Views from Srinagar
Malik Babar Bilal
THE Vale of Kashmir has been at the heart of a bitter dispute between the nuclear armed states of India and Pakistan. As both the countries lay claim over the territory, the will of its people has constantly been smothered over the last 70 years. It is not only the will and aspirations that have taken the back seat, but the rights and freedoms of the Kashmiris too have been grossly violated. On the Indian-held side the Indian forces have carried out human rights violations of the gravest nature with near-impunity. Their morale and appetite to kill has been strengthened by the defenders of their actions sitting in New Delhi, who are busy passing laws after laws in order to give a free hand to them so as to kill, maim, rape and torture Kashmiris and eventually suppress their freedom movement.
One of the many such laws brought in force by the State Government of J&K at the behest of the Indian State is the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act of 1978. Condemned by Amnesty International as a “Lawless Law”, the PSA is still being used in full force against the Kashmiri people.
While a number of laws in J&K allow for so-called “Preventive Detention”, the Public Safety Act is most commonly used. Preventive detention is also provided for in other forms such as house arrest as well as section 107 read with section 151 of the Jammu and Kashmir Code of Criminal Procedure. As the period of permissible detention is limited in these provisions, due to the furnishing of personal bond/bail, they are mostly used in J&K, only to detain individuals while the paperwork for the PSA detention orders or criminal charges are being prepared. The chapter IV of the PSA titled “Power to make orders detaining certain persons,” regulates such detentions. This chapter states that the PSA provides for detention for a maximum of 2 years.
In Union of India VS. Paul Nanickan and Anr., the Supreme Court of India held: “The object of Preventive Detention is not to punish a man for having done something, but to intercept him before he does it and to prevent him from doing it”.
I must take the opportunity to facilitate and appreciate the Indian Government and the wider establishment for being so conscious and concerned about India’s “national security”, and for leaving no stone unturned in safe-guarding it – Even if it means imprisoning more than 20,000 people including little kids merely on the basis of suspicion under so-called “necessary” provisions. In striking similarity to this, provisions which allow for Preventive Detention (like PSA) in India, date back to the British Imperialist rule in the early 1800’s and then continued with such laws as the Defence of India Act 1939 and the Preventive Detention Act of 1950.
Now the irony is that while these laws were in practice in British India, the Indian people rose up in arms against them and openly termed them as “Barbaric, Irrational and Inhumane”. They were dubbed as “Black laws” and were seen as pillars of injustice. One might have thought that when India became independent, it would immediately revoke all such draconian laws and that the Indian establishment’s eyes would not be glistening with the ghosts of their past. Sadly, that did not happen and it hasn’t happened even till today.
Indian school-children are made aware of the grave effects and ramifications that the British colonial laws had on the oppressed Indian people, but are never told of what the PSA has done to the people of Kashmir; how it has destroyed the lives of thousands of people; not only the ones detained under it, but also the families of those detainees. They are not told of the mothers who have waited for years together on the doors of their houses hoping against hope that one day their sons would return. Neither are they told the stories of little children like themselves who have never even seen their fathers let alone receive their love and affection. The wives or half widows whose lives have absolutely been destroyed and who are forced to work tirelessly to make both ends meet in the absence of their husbands. But really the answer to all this is pretty obvious. They are not informed about all these facts and realities, only because it would threaten the “National Security of India”. I, quite frankly fail to understand what this word “National Security” really means, because it provides no security either to the people of Kashmir or to the people of India. And then if any sane and humane activist from India tries to speak up for the rights of Kashmiri people, sedition charges are slapped on him/her; also in the very name of “National Security.
In the past two and a half months alone, the Indian Government has booked around 419 people under PSA and 1670 others under the wider umbrella of “Preventive Custody”. Just a few days back a prominent Human Rights activist Khurram Parvez was booked under this draconian law and was shifted to the infamous Kot Bhalwal jail in Jammu. As I have mentioned above, PSA is claimed to be used only against people disrupting the public peace and order. I wonder what a rights activist could possibly do to disrupt public peace and order. Perhaps by intending to expose Indian brutalities in front of the UNHCR in Geneva. Who knows?
I think it is high time for the fatigue-prone International Community to step in and intervene so as to make efforts towards the revocation of this fateful act which has destroyed the lives of thousands and still continues to do so. As for the Indian people, my sole and valiant request would be to view Kashmiris as victims of such oppressive laws, in the same way they view their ancestors, so that this ironical discrimination finally ends.
[The writer is a student of Burn Hall School, Srinagar]