Families demand release of Kashmiri political detainees
Srinagar, March 14, 2020 (PPI-OT): In occupied Kashmir, the family members of Kashmiri political detainees, who have been languishing in different jails of India and the territory since repeal of Kashmir’s special status in August 2019, have expressed concern in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak that has gripped the entire world.
Human rights activists, advocates and families have demanded immediate release of their kin on humanitarian grounds. “The threat of the coronavirus epidemic increases the risk to the health and safety for political prisoners, who should never have been imprisoned in the first place,” said Michael Page, Middle East Deputy Director at the Human Rights Watch.
Thousands of youth, political leaders and activists were detained when BJP-led government scrapped special status of Kashmir and divided it into two union territories on August 05, last year. The demand for releasing the prisoners comes after Iran released over 70,000 prisoners because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The 58-year-old Ateeka Bano said that the Indian government should have mercy on their kin now and release them on humanitarian grounds. Ateeka’s son, Faisal Aslam Mir, is currently lodged in Ambedkar Nagar jailin the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. She said that her anxiety grew after she came to know that the deadly virus is spreading in many states of India.
Faisal Aslam, who is a 30-year-old businessman and the lone bread earner of the family, was booked under the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA), immediately after his arrest on August 5 and was shifted to a prison in Uttar Pradesh, some 1200 km away from home.
Zamrooda’s son, Asif Ahmed Khushoo, 22, was arrested on August 5 last year and booked under the PSA and transferred to a jail in Agra, some 1,600 kilometres away from his home in Srinagar. She said, they are planning to hold a protest demonstration outside the high court to press the authorities for release of the prisoners in the wake of the outbreak. “Indian authorities should release all prisoners,” she added.
Families of other prisoners echoed similar concerns and said that they were concerned about their kids in detention. “We know what the conditions of jails in India are – unhygienic conditions with poor medical facilities. Our loved ones have every chance to get infected,” said Nazir Ahmed Khan, whose son, Momin Nazir Khan, is currently lodged in Ambedkar Nagar jail in Uttar Pradesh.
Momin was detained on August 6, 2019, under PSA on the charges of ‘stone-pelting’ and then lodged in the UP jail. The President of Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK), Dr Nisar-ul-Hassan, in an interview said when any virus is in the community and people are in crowded places, there is every chance of people getting infected in large numbers. “So we have to avoid gatherings and places like jails with more than a dozen people inside. So they need to be isolated,” he said, adding poor unhygienic conditions inside jails can prove to be fatal in these times.
Parvaiz Imroz, renowned Kashmiri human rights defender, believes that the current scenario may take a toll on the mental health of Kashmiri prisoners. “First they are lodged in far away jails and now as the virus is spreading in many states of India, it might take a toll on their mental health, so the government should at least shift them back to Kashmir,” he said.
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