By Naveed Iqbal
Since 2019, the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) administration has booked over 2,300 people in more than 1,200 cases under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and 954 people under the Public Safety Act (PSA). Of these, 46 per cent of those booked under UAPA and about 30 per cent of those detained under PSA are still in jail, both inside and outside J&K.
According to official police data reviewed by The Indian Express, 699 people were detained under PSA in 2019, and 160 in 2020. In 2021, 95 people were detained under PSA till July-end. Of these, 284 continue to remain under detention.
In the first 30 days after J&K’s special status was revoked on August 5, 2019, at least 290 people were booked under PSA, including former Chief Ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti. According to government sources, at least 250 people booked under this law were from Kashmir region.
Of the 2,364 people arrested under UAPA, 918 were held in 437 cases in 2019, 953 people in 557 cases in 2020, and 493 in 275 cases till July-end this year (249 cases in Kashmir, 26 in Jammu). Of these, 1,100 continue to remain in custody.
While the number of PSA cases showed a marked decrease in 2020, the number of UAPA cases increased. This is a “shift on the part of the police to book individuals under the more stringent law instead of PSA, which required regular extensions of custody,” said a legal expert.
Meanwhile, according to official sources, over 5,500 people were taken into preventive custody under Section 107 of the CrPC in 2019. Home department sources said all of them have since been released.
At the June 24 meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, the political leadership from the Valley had sought the release of prisoners booked under these stringent laws as a confidence building measure with a view to restarting political engagement with J&K.
Speaking to The Indian Express, PDP spokesperson Suhail Bukhari said, “On the one hand, there is an effort to portray a major change in the situation on the ground, while so many people are under detention. On the other hand, the central government links statehood to normalcy in Parliament. Only one of these situations can be true.”
“They should consider releasing these prisoners or moving those outside the state to within J&K so that their families can at least meet them,” said National Conference provincial president Nasir Aslam Wani.
The Sajad Lone-led People’s Conference has also questioned the continued detentions under stringent laws. “The detention of thousands of people from Kashmir under stringent national security laws is a grim reminder of the changelessness in the security scenario in the Valley. Contrary to the claims made by the Centre regarding improved law and order situation, the sheer number of people booked under UAPA and PSA in the last two years is alarming and worrisome,” said party spokesperson Adnan Ashraf.
Meanwhile, on the second anniversary of J&K’s transition to a Union territory, the administration on Wednesday released a report, “Jammu & Kashmir – marching to a new tune, towards prosperity, progress & peace”, on the steps taken to improve the ground situation and extension of government schemes. According to the report, 41.05 lakh domicile certificates have been issued in J&K, including over 15 lakh in Kashmir. Of these, 55,931 certificates were issued to West Pakistan refugees, 2,754 to Valmikis, and 789 to Gorkhas in J&K.
This story first appeared on indianexpress.com