Slapping life sentences

            On 10th of December Kashmiris observed hartal on the call of pro-resistance  leadership. The strike, which received mammoth support from people was held in protest against the recent life sentences of two Kashmiri youth.

            On December 3, Nazir Ahmad Sheikh and Showkat Ahmad were sentenced lifer by a TADA court in Jammu. Both have spent around fifteen years in jail.

            Last November the J&K High Court refused to release Muslim League chairman Dr. Qasim Faktoo after 20 years of detention, saying life sentence meant ‘imprisonment for entire life and not just 14 years’.

            There are some twenty nine cases which show Kashmiris are rotting behind the iron bars for the last ten to twenty years. Earlier there was a proper rule for slapping life sentence. It could have not exceeded fourteen years. In fact in many cases life-sentence meant even less, 10 years. The practice was in place for past hundred years. But now all of a sudden, the meaning of the lifers was changed and now it meant imprisonment till death. Die in jail sentence is soft-ware capital punishment. While in latter case the convict is relieved of “agony” of perishing in jails for years and years, life sentence kills the convict from within. The pain of loneliness cripples him with no hope of release. It takes life even though it is in circulation. It snatches the warmth of reunion and encrypts gangrene of despair.

            Human rights groups and Kashmir Bar Association have many a time voiced their strong concern on the plight of prisoners in state and outside state in different parts of India. Advocate Bashir Sidiq was a member of High Court Bar Association that visited various prisons across the state recently. The delegation found excruciatingly bad the condition of prisoners . ‘Some had even lost their names and could not remember their names.’ (GK, 11 December 2012). That quote is enough to make us grasp what hell kashmiri youth have been sucked in. Read the jail diary ‘My days in Tihar’ by Syed Iftikhar Geelani, a prominent journalist and Kashmir Times Bureau Chief Srinagar and reporter of Voice of Germany, every page of the book will make you shudder. You will see how in the name of Indian secularism and democracy Indian state casts itself in the mould of a Hindutwa Nation whose every organ stinks discrimination and in-built vengeance against minorities in particular Muslims. That such a nerve-breaking “shock-treatment” (to buy phrase from RSS supremo) was accorded to a journalist who was not remotely connected with Kashmir struggle or militancy, hellish-life of others carrying such a tag can well be understood.

             The judgments courts are giving against Kashmiris in comparison with judgments they give in rest of India reveal the bias, non-seriousness and injustice. Such judgments have been pronounced (Afzal Guru’s case) in which far from deciding the case on merit, the highest temple of Indian justice, gives judgment that ‘satisfy collective conscience of people’ in India. Pray tell us, if tomorrow ‘collective conscience’ of Indians (obviously majority Hindus) gets satisfied in asking minorities should embrace Hinduism, can Supreme Court pass the judgment. (After all it has set a precedent of its own!).

            Interpreting life-sentence to meet die-in-prison, the message is crystal clear. To frown Kashmiris into not asking Indians to fulfill the pledge of plebiscite they promised in accepting the Security Council Resolution.

            But as the last six decades of wounded psyche of Kashmiris betray such tactics failed to kill the sentiments of Aazadi that is flowing through the veins of Kashmiris. Even Indians looped the tall towering sheikh into Indian fold but history proved that flame of Aazadi kept glowing.