Srinagar, March 31 (KMS): In occupied Kashmir, with COVID-19 continuing its deadly march all over the world, Kashmiri political detainees’ plight is giving sleepless nights to their families, who are worried about their well-being, and demand that they be set free, immediately.
The official date says that the number of post-August 05, 2019, detainees is around 5,200, while the actual number is much more in Kashmir. Thousands of prisoners including the political detainees continue to be in jails in and outside Kashmir. Official statistics confirmed that more than 3,500 people from Kashmir were in prisons in different parts across India till 4th of December 2019.
Ajaz Ahmed Bedar, senior vice President of the Kashmir Lawyers Association was part of the legal representatives that has visited some of the jails where Kashmiri prisoners are imprisoned. “We found two to three persons crammed in 8ft x 8ft unhygienic cabins. They were susceptible to all kinds of infections and had no proper healthcare facilities. We also saw the inmates being deprived of the bare minimum services as guaranteed under law,” he said. “The lives of these prisoners are at a great risk in these terrible times of the corona pandemic,” the lawyer added.
Sharing some of his jail experiences, Nazir Ahmad Ronga, a senior High Court lawyer recently released from the Ambedkar Nagar jail of Uttar Predesh, said, “Kashmiri political prisoners are treated at par with criminals housed in these jails, and are in a in a deplorable situation. They are malnourished.” Ronga said that he lost 10 kilograms of his body weight during the six-month detention. He said “30 Kashmiri prisoners were quarantined in a hall in the Ambedkar Nagar jail and others were put up in small cabins,” he said.
“Some of the boys lodged in the jail screamed at night in hallucination,” revealed Ronga. He asked India to release the Kashmiri detainees, especially those in the Ambedaker Nagar jail. “Under these times of crisis when the whole humanity is fighting for its survival and seems caught up in a situation worse than a nuclear holocaust, keeping Kashmiri prisoners in jails is inhuman,” said Parvez Imroz, a human rights campaigner .
Jails in India, according to Imroz, are overcrowded and the situation has been worsened by the coronavirus outbreak. Imroz said, “Extraordinary situations demand extraordinary initiatives”.
“Prisoners across India are being released; it would be callousness to keep Kashmiri prisoners in jails in these times of the global pandemic,” said the human rights advocate. “The government has invoked laws to keep its entire population under lockdown. It makes no sense if people alleged of disturbing public order and peace are kept in jails and not released to be kept in home quarantine,” he suggested.