SILENCING KASHMIR WITH PUBLIC SAFETY ACT (PSA)
Discussion in ‘Kashmir War’ started by
May 29, 2018
The incident of hate crime against Muslim community by Hindus in Kashmir came forward in January 2018 where a 7 year old girl was continuously sedated and gang raped for 4 days before being murdered by a retired government official and accompanying police officers. The use of pellet guns against protesting civilians in Kashmir since 2016 by Indian Army made headlines internationally when the issue was raised by Pakistan envoy in the UN. A separate documentary titled “Ocean of tears” covered the hushed up mass human rights violations of India in Kunan Poshpura where hundreds of women and girls aged 8-82 were raped by Indian army in the middle of the night. “A lawless law”, report published by Amnesty International targeted the topic of Public Safety Act (PSA) and how it has been used to constantly violate human rights through illegal detention.
Needless to say, the gross human rights violations in Indian held Kashmir are many as noted by a number of HR watchdogs and organizations worldwide. More disturbing is the protection being offered to these violators by the Indian government. India has recurrently failed to fulfill the legal obligation of protecting citizen, being a signatory of the universal declaration of human rights. It is also perturbing that India has been unable to preserve statutory principles within the country that are mandated by its own constitution.
Post partition, Indian government took a hardline stance for the disputed territory of Kashmir by approving such acts and laws that would help the state quell any uprising and dissenting in the valley against illegal Indian rule. Acts such as Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Public Safety Act (PSA), Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA) and National Security Act (NSA) have been the point of debate both internationally and nationally. These acts enable security forces to trespass the rights of people without accountability leading to gross human rights violations such as extra judicial killing, forced disappearances, arbitrary arrest and detention, custodial deaths and harassment of public through torture, rape and subjugation. Civilians booked under these acts are also deprived of basic human rights to legal counsel and appeal against conviction etc.
The impunity enjoyed by Indian armed and security forces has prompted many human rights activists, politicians and ordinary civilians in Kashmir to raise their voices against Indian barbarity. Many of these people have been illegally detained and tortured by security personnel. As per government records 6,000 people have been detained under preventive custody and more than 400 under the PSA, the act which empowers the government to detain a person without trial for two years under the ploy of preservation of public order. The lack of central record keeping has made it difficult to verify the actual number of those in custody ,however, Amnesty International estimates that the 8000-20000 people have been booked under PSA to “put them out of circulation” (Amnesty International).
Shabir Ahmed Shah is one such daring human rights activist / politician of Kashmir who has spent 25 years in and out of different jails under the PSA since 1989. Shah gained popularity as the leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party during the 1989 uprising in Kashmir against illegal barbaric Indian rule, demanding a free Kashmir. His ability to rally people for the Kashmir freedom movement cause threatened the hold of India in the valley, prompting authorities to doctor a false case of money laundering and subsequently booking him under the PSA (Amnesty International). Shah, when not in jail, has been held under house arrest arbitrarily for the sole reason of expressing his political views peacefully.
Shah is one of many who have faced the brunt of PSA exploitation in Kashmir by security forces and police that arrest and detain anyone they deem a threat without judicial scrutiny. Without trails or charge, these detainees are often deprived of their constitutional rights to appear in front of a Magistrate within 24 hours of arrest, fair trial in public, access to counsel, cross examination of the witnesses, appeal against conviction, and protection from being tried under retrospective application of law. For those whose detention grounds are quashed by the high court, the authorities will often book them under PSA again leading to a vicious cycle of never ending PSA booking for the person regardless of their innocence and lack of substantial proof. So far no efforts have been made to contest unfair cyclic PSA bookings by the state or judiciary.
PSA is a patently, manifestly and demonstrably unconstitutional no-exit strategy employed to “break the will” of those who in Kashmir who dissent against the Indian government, army and state institutions. More than 750 habeas corpus petitions were filed from June 2016 to February 2017, after many Kashmiri men were detained in connection to the unrest caused by the death of freedom fighter Burhan Wani. Plaintiffs argue that the security forces are on a witch-hunt as many detained people are innocent of the accusations levied against them. List of those detained illegally include lawyers, politicians, activists, district level workers and young boys and men, all under the pretext of causing disorder and inciting anti-state sentiments in the public which lead to resistance.
The PSA validates vague grounds for detention and thus endorses the reign of terror. Without judicial and legal scrutiny, the handlers of justice are given a free hand to harass, intimidate, sabotage and subjugate those fighting for their voice and freedom in Kashmir. Men and boys are thrown in jails and subjected to brutality and inhumanity on the pretext that they have contributed to and incited anti-state sentiments in the public that have consequently led to resistance and dissent. It is imperative that the world community stops ignoring the 70 year old plight of Kashmiri people and address the systematic abuse and suffering going on in Kashmir at the hands of the Indian government, security forces and state institutions. Only when a people cease to be seen through the eye glass of religion, color and politics can peace become prevalent and the rights preserved.