Srinagar: At a time when the Government of India has signalled a change in its “iron fist” policy of dealing with the resistance leadership in Kashmir, at least 80 leaders and activists of pro-freedom groups remain in jail.
Most of the pro-freedom leaders and activists who are behind bars belong to Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (TeH) and the Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Geelani. These include J&K Muslim League (ML) chairperson Masarat Alam Bhat and six of the outfit’s leaders and activists. The ML is one of the chief constituents of Hurriyat (G). Most of their leaders and activists were arrested after the killing of top Hizb ul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016.
The list prepared by TeH shows that their detainees include persons as old as 75. “Most of our members were first hounded and then arrested by police. They have been lodged in different jails in and outside Kashmir,” a TeH member told Kashmir Reader, requesting anonymity.
He said that though courts intermittently order their release, “they are being booked on other charges and thus their freedom is scuttled”.
“Most of our members are booked under the notorious Public Safety Act (PSA),” he said. “Once the PSA is quashed by court, police book them under a fresh PSA instead of releasing them.”
The TeH has designated a team of its members to look after the court cases. A battery of lawyers from the Kashmir High Court Bar Association fights their cases in court. “The judicial system is too lazy, but we can’t go against it; it is the last resort. It is only the courts that ultimately release us, though it takes time,” the TeH member said.
The Hurriyat Conference (G) mentioned the case of Khan Sopori. “One of our prominent leaders, Khan Sopori, who is a grandfather, has not been released for long now,” a Hurriyat (G) member said. “He has been booked under a 4th consecutive PSA. On one side the court orders his release but on the other side he is shifted to a local police station where he is detained without even remand, and next, the police slap PSA again on him.”
The Hurriyat (G) member said that many of its activists have been lodged outside J&K jails. “The NIA raided the residences of most of our top leaders and activists,” he said. “Five of our top members who virtually ran all affairs of the APHC led by Geelani were arrested and jailed in the infamous Tihar Jail,” he said.
The five top members that he mentioned are Altaf Ahmad Shah, Ayaz Akbar, Peer Saifullah, Nayeem Ahmad Khan and Raja Mehraj ud Din Kalwal.
Besides, the NIA arrested media advisor of Hurriyat Conference (Mirwaiz), Shahid ul Islam, and the chief of his own JKLF faction, Bitta Karate.
Three leaders of the Yasin Malik-led JKLF have been booked, two of them under PSA – Siraj Ud Din Mir and Abdul Rashid Magloo. Both of them are in Jammu’s Kot Balwal Jail. The third JKLF leader, Sheikh Nazir, is serving a life sentence in the same jail.
Recently, police arrested a top orator of Jama’at-e-Islami (JeI) J&K, Bashir Ahmad Lone. He was arrested along with TeH’s Rafiq Ahmad Shah and the duo was booked under PSA and sent to Kot Balwal jail. The duo was arrested after they addressed the funeral procession of slain Kashmir University assistant professor Dr Rafi Bhat in Ganderbal.