post-Emergency regime of Indira Gandhi-led Congress government in India.

"The Jamaat-e-Islami J&K has been in existence for more than six decades with the sole intent of socio-religious well-being of the society,” read the petition while mentioning the help Jamaat-e-Islami J&K volunteers rendered during the floods in Jammu and Kashmir in 2014.

On 23 February, nine days after the attack on CRPF convoy, authorities arrested Sanaullah Mir, 59, former Pulwama district president of Tehreek-i-Hurriyat (TeH), a separatist organisation led by Hurriyat (G) chairman, Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Mir was released after over a month-long arrest and jail, before he was summoned again in April and questioned by the sleuths of National Investigation Agency (NIA) in Pulwama about receiving funds from "separatists".

Mir, who was a Jamaat-e-Islami J&K activist before he crossed the border for weapons training as a Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) militant in Pakistan in the early 90s, has faced frequent questioning after the convoy attack.

Sanaullah Mir, former Pulwama district president of Tehreek-i-Hurriyat (TeH), was questioned by NIA despite being released by the court. Image courtesy: Nisar Ul Haq

Sanaullah Mir, former Pulwama district president of Tehreek-i-Hurriyat (TeH), was questioned by NIA despite being released by the court. Image courtesy: Nisar Ul Haq

"I was summoned by the police and questioned by the NIA in Pulwama. I was asked from where did I get money. I told the officials that I was not even able to manage a living and that I had to sell my ancestral land after our financial condition turned bad. I was associated with the TeH earlier, but I gave up the post due to my poor health,” he said.

“The forces levelled false charges on me accusing that I had attended the funeral of a militant,” he added, while closely holding one of his paralysed arms in the other hand.

Days before the elections on 6 May in Pulwama district, Abdul Rashid Dar, 50, a member of separatist organisation of People’s League (PL) was arrested from his village of Kulpora in Pulwama, and lodged for several days at a police station. He said that after his release, he was repeatedly called up by the security forces and asked to give up his association with the PL.

"I am being constantly questioned for my association with my organisation and told that I should renounce it," he added.

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Updated Date: May 17, 2019 19:57:52 IST