In occupied Kashmir, abject poverty and yearning to meet her son who has been held under draconian law, Public Safety Act (PSA), in Agra Central Jail in India, has pushed Zamrooda, a resident of Srinagar, to the point of begging.
Zamrooda’s son, Asif Ahmed, was declared a “potential threat to peace” by the Indian police and picked up during a midnight raid at his residence in August last year, days after New Delhi scrapped the special status of occupied Kashmir. Along with dozens of Kashmiri youth, he has been languishing in the jail, more than 1,500 km away from home. His family lives in the congested Batamaloo locality in Srinagar and cannot afford to travel to visit him.
In January, 44-year-old Zamrooda approached the Jammu and Kashmir prison authorities seeking permission to meet her 22-year-old son. The visit was cleared on February 3, after Srinagar’s Central Jail authorities wrote to the superintendent of the Central Jail Agra.
A few days later, as the family was discussing the travel expenses involved in visiting Ahmed, a man from another locality in Srinagar, who had gone to meet his detained son in Agra, knocked on their door with a message for Zamrooda from her younger son. “Asif told me to convey to you, ‘I’m craving to see you. Tell my mother to visit me’,” he told the family.
The words left Zamrooda restless. With no option in sight, she finally started begging. “My heart pains and yearns to see my son. I’m left with no option, but to beg for monetary help to visit him,” she said.
“Since the day I got the message from my son, I haven’t slept at all. I wake up in the middle of the night and start crying. Sometimes, I feel choked. Only a mother can understand the pain I’m going through,” said Zamrooda, breaking down.
According to Ahmed’s lawyer, Wajid Muhammad, who is pleading his case in the High Court of occupied Kashmir, the young man was arrested for his alleged involvement in pelting stones on Indian forces, in a case dating back to June 2016. The next day, he was flown to the Agra jail. The PSA, described by Amnesty International as “lawless law”, allows the Indian authorities to detain a person without trial for up to two years.
This is, however, not the first time Asif, a class eight dropout, has been arrested. In 2018, the family said, he was booked under the PSA and detained at Srinagar’s Central Jail for eight months. He has been in arrested “several times” since the summer mass uprising triggered by the extrajudicial killing of prominent youth leader, Burhan Wani, on July 08, 2016.