A prisoner from Pak administered Kashmir was killed while returning from a Sopore court last month under mysterious circumstance. An explosion in a vehicle he was travelling in along with the police escort caused his death. It raised suspicions among the local population.
Complaints about violation of the jail manual by jail authorities and the police have been repeatedly received during the past twenty-five years. However, this is the first time when a prisoner has lost his life in such a way. A probe has been ordered, but can the persons who carried him to Sopore and back escape responsibility? It has to be borne in mind that a prisoner is a trust with the authority who hold him. Besides treating him like a human being, his right to life has to be upheld and enforced. The High Court has repeatedly directed the authorities to implement the jail manual in letter and spirit. However, the direction is observed in its breach. The Bar Association visits the jails regularly and produces reports on the plight of prisoners almost every year. But the Bar reports are rejected by indifferent authorities as `packs of paper’. Had the authorities observed the jail manual, the tragedy that shocked both parts of Kashmir last month could have been prevented.
A newspaper article made a huge difference in other parts of the world. The article titled `The Forgotten Prisoners’ was written by a civil rights lawyer Peter Beneson and appeared in weekend review section of ‘The Observer’ on Sunday 28, 1961. The article made a huge difference in the lives of political prisoners. The arrest of two Portuguese students had prompted the author to write the famed article. Amnesty International owes its birth to this article. But Srinagar is not Europe. Here inconvenience is caused to prisoners with a purpose. And to hoodwink international opinion, the new jail manual was adopted almost a decade ago. But the new manual has not helped the prisoners in any way. Torture and persecution of prisoners is the policy of the government and is pursued without any failure. This is a blatant violation of the jail manual and also a violation of the High Court directions. As mentioned above, the High Court has urged the authorities to implement the jail manual in letter and spirit. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has a role to play. It has to justify its stay in Kashmir by taking tangible measures. Its inaction is sending wrong signals to the people. If it cannot do the job it is meant for, why have it here?