Stifling voice of dissent

BY once again quashing the order detaining the National Front chairman Nayeem Khan under the State’s draconian Public  Safety Act (PSA) the State High Court has tellingly pointed out how this law is being misused by the State rulers to stifle the voice of dissent and as a weapon of political vendetta. Quashing the detention Justice Mohammed Yaqoob Mir observed that the detainee was not provided grounds of detention and material to represent before the court. The learned judge held
that denying grounds of detention “is serious violation of the constitutional right of liberty” and termed the order of detention
as “illegal”. This is a clear stricture against the police which was instrumental in slapping PSA on the senior separatist leader and the magistrate who issued the detention orders without applying his mind.

What makes the State authorities consistent moves for misusing the PSA as a weapon of political vendetta against their
opponents obvious is the fact that the earlier detention order against Nayeem Khan too was quashed by the High Court but
he was again detained under the PSA from within the jail premises, thus circumventing the court orders. Khan was arrested by the police from his Srinagar residence on Februray 5 and shifted to Kot Bhalwal jail in Jammu as a matter of political
victimization. Subsequently, the District Magistrate Srinagar slapped PSA on him on the grounds of instigating youth for stone pelting. Khan was even earlier detained under the PSA last year on vague and ludicrous charges relating to his activities when he was a student.

Nayeem’s is not the only case of the gross misuse of PSA by those in authority to silence protests and voice of dissent or
to resort to political vendetta against those opposed to them.

Shabir Shah’s is yet another case where he has been repeatedly detained under the PSA and has not been set free despite High Court orders quashing his detentions. Not  only he has been denied freedom but has also been shifted to jails in Jammu during the summer  as a matter of political vendetta. Worse, he has been denied proper medical assistance despite his suffering from serious ailments. A large number of other political leaders and activists too have similarly been  denied their liberties on flimsiest charges and in several cases not even provided the grounds of detention. The case of a number
of children detained under  PSA on the charges of pelting stones was raised by the visiting team of the Amnesty
International when they called on the chief minister, who assured them to examine it.

Several other separatist leaders including Syed Ali Shah
Geelani and Yasin Malik too
have been repeatedly detained
or put under house arrests on
the slightest pretext to prevent
them from moving freely or
address the gatherings and join
the protest demonstrations.
Intriguingly while there has
been persistent demand in
Jammu and Kashmir, and justly
so, to scrap the draconian
Armed Forces Special Powers
Act (AFSPA) which provides
immunity to the security forces
for their actions like killings,
arson and destroying houses
merely on suspicion or resort to
other HR abuses, the major
political parties and leaders
have failed to raise their voice
against the equally draconian
PSA. This law is virtually a
replica of the notorious Defence
of India Rules, framed by the
British rulers to suppress
India’s freedom struggle. These
rules were operative in J&K
even several years after independence
and it was in 1978
when Sheikh Abdullah was in
power that the Public Safety
Act was enacted. This law was
again amended in 1987 when
Farooq Abdullah was the chief
minister and later in 1990 to
make it more stringent. The
State PSA is much more retrogressive
than the similar law
prevailing in rest of the country.
The Amnesty International and
several national and international
human rights organizations
have held this law as a
“threat to human rights”.
Surprisingly both the NC and
its bête noire PDP have not
found it politically convenient to
raise their voice against this
draconian law and its gross misuse.
The successive political
regimes including the PDPCongress
coalition had been
misusing the PSA to suit their
political convenience. The central
and state rulers have been
talking of zero tolerance to
human rights abuses but in
reality they are condoning all
acts of human rights violations.
No action has been taken
against the police officers and
magistrates detaining the political
opponents of the ruling
establishment by misusing PSA
even after the strictures passed
by the courts. AI had pointed
out that “hundreds of people are
thought to be held in preventive
detention or on a range of criminal
charges despite court
orders for their release. Often,
when the state anticipates that
detainees will be released on
bail, it uses the PSA to ensure
their continued detention. The
vaguely formulated act (PSA)
allows for detention up to two
years without charge or trial on
the purported presumption that
they may in the future commit
acts harmful to the state.”
There are a large number of
such persons lodged in various
jails, some of them for years,
since 1990. Not only all of them
should be released but even
PSA needs to be scrapped or at
least reviewed to make it consistent
with the international
human rights standards