SHOPIAN: A 47-year-old Hurriyat conference leader, Shakeel Ahmad Itoo, of Manihal village of Shopian has completed more than two years in jail, despite his PSA detention quashed by court in February this year.
Shakeel has been district secretary of Syed Ali Geelani led Hurriyat Conference.
Shakeel’s family told Kashmir Reader that he was arrested on June 20 2016-18 days before killing of militant commander Burhan Wani. He was lodged in Kathua jail the time and is currently in Central Jail Srinagar.
Shakeel’s wife Raziya Shabnam said that her husband has been booked on “fabricated” cases and despite the detention order quashed by the court he was not being released. Raziya has just returned from a meeting with Shakeel in central jail along with two of her children.
Raziya added that one of the charges against her husband was of involving crowd in torching deputy commissioner’s office of Shopian, which she said was a big lie, as Shakeel was in Kathua jail at that time.
“Since 2008, he had spent almost six years in jails,” she said.
Shakeel’s younger brother Mudasir Ghulam Nabi said that “these kinds of lies itself tell the authenticity of cases against my brother”.
“Those who made a case against my brother when he was in jail would have made other false cases like it,” said Mudasir.
The family insisted that that Shakeel had nothing to do with 2016 uprising as he was arrested 18 days before that.
“He participated in several Iftar parties organised by Hurriyat that year but none of these parties resulted in any confrontation or protests,” Mudasir said.
Shakeel’s uncle Ghulam Nabi Itoo said that since 2008 Shakeel has hardly spent two months at home.
“Since 2008, there were 15 cases in different police stations against Shakeel and under these cases he several times was booked under notorious Public safety act,” he said.
Narrating their ordeals, the family said, one of Shakeel’s brothers, Sartaj, was also once booked under PSA and spent nine months in Kathua jail.
Mudasir said that he was also booked in a “false case“once.
“In 2013, I was studying in Madhya Pradesh when a protest took place. The police next day issued a statement about people involved in stone pelting with my name on top despite the fact I was hundreds of kilometers away from home, pursuing education,” said Mudasir.
Recounting the sufferings they had to undergo because of political activisim, Raziya said once she was made to spend a night on snow along with her infant child.
“Once police raided our house at 11pm and forced us to sit on the snow including my infant son for whole of night. Once I was also charged in stone pelting case which later was withdrawn.”
Shakeel’s elder son studies in class 10th and the youngest studies in class 3rd. The family said that it is hardly able to make two ends meet from a small income from orchards.
Shakeel’s lawyer Mubashir Ahmad told Kashmir Reader Shakeel was languishing in jail as there was a “technical error” in his case. He however added that the public safety act against him was quashed by the court and now he was under “illegal detention”. The authorities did not provide anything even gloves or shoes.”
Given the cut he had received that day, this reporter asked Dar why no proper gloves had been provided. He said, “Who told you these gloves were provided to us? No, we bought these on our own. No safety gear has been given to any of us.”
Another worker who works near TRC told Kashmir Reader, “We have approached the authorities many times to provide us safety gear, but every time they say we will give you but do nothing. They don’t pay any heed to our issues. We don’t even have safety belts; if we fall while working, we will be dead in no time.”
The Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Service) Act, 1996, is intended for the benefit of workers engaged in building and construction activities by regulating matters related to their safety, health and welfare.
But, invariably, site engineers at different locations blame the labourers for their mishaps. Talking about the lack of safety gear, one said, “These workers themselves don’t like wearing gear. In summer the temperature is very high, so they say they cannot wear the gear, and in winter when there is a dip in temperature, they say who will wear a helmet, we have already worn a hood.”
Assistant Labour Commissioner, Zameer Ahmad told Kashmir Reader that they are well aware of the issue.
“We are not able to go to every site for checking whether the employer has provided safety gear to the employees as we don’t have vehicles available here,” he said.
“Whenever we find anyone violating the rule, we fine them as per the Act, but Rs 2000 is not sufficient; they can easily pay the fine and violating the rule again,” he said
The department needs this Act to be revised so it becomes a burden for violators.
Asked if there is any rule for compensation, he replied, “The concerned agency has to pay the compensation if an incident happens to any employee.”
As per the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923, workmen and/or their dependents are to be provided some relief in case of accidents arising out of or during their work resulting in either death or disability.
Jammu and Kashmir Labour Commissioner Bashir Ahmad Khan told Kashmir Reader, “We know they are violating the rules. But now the department has taken a new step to provide safety gear. We issued a tender for this six months ago but did not receive any response.”
He added, “We have again issued the tender. Once we receive a response, we will provide safety gear for the labourers.”
The department’s focus is on labourers working in kilns and bridge construction.