Human Rights

Old Act, New Characters: Amnesty’s latest PSA profile

Amnesty International India’s recent and third report on Public Safety Act is yet another addition in the pile of the action-awaiting fact-finding exercise in Kashmir. Between rights campaign and the unbending state stance, the “lawless law” continues to have its unremitting run in the valley.

Back in 2011, when Amnesty International India had released its first report on the ‘lawless’ Public Safety Act (PSA) in Jammu and Kashmir, it had floated some spine-chilling revelations. Fifteen months later in October 2012, again, it had released a report stating how the draconian law ‘still’ operates in the same way.

Lately, on June 12, 2019, as it once again documented the ‘tyranny’ of law in its third-such report, not much, still, seems to have changed: neither the law, nor the general headlines of the report – but only its characters and the references.

In its 70-page report that the Amnesty had first released after studying 600 PSA cases, it exposed the ‘lawless law’ in a way that the then chief minister Omar Abdullah had as well acknowledged it, saying that the report ‘won’t be thrown into the dustbin’ and that the suggestions would be looked into.

Eight years down the line, there hasn’t been much change in the political narratives, as all of Abdullah’s political campaigns, lately going to the 2019 elections, have revolved highly around the promise – ‘elect me to power and I will scrap the law [PSA].’

For Amnesty, however, nothing much seems to have changed in the valley.

The rights body’s presser on June 12 in capital Srinagar was denied by the State citing the ‘prevailing law and order situation’. Ironically, it reflected the report’s scream over the ‘misuse’ of law under the similar narrative.

In its latest findings, Amnesty has as well noted: “(The law) provides a vague and over-board understanding of ‘public order’.”

ALSO READ: Another ‘captive’ report: The denied presser and the making of Amnesty’s PSA document

While in 2011 the HR watchdog had kicked off its report narrating the story of Hurriyat leader Shabir Shah who has been long shackled by the draconian law, in 2019, it focussed on renowned activist Khurram Parvez, further stating his case to be ‘one of many thousands…(under) vague grounds and without due diligence’.

Truly, thousands of these cases, as analysed by the rights body since 2011-2019, do look like the same old script, while as only the identities have changed – quite literally.

“In some cases,” the report revealed, “…ambiguous grounds for detention are accompanied by allegations that are surprisingly similar in tone and wording.”

The rights body has well substantiated its claims with the individual cases of six detainees from north Kashmir’s Baramulla, wherein they were held at police check-points with alleged letter-pads of ‘armed groups on their person’.

Sharing the case of one Mohammed Sidiq Lone, it instanced: “He was detained on two separate occasions under the PSA for allegedly carrying Jaish-e-Mohammed letter pads, once in July 2016 and again in October 2017 (at which time, Lone says, he was already in custody).”

“Even if it is assumed,” the report further read, “that armed groups publish letter-pads with their names on them, mere possession of a letter-pad does not constitute a criminal offense, let alone amount to evidence of a crime yet to be committed. Moreover, the striking similarity of these allegations and the way they are worded, raises concerns that they may have been fabricated.”

Barring this, the 2019 report covers more-or-less the same subjects as Amnesty’s previous reports, like for instance, the failure of authorities, vague grounds, detentions of minors, misuse of the criminal justice system, illegal detention despite bail or acquittal, revolving-door detentions and the failure of judiciary.

Amnesty’s new report indeed reflects how the ‘lawless law’ continue to remain where it was – unhurt, and ‘still lifeless’.


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