4500 detained under PSA, Centaur turned into VIP jail

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 8/30/2019 12:27:38 PM

JAMMU, Aug 29: Over 4,500 people have been detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA) in Jammu and Kashmir including mainstream politicians, political workers, traders, lawyers and social activists since August 5 last when the special status of the state was scrapped.
Jammu and Kashmir government spokesman, Rohit Kansal, who had previously said that there was no “centralized figure” for the number of people detained, today told Kashmir Times that more than 4500 people have been arrested and are held under the PSA, a law that allows authorities to imprison someone for up to two years without charge or trial.
Hundreds of leaders and activists, including three former Chief Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir, have been detained since August 5. The administration has termed their arrest a ‘preventive measure’ to thwart any revolt in view of the abrogation of Article 370 and subsequent bifurcation of J&K into two Union Territories.
The exact details of those arrested under PSA is not known, neither are the exact whereabouts of many of those who have been detained.
The number of people arrested since August 5 may be more than the 4500 detained under PSA. Recently in a press briefing in Srinagar, Kansal spoke of arrests and releases being “part of a dynamic process” and roughly put the figure of those released at 2700, hinting at the higher count of detenues. He, however, did not divulge, how many had been arrested. The grounds of detention are not known.
Some news reports have also pointed out that crackdowns, night raids and arrests have become routine in South and North Kashmir, particularly in the rural areas. A businessman from South Kashmir recently spoke to Kashmir Times, during his brief visit outside Kashmir, and said that massive arrests happened in the first week itself. “It were not only the usual suspects like stone-pelters, supporters of Hurriyat and Jamaat-e-Islami that were rounded up, it were also the mainstream political party activists and workers.”
“Of late, we have been hearing about night raids and arrests, though not in the town but in the villages,” he said.
An academic from Baramulla similarly spoke about the magnitude of the arrests. “Everybody from a person associated with traders organization, fruit mandi association and even Mohalla Committees. Anybody who could be seen as a mobiliser was being picked up,” he said.
Some officials have confirmed that among those arrested under PSA are Shah Faesal, Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer turned politician, Mian Qayoom, President of Kashmir High Court Bar Association, Mubin Shah of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce, Manzoor Ahmad Ganie, of Pulwama, Aijaz Ahmad Mir of Sopore, Najmus Saqib from Bhaderwah, Rehmtullah of Bhalla-Bhaderwah, Shakeela Taya of Doda, Mushtaq Ahmed Veeri, Mohd Lateef Dar of Sopore, Gh Jeelani Gatoo of Banabazar, Sopore, Bilal Ahmad Bhat of Chek Cholan, Sopore, Faisal Amin Mir of Bona Bazar, Sopore, Shakeel Ahmad Thokar of Meemender, Sopore, Ghulam Ahmad Gulzar and Peerzada Ashraf.
Officials have also confirmed that many of those detained have been flown out of Kashmir to various jails outside the state, including to Agra jail, because the prisons within the state “have run out of capacity” but they have not given an exact number. National Conference leader and former minister Ali Mohammad Sagar is the first mainstream political leader to have been sent out of Jammu and Kashmir as part of a government plan to shift prisoners to jails outside the state. He was shifted to a jail in Uttar Pradesh, according to a previous news report. The officials failed to offer any confirmation. According to reliable sources, businessmen and KCC members, Mubeen Shah and Shakeel Qalander have also been flown to Agra.
It is pertinent to mention here that the arrests of mainstream political leaders began hours before the Centre abrogated J&K’s special status, bifurcated the state and downgraded it to Union Territories on August 5.
According to a report in the Indian Express today, many of the ‘political prisoners’ are being detained at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) and the Centaur Hotel, both on the same premises, on the banks of the serene Dal Lake. With a high security ring around it, the SKICC has been converted into a subsidiary jail. The reception lobby of the hotel is being used as a meeting area of the prison.
Among those in Centaur sub-jail are dozens of former legislators, ministers and leaders of almost all the mainstream parties of Kashmir. Except the detained three former Chief Ministers, almost every mainstream politician is detained here. Among those detained here are Sajjad Lone of Peoples Conference and Waheed Para of PDP.
Almost the entire top rung of Kashmir’s mainstream is detained in this place, according to the report, which added that after applying to a Deputy Superintendent of Police, close relatives are allowed to meet them.
Quoting anonymous relatives of some of the detainees, the report says that for the first week, the administration didn’t allow detainees to meet each other. “At the most, they met, briefly, at mealtime because it was difficult to serve meals to so many people separately. It was difficult because other than a few, no one among the detainees has had any experience of incarceration,” the report quotes one relative as saying.
It quotes another as saying, “It’s a little better than a real jail. Each one has been allowed a helper. The detainees look relatively more settled but there’s restlessness as the new reality sinks in.”
According to the report, one of the relatives of a detainee revealed that the government is “constantly approaching” the detainees asking them to join the new arrangement. “They prepared a document, a sort of a bond, which they wanted them (detainees) to sign so that they could be released. They want an assurance they won’t carry out any political activity, not speak against the government move, and in a way, stay indoors. I was told nobody has agreed to sign it.”
“Each one of detainees has two options,” said the relative. “One is to resist; it will give legitimacy and respect among people but the risk is too high, we will be treated worse than the separatists. Who knows whether it would be safe without security? The other option is to wait it out, see what happens,” the relative added.
Another relative of a detainee says the sense is that nobody wants to come out. “That’s why nobody is approaching the court against the detention, not even the former Chief Ministers. I spoke to several of detainees, they are extremely worried because they aren’t able to find a simple way out of this. One leader, an experienced politician, told me there are very limited options and each one is very, very difficult. They are aware that the decision they take will have far-reaching implications not only for them but will affect their families, too.”
The relative added: “There is a lot of suspicion. I think apart from few, they talk among their own groups. They are yet to cut across party lines. Everybody is waiting to see who will break away first.”



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