On the day when Governor Satya Pal Malik along with his top executives was briefing media about his ‘corruption crusade’ in SKICC, another presser was cut short by his administration in Srinagar. The denied presser of Amnesty International India was to be an event of another report release and an occasion to press the administration for the repeal of J&K Public Safety Act.
Amnesty International India had called for a press conference on June 12 in the summer capital of Kashmir, to discuss its new report, ‘Tyranny of a Lawless Law’, on the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978. It was meant to be a follow-up on its last two briefings titled ‘A Lawless Law’ and ‘Still a Lawless Law’.
Of all the 210 cases studied to write this report, none of the subjects were proven guilty by the state. These case studies were not limited to the Kashmir Valley and included the stories of detainees from the region of Jammu.
Even after punctually filing for permission, the authorities declined the request at the last minute, citing a ‘law and order situation’ as the reason.
Wednesday’s press briefing was going to be used to present the organization’s findings on detentions under JK-PSA.
“We had planned to allocate 30 minutes to our representatives and another 30 minutes to the press for questions, in order to finish in an hour’s time,” said Asmita Basu, Programmes Director. The invitees list included around 150 journalists from the state, JKCCS (Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society), and APDP (Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons).
Through the report, Amnesty International India has proposed the abrogation of J&K Public Safety Act. “Such an undemocratic law should have no place in a democracy,” said Aakar Patel, Executive Director of Amnesty International India.
With the help of a four-member team, Amnesty International India has been researching on the application of JK-PSA after the amendments in 2012.
Zahoor Wani, a Kashmiri, who is a field researcher in Amnesty International India, pulled out all the stops for his research.
“We have collected data from RTI applications, letters to J&K Police, Directorate of Prisons, Deputy Commissioners of 11 districts, and a handful of lawyers defending detainees,” Wani said.
Working on it since April 2018, Wani travelled around 150 kilometres every day to meet ex-detainees, families, RTI activists, and local students involved in the movement against the rash and uncorroborated execution of JK-PSA.
“RTIs are generally easy to file but difficult to be satisfied with,” said Patel. “Most of the responses to the appeals are poor and incomplete, which causes us to think that the answering bodies haven’t comprehended the questions properly.”
As per Wani’s findings, most of the detainees were picked up from North Kashmir and caught in the system of ‘revolving door detentions’, where they were implicated in new orders and FIRs so as to prolong their imprisonment.
Khurram Parvez, a Kashmiri human rights activist, and his arbitrary two-months-long detention is the perfect and poignant illustration of the highly dictatorial nature of this act, the report says.
The fair trial safeguards, rules of evidence, and standards of proof which are fundamental to India’s criminal justice system have no standing in JK-PSA. Although the 2012 amendment prohibits the detention of any person under the age of 18, there were 10 cases of detained minors between 2012 and 2018.
Apart from affecting livelihoods and families, JK-PSA has been silencing the prominent voices of dissent. The sudden and unexplained cancellation of today’s press conference, communicated an hour before the declared time, may be seen as another attempt by the authorities to mute any attempt at critique.
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