In wake of the rising COVID cases in India, Pakistan has called for the release of all political prisoners in Jammu and Kashmir.
It also expressed “deep” concern to the UN over the death of jailed Hurriyat leader Mohammed Ashraf Sehrai who was facing detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA) and passed away after a brief illness at GMC Jammu on May 5, 2021.
Munir Akram, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN, in a letter to UN chief Antonio Guterres, urged him to press New Delhi to immediately release all prisoners illegally detained in Jammu and Kashmir.
Akram, according to a report by TRT World, said Pakistan has urged the UN chief to ask the government of India to immediately release all illegally detained prisoners in view of the prevailing COVID crisis and deteriorating humanitarian situation in JK.
The report said that India has arrested thousands of Kashmiris under the Public Safety Act since 1989. Rights groups say India has used the law to stifle dissent and circumvent the justice system, undermining accountability, transparency, and respect for human rights.
Quoting Sehrai’s son, Mujahid Sehrai, the report said that his father was denied proper medical care in jail and complained of ill health when they spoke several days ago.
“He told us several times in the last few months during his two phone calls a week to home that he was not getting proper medical treatment,” his son was quoted as saying.
“We moved to a court on April 16 with a petition seeking proper medical assistance for him but the court was yet to review it.”
Sehrai was arrested last July under the Public Safety Act, which allows authorities in JK to imprison anyone for up to two years without trial.
For the past year, political and civic groups have urged the government to release political prisoners from overcrowded jails where coronavirus infection rates are high, the report said.
On Saturday, Indian’s top court ordered Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to de-congest all Indian jails as coronavirus crisis envelops urban and rural India.
“The requirement of decongestion is a matter concerning the health and right to life of both the prison inmates and the police personnel working,” the Supreme Court said.
“In the present situation there is a serious concern about the spread of Covid-19 in overcrowded prisons where there is lack of proper sanitation, hygiene, and medical facilities,” it noted.
On Friday, the former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, and PDP president appealed to Narendra Modi to release all political detainees languishing in jails in and outside Jammu and Kashmir immediately in the wake of the worsening COVID situation.
“Throughout the world, most countries have released prisoners on parole in view of the alarming COVID crisis. A democratic and civilised country like India shouldn’t drag its feet and must release these detainees immediately so that they can return home at a time when life feels so threatened,” Mehbooba said in a letter to the prime minister.
Mehbooba said she did not wish to “politicise the human tragedy that has befallen us all”.
“It’s an unprecedented humanitarian crisis that doesn’t discriminate on the basis of caste, colour, religion or social status and has affected everyone. Perhaps the only silver lining in this tragic time is how Indians cutting across religious and regional lines are coming together to lend each other a helping hand,” she said.