ACT OF INJUSTICE

  • Aamir Ali Bhat
  • Publish Date: Oct 28 2017 1:44AM
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  • Updated Date: Oct 28 2017 1:44AM
ACT OF INJUSTICE

How the Public Safety Act has wrecked four families in Anantnag

 

The Public Safety Act, that blackest of oppressive laws, continues to wreck lives in Kashmir. 

The Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act was passed in 1978. It allows the government to detain any person above 18 without trial for three or six months. Among its latest victims are four men from Anantnag district, who have been bundled off to the notorious Kathua Jail. This is the story of their ordeal.

 

 Irfan Ahmad Khan, 25 

Irfan Ahmad Khan, of Laizbal Locality, was detained on July 1, 2017, allegedly for trying to disrupt the operation in which Laskar-e-Toiba commander Bashir Wani and his associate Abu Maaz were killed at Breenthi. He was booked under the PSA on August 10 and moved to Kathua Jail from Saddar Police Station, Anantnag.

Irfan’s father Bashir Ahmad Khan, 46, a mechanic, rejects the charges. “When Bashir Lashkari got killed, Irfan went for his funeral prayers. He was detained and taken to Sadder Police Station,” Bashir says. “I went to the SSP office several times but every time they told me Irfan will be released today or tomorrow. Finally, the SSP promised me and my wife that our son will be released two days after August 15. But then he was booked under PSA on August 10 and shifted to Jammu.”

His family also alleges that before being taken to the police station from Breenthi, Irfan was beaten up mercilessly. “They broke his elbow. He was bleeding profusely. They removed his t-shirt and wrapped it around his head. Then they put him up on the front of a jeep and paraded him through the village,” says Irfan’s mother Amina Khan, 45.

The police’s dossier on him states that Irfan has several FIRs against him, some dating to 2011. This is the second PSA to be slapped on him in the past 18 months; the first was in December 2015 when he was arrested from home for allegedly involved in stone throwing, anti-national activities and “espousing an extremist ideology”. That time, he had been jailed for seven months until August 2016. “I remember it was 17 days after Burhan Wani was martyred in July 2016 that I received a call from Janglatmandi Police Station at around 2 in the morning telling me Irfan was being released. It was late at night and the situation was tense. I was scared, but I went to the station and got my son back,” says Bashir.

Before his incarceration under the PSA also, Irfan had spent time in different jails of Anantnag. “Whenever we succeeded in getting him out of jail, he was immediately arrested by police from another station. Even after he was released from his PSA detention after six months, he was arrested again and held at Achabal Police Station,” says Bashir.

Irfan recently sent a letter from Kathua Jail. “My dear parents, I am good here,” it reads. “I am ashamed you have to face ample problems because of me. In this age I should be with you. You came to meet me recently and I felt very happy. Don’t worry about me. I am good. If any sadness is giving me pain, it is your absence. I offer prayers five time daily. Sometimes I read the Quran. And every day after the Asar prayer, I play cricket. Dear parents, your happiness is my happiness. It is mentioned in Hadith that Allah never rejects a parent’s prayers. My dear parents, keep praying for me.”

“Irfan is saying all this just to make me feel comfortable,” Amina says, referring to the letter. “He does not want me to worry. But how is that possible?”

 

 

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 Atif Hassan Sheikh, 29 

 

Atif Hassan Sheikh, a resident of Deva Colony in Anantnag town, was detained on July 15, 2017 as he was leaving the Anantnag District Court after a hearing in an old case against him. He was taken to Sadder Police Station and, after 10 days, shifted to Kathua Jail.

Atif, father of a 4-year-old, had been booked under the PSA – for the second time since 2010 – on August 16, 2016 he was slapped with 2nd PSA and declared absconding. “He always managed to give the police the slip whenever they came to arrest him,” says Atif’s father Sheikh Ghulam Hassan, 70, a retired government official. “They detained me twice so that Arif would be forced to give himself up.”

Apart from the PSA, the police dossier on Atif lists 52 FIRs against him, some from as far back as 2008. In the PSA chargesheet, he is accused of “instigating” youth through social media to prevent them from joining “mainstream ideology”, promoting pro-Pakistan ideology, and inciting stone-throwing by young men in Anantnag. 

“Whenever some incident happened in Islamabad, he would always be detained,” says Atif’s friend Khalid Fayaz Mir. “He was slapped with the PSA in 2016, but he was never summoned by a court. But the state needs melodrama and that is what they did arresting him while he had gone to court. About 50 policemen came with two mobile bunkers and made a show of arresting him. Why didn’t they arrest him at home? Why did they take six months to find up? He had to gone to Jammu and Delhi for a while but he was home most of the time and no one approached him. What is the state trying to prove,” Khalid continues.

This is Atif’s second stint in Kathua Jail. A year after he got married in 2009, he was booked under the PSA and jailed in Kathua for 8 months. “After he was released from his first PSA, he was frequently detained for 2-3 months. I have lost count of how many times he has been jailed,” says Ghulam Hassan.

 

 

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 Gowher Ahmad Sheikh, 37 

On September 18, 2017, Gowher Ahmad Sheikh, a resident of Sarnal Bala, was summoned to Sadder Police Station. He was detained and the next morning booked under PSA and shifted to Kathua Jail.

He is accused of being an Underground Worker of Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba, a charge his family denies.

Gowher, father to daughters Areena Gowher, 7, and Areeba Gowher, 4, was working as a Sales Marketing Manager with a private company in Anantnag before his arrest. 

“My son was repeatedly summoned and harassed by the police,” says Gowher’s father Ghulam Nabi Sheikh, 68, a retired Public and Health Engineering employee. “On September 18, the police again summoned him for questioning. But this time they detained him at Sadder Police station and next morning, without informing us, they shifted him to Kathua Jail. Now his daughters keep asking us the same question everyday, ‘Where is Papa?’”

Gowher’s uncle Sheikh Mushtaq Ahmad, 45, adds, “By calling him regularly and asking unnecessary questions, the police psychologically tortured Gowher. One week before Gowher was slapped with the PSA, he was detained for four days at Sadder Police Station. The police called me on the 4th day and told me they were releasing Gowher because he was ill. When I went to the police station, I found him writhing in pain. He had a kidney problem, low blood pressure and dehydration. They did not even take him to hospital. I got him released and took him to hospital.”

Gowher was first arrested by the police in October 2015 and charged under the PSA for sheltering militants. He was held in the infamous Cargo Camp in Srinagar. “We had a guest from my father’s side,” Gowher’s mother Haleema Akhtar, 66, recalls the events that led to that arrest. “His wife had been hospitalised at Sherbagh hospital and he was staying with us for the night. He is Gowher’s age. Past midnight, government forces came and searched our house. When they didn’t find anything, they tagged our guest as a militant. If he was indeed a militant and Gowhar was sheltering him, then why didn’t they arrest both of them right there? Why did they tell my son to reach the police station the next day?”

In that first PSA chargesheet, Gowher was also accused of possessing a grenade. “If they found a grenade in our house that night, why didn’t they arrest him on the spot. Also if our guest was a militant, why was he released after 15 days and Gowher was detained for four months. He was mercilessly tortured during those four months in Cargo. He is completely dependent on medicines now,” says Mushtaq.

 

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 Khursheed Ahmad lone, 47 

On September 23, 2017, Khursheed Ahmad Lone aka Kaka Lone, of Qazi Bagh in Anantnag town, was arrested from home and detained at Sadder Police Station. Six days later, he was booked under the PSA and sent to Kathua Jail.

“It was Saturday night, around midnight, when the Special Task Force barged into our house,” Khursheed’s wife Rizwana, 38, recalls. “They did not even take off their shoes. They searched our house and arrested my husband.” 

“How anyone can barge inside anybody’s home without informing them, that too late at night,” Rizwana asks. “My daughters and I were sleeping. These people have no respect for women and girls, they can do anything. Is there anybody to hold them accountable?” 

The family says the police had been harassing Khursheed for months and pressuring him to be their informer. “They would ask him to tell them the names of stone-throwers, militants and protesters. The last time he was summoned to Sadder Police Station, he told them angrily, ‘Feed my family, give me a salary so that I can provide education to my children and then I will work for you as an informer’. This is why he was arrested,” says his mother Zaina Begum, 80. 

Khursheed spent seven years in jail until 2011 for allegedly involved in grenade blast which took place near Women’s college, K.P. Road in which he himself lost his one eye. Partly as a result of that, he suffers from a range of ailments, including asthma, piles and joint pain. And he is blind in one eye, the result of an injury sustained in a grenade blast near Anantnag’s Women’s College in 2003. He has had two surgeries, the last to remove the gall bladder.

“He was scheduled to go on Haj with his mother that year,” Rizwana says. “He had gone to fetch some clothes he had given for stitching. There was a grenade blast and he was seriously injured. He lost sight in his right eye in the blast, yet he was charged with being involved in it.” 

That was the first time Khursheed was booked under the PSA. He was released after a year, only to be arrested again and sent to Central Jail, Srinagar, for three years. Later, he also spent 11 months in District Jail, Anantnag. “Whenever anything happened in Islamabad, my son became the first target of the police. In the last 18 years, he has been in and out of jail,” says Zaina Begum.

Khursheed, father to three sons and two daughters, is his family’s sole breadwinner. “We have a cement brick making unit in Anantnag. Recently, my husband had also bought six cows to open a small dairy farm, but now we don’t know what to do,” Rizwana says. “He is innocent. He was always busy with his business. How could he have gotten involved in unlawful activities?”

Khursheed’s mother says, “This is not punishment for my son, who is innocent. It is punishment for me. I am 80 years old. But almost every day, I have to go from one officer to another to seek justice for my son, walking on my cane. And every day I return with false promises, broken.”