The Indian govt invoked the public Safety Act against the journalist Sajjad Gul, saying he is well educated and may provoke the public against the government on social media, so his case should be non-bailable.
Photo courtesy: Sajjad Gul/Twitter
Imagine a democracy where posting a local video on social media is an offence. Adding insult to injury is the fact that these charges are non-bailable under a law that Amnesty International long calls a lawless law.
Sajjad Gul, 29, a Master's student in Journalism at the University of Kashmir, and a local reporter at the online media outlet Kashmir Walla, was arrested on January 6 on the accusation that he posted a video of the relatives of a slain militant raising “Anti-India” slogans.
According to a recent report by Indian Express, a reputable Indian national media outlet,
“Three FIRs were registered against him – two based on complaints by police. Nonetheless, the judicial magistrate's court granted him bail on January 15, but he was booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) the next day”.
FIR, or First Information Report, is a document prepared by Indian police noting serious offences.
The PSA has been used since the late 1970s to crush any political resistance against the state. Individuals booked under this law can not apply for bail and can be kept in custody for two years without any judicial procedure or trial.
Ironically, after completing the maximum years of detention, the victim of this brutal and lawless act is usually arrested again outside the gate. This vicious cycle continues until the Indian government finally decides the victim is no longer a threat to its colonial project.
A.S. Dalut, the former chief of Indian intelligence agencies Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Intelligence Bureau (IB), writes in his 2015-memoir “Kashmir: the Vajpayee Years” that they [Indian authorities] used to arrest political prisoners outside the prison gate.
According to fair trial standards, prolonged detention of prisoners without trial is arbitrary.
The Indian government is a signatory of several international treaties which obligate it to follow international human rights and humanitarian law.
The whole Kashmiri leadership, ie: political leaders, journalists, human rights defenders, and lawyers are currently detained under lawless laws like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the PSA, or under fabricated charges of “money laundering” and having “links” with cross border terrorist organizations.
Since the arrest of Khurram Parvez, the global award-winning human rights defender, the Indian government has intensified its crackdown against Kashmiri civil society to an unprecedented level.
The detainee's crime is nothing but their ability to mobilize the people of Kashmir.
The Indian government is scared of educated people in Kashmir.
As someone commented on Twitter, "being well educated is hazardous in Kashmir."
Written by Tazeen Hasan, a Campaigns Manager of Free Kashmir and #FreeShabirShah, both advocacy projects of Justice For All Canada
This is Imam Omar Sulieman's speech at the Russell Tribunal in Bosnia, taking place in December 2021.
The most influential speeches in history are coincidentally short, comprehensive and compelling. Martin Luther King Junior's 'I have a dream', Nelson Madella's 'I am the first accused', and Ibraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address, all have these distinct qualities.
Imam Omar Sulieman's seven-minute speech at the Russell Tribunal comprises the same attributes. I found his speech succinct yet stimulating and compendious at the same time.
Containing all Arostatalian elements of ethos, pathos and logos, Sulieman began his speech with an English translation of his mother's poetry about Bosnia.
'A soul in Saraivo is as precious as a soul in Jenin'
He pointed out a few but profoundly important points:
While talking about the Kashmir conflict he identifies that our present narratives about history are distorted and often based on body counts and political calculations. The Kashmir conflict should be analyzed keeping in view its historical context focusing on the Kashmiri people.
Suleiman emphasizes that we should not be selective while raising our voices against human rights violations.
Kashmir is as important as Palestine.
He rightly pointed out that it is an irony that India is referred to as the “world's largest democracy”, and Israel is considered “the only democracy” in the Middle East, despite their repression and illegal occupations.
Making clear the notion of genocide he said, “genocide is manifested not just through mass killings but heavy milititirization, legislations, censorship to block news locally, surveillance abroad”.
I believe he used his seven minutes judicially, delivering the message needed to teach our Ummah (community) how to frame the Kashmir issue in the right context.
May Allah reward his efforts and free Kashmiris from Indian aggression.
"I just landed at Delhi airport, but they won't let me meet my father, '' said Sehar Shah, the daughter of imprisoned Kashmiri leader Shabir Ahmed Shah.
It was 2 AM in Canada. I had just gotten into bed after finishing a couple of work assignments when I noticed Sehar Shah’s voice messages on Whatsapp.
I put on my earphones from the bedside drawers and listened.
“I can't visit my father alone in jail."
I could feel tears rolling down her face.
"They say only one person can visit him inside the jail. And that too only once a month. Where would my mom leave me? Delhi is not a safe place," Sehar was definitely emotional. "It is very disappointing."
Months ago, Sehar told me that the kind of treatment she receives from the jail guards aggravates her depression. She was already using heavy doses of antidepressants at that time.
In last night's voice messages over WhatsApp, she tells me she takes 11 pills per day.
Sehar says that the jail authorities restricted the family visits to one visit per month. The family can't travel every month. "It's very tough both financially and physically," she says.
According to Sehar, the Indian Court has just begun discussing her father's case after about four and a half years of pretrial custody. The court case was held on December 10th and December 13th, 2021. While the details are yet to arrive, the next hearing is scheduled for December 21, 2021.
Bilquis Shah, a medical doctor and Shabir Shah’s wife, has also been indicted under the same “money laundering” charges for a crime allegedly committed 16 years ago in 2005. Her court hearing coincided with her husband's hearing, so she had to travel to Delhi along with her daughter Sehar, an undergraduate political science student in Srinagar.
Sehar last met her father on October 29th, 2021, when she travelled 700 km from Srinagar with her mother. She could only see her father across a blurred and small window and could talk over a microphone for a short time.
The family was appalled to see that Shah could not walk independently. Three men were holding and supporting her father.
Shah was already suffering from diabetes, kidney and heart ailments, arthritis, and sudden loss of conscience. "He looked pale; three men were holding him for support, and he was even holding a stick in his hand, which he had never used before."
Given the crowded conditions in Tihar jail (where Shah is kept), we can't rule out the possibility of a COVID-19 infection ailing him, which could be fatal. In May 2021, senior Kashmiri political leader Ashraf Sehrai, 78, died in Jail, probably due to a COVID-19 infection.
It is not clear to the family why Shah could not stand or walk independently. Torture and inhumane conditions are rampant in Indian jails. Kashmiri prisoners are more vulnerable to inhumane conditions because they are considered terrorists and separatists, according to a 2018-UN OHCHR report published on human rights violations in Kashmir.
Her father, detained for 34 non-consecutive years, never got convicted by any court.
He was arrested for the first time in 1968 at the age of 14 for organizing a protest supporting Kashmiris' right to self-determination. Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience in 1992. The family and Shah's lawyer in Kashmir confirms that he was never convicted of previous detentions in the past 30 years.
Currently, he is facing 5th year of pretrial detention. His bail request has been refused multiple times during this period. Shah's advocate told us that he was already on house arrest when they arrested Shah in July 2017.
Given Shah's previous arbitrary arrests resulting in 30 years of imprisonment, it's highly plausible that his detainment is once again for political reasons.
Sehar tells us her father's life is more important than his release; she requests her father to be released on bail. She also demands access to his medical records so that the family can seek an independent evaluation of his medical conditions. Unfortunately, jail authorities have consistently denied these fundamental rights demanded by Shah's lawyers.
Shabir Shah is enduring abysmal living conditions in a six-by-eight cell with no fresh air, inadequate sanitation facilities inside the Tihar jail. These issues present a heightened risk to his health, who already suffers from multiple medical conditions mentioned before.
Shah is not allowed to call his family regularly from the prison.
While the Court granted bail to the primary accused, Shah faces the 5th year of pretrial detention for an alleged crime committed 16 years ago.
Sehar also mentioned that Indian courts and jail authorities never responded to the family's requests to access his medical records and families' requests to allow Shah's nephew and nieces to meet him as visitors.
It is very inconvenient to travel to Delhi from Kashmir for Shah's sisters and brothers, who are allowed as visitors. Even Sehar and her mother can't travel every month. So the family made multiple requests to include Shah's nephews and nieces in the visitor list. According to Sehar, the Court did not respond to the request.
While arbitrarily detaining Shah, the Indian government violates fundamental human rights and multiple international fair trial standards.
According to international Fair trial standards:
The Indian government's indictment of Shabir Shah's wife in an alleged 2005 “money laundering” case is a shameful maneuvering of the justice system.
By Tazeen Hasan
According to Indian national and Kashmiri media reports, the court has granted bail to Bilquis Shah, wife of Shabir Shah, one of the most revered Kashmiri politicians in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Shabir Shah was nominated as the vice president of the Hurriyat Conference, an amalgam of Kashmiri liberation organizations striving for the right of self-determination for the Indigenous population of Kashmir.
In September 2020, the prosecution indicted Bilquis Shah in an alleged “money laundering” case occurring in 2005. Bilquis is a respectable medical doctor and serves as an administrator at the local hospital in Kashmir.
She is also the sole breadwinner of the family and is bringing up her two daughters as a single mother during the prolonged detentions of Shabir Shah.
Every time a bail plea is filed, the prosecution insists they need more time to collect evidence against Shah. It is also noteworthy that since the alleged crime was committed in 2005, the prosecution has failed to gather evidence against Shah in the last 16 years.
The same is true for 40 other Kashmiri leaders languishing in the worst conditions in jails outside Kashmir, without trial. Most of them are detained under the notorious and controversial Public Safety Act (PSA), which requires no judicial due process. The Indian supreme court have called it (Lawless Laws), but Jammu and Kashmir Police continue to detain political, intellectual, and civil leadership under this law.
A.S. Dulat, the former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), wrote in his 2015-book Kashmir: “ In the Vajpayee years, immediately after the release of Kashmiri leaders booked under the PSA, they were arrested again outside the prison gates. This is enough evidence indicating that in order to colonize Kashmir, India is using arbitrary detention as a tool”.
Indian government officials are never tired of blaming cross-border infiltration for the unrest in Kashmir. Yet, they crush every expression of peaceful political grievance. Furthermore, they use shameful and heinous tactics to harass and intimidate the families.
Lately, they have begun to use another controversial law to detain civil leadership called the Unlawful Prevention Act (UAPA), which vaguely defines unlawful activities. Anything from social media posts and stone-pelting, to a private conversation and publishing an article, may be considered an illegal activity.
Prolonged Pretrial detention is considered arbitrary according to international human rights law and fair trial standards.
The Indian government uses arbitrary detention to subjugate Kashmiri political leadership and pressure them to relinquish the right of self-determination for the Kashmiri people. Now it is targeting and harassing the families to achieve their colonizing goals.
In 2019, they summoned his daughter to court, who was just five years old at the time of the alleged crime. In 2020, they framed his wife too. This disgraceful legal maneuvering is enough evidence of the exploitation and harassment of the family as a pressure tactic.
Shabir and Bilquis’ daughter Sama Shah, being a top high school student in Kashmir in 2018, was studying in London at the time of the court summoning.
These are heinous gimmicks employed by the colonizers to shut up the dissenting voice of the people of Kashmir.
There is strong evidence that the charges against Shah are trumped up and political.
The fabricated and trumped-up charges against Kashmir’s political leadership are not new. They have been facing arrests and detentions in the past under laws that do not require any due process.
The prosecution claimed they found 6.2 million Indian Rupees in possession of alleged “hawala dealer” Aslam Wani. Wani initially pleaded not guilty, yet later, he stated that he was a hawala agent and that the money had to be transferred to Shabir Shah. The prosecution claims that Wani delivered 22.5 million Indian rupees to Shah.
Notably, the court granted bail to the alleged primary accused in Wani's case, however, Shah's bail plea was dismissed several times. This seems to be a critical legal contradiction and shows the arbitrariness of the case.
The case is also mired with other inconsistencies, as the prosecution could not collect and provide enough evidence, even after 14 years, to solve the unfounded “money laundering” and “terror funding” case against Shabir Shah.
The prosecution persuaded the court to extend the pretrial custody of Shabir Shah, because the charges against him are serious, and the prosecution needs more time to collect evidence.
While rejecting the bail plea, the judge said that the prosecution could not be blamed for the delay on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, stating 'Ultra posse Nemo obligatur' (No one is obligated beyond what he is able to do).
In 2020, the Enforcement Directorate also produced a charge sheet against Bilquis Shah, claiming she received part of funds delivered by Wani.
They also probed Bilquis about her house and claimed that she used the money to construct the house. Bilquis responded that she inherited the plot from her parents and took a 20 lac loan from the bank to build the house.
Though her bail provides a little comfort to the family, the case proceedings, hearings, and visits to Shabir Shah in Tihar Jail, Delhi, pose immense distress for Bilquis and her daughter Seher Shah, a student herself.
According to Seher, jail staff keep a hostile attitude on their visits. The family faces humiliating frisking.
A 2019 UN report also confirmed that prisons outside the state are hostile for Kashmiri Muslim detainees, especially separatist leaders. Transferring Kashmiri detainees outside the state makes it harder for family members and legal counsels to meet with them.
One former Kashmiri prisoner of Tihar jail reported that jail doctors and medical staff attitudes towards Kashmiri prisoners are worse than the attitudes of guards.
In 2010, Indian authorities in Kashmir admitted to Amnesty staff that they have to keep some people "out of circulation." Amnesty International's 2011 report on Lawless Laws says Shabir Shah is out of circulation. Even at the end of 2021, Shah is still out of circulation.
Ironically, the Indian government has now decided to keep Kashmiri leadership out of circulation through emergency laws or trumped-up charges.
There are many question marks. Are these shameful legal maneuverings are helping India maintain the colonization of Kashmir?
I just want to Save My father's life. He has served 34 years in prison with no allegation ever proved against him.
My name is Sehar Shabir Shah, and I'm 19 years old. I am the daughter of Shabir Shah, the Kashmiri “Nelson Mandela” who has served 34 years in Indian prisons for demanding the right of self-determination for the Kashmiri Indigenous population. In all these years, the Indian courts never convicted him.
For a significant part of my life, I have met my father inside the boundaries of Indian jails. I have been seeing my father through a window of glass; so small that I could barely see his face; so blurred that I couldn't picture him but only a shadow-like thing.
I could neither touch him nor see him clearly; instead, I put my hand on the glass window, and so did my father. It felt like we were holding hands. From what I could figure out, he has turned so weak — like a skeleton.
"Your father will never be released" — I have heard that innumerable times from the jail staff.
Female forces' personnel would check me thoroughly at the jail gate; they used to grab my face so harshly – that it hurt – to check if I was hiding something in the mouth. And the rude abuses were harsh too.
I recall an incident in 2019 when I had written a poem for him. I kept the paper, with my thoughts inked on it, in my pocket when I accompanied my mother to the jail.
A female cop frisked me; she removed my hijab and pulled my hair, saying, "Tum aatankwadi ho." (You are a terrorist). She found my poem. And she handed it over to one of her colleagues, a Tamilian officer who couldn't read English.
"In aatankwadiyo or inke gharwalo ko sabse buri saza deni chaiye," (These terrorists and their families should be punished badly) she said.
"It is a gift for my father," I had said. Nonetheless, she called another cop and asked him to tear the poem in front of me. And spit on it. They laughed and spoke in the Tamilian language that I didn't understand.
On 29th October 2021, my mother and I travelled 700 kilometres from Srinagar to Delhi to visit my imprisoned father after two years. We were appalled to see that he couldn't stand or walk independently. He had become so frail that he had looked like his childhood photos.
In the five-minute conversation allowed by jail staff, we could understand that doctors advised my father two surgeries and one biopsy.
In the past, jail authorities have ignored repeated requests for access to his medical records so that we can get an independent evaluation of his medical conditions.
According to United Nations reports, Indian jails are hostile places for Kashmiris as they are considered terrorists and traitors. Former Kashmiri prisoners say that jail doctors are more hostile than jail staff.
My father's health is very critical. Any delay in surgeries can be fatal for him. We do not trust the available medical treatment options provided by jail authorities, particularly for surgeries.
His life is more important than his release. Yet, the only way he can be saved is through release on bail so that the family can arrange his medical treatment and surgeries independently.
We request the international community to work with the United Nations and the Indian government to work for my father's release on bail on humanitarian grounds.
According to international fair trial Standards, my father has the:
Right to get a fair trial within a reasonable time;
Right to bail during his prolonged pretrial detention;
Right to access his medical records;
Right to consult his doctor and physician at his own expense;
Right to meet his family in a comfortable atmosphere.
I just want to save my father's life.
Tazeen Hasan is a research fellow and campaign lead against arbitrary detention at Justice For All Canada. Tazeen penned this reflective article while in close communication with Sehar Shah.
KASHMIR: Arbitrary Detentions Under Terrorism Laws Over Celebrating Pakistani Victory in a Cricket Match
Tazeen Hasan illustrates how the Indian Government uses arbitrary detention through anti-terror laws as a Settler-Colonial device against the Indigenous population of Kashmiris.
Kashmiri youth are being booked under draconian laws for celebrating Pakistan's victory in the Indo-Pak cricket match in Indian-administered Kashmir and India, local Indian and international media reported.
Also, Kashmiri students in Punjab and the Uttar Pradesh States of India were beaten by the mob after the Pakistani victory over Indian Cricket Team.
According to Al-Jazeera, the Police in Indian-administered Kashmir have filed criminal cases under a stringent anti-terror law against the students of two medical colleges in Indian-administered Kashmir for celebrating Pakistan's victory against India in the T20 World Cup. The cases were filed under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Activities Act, one of the few controversial laws condemned by human rights groups and the United Nations.
Also, according to the Guardian, police in Agra, Bareilly, and Mohali have arrested seven Kashmiri students for allegedly celebrating Pakistan's victory over India in a cricket match. According to Indian national media, the college suspended them because they were accused of posting messages on social media supporting Pakistan.
In a tweet, Uttar Pradesh's chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, famous for his genocidal remarks against Muslims in his election campaign, said that the three might be charged with sedition. Police have already charged them for cyberterrorism and "promoting enmity among groups" that police accused them of after the arrests on Wednesday.
The Himalayan region of Kashmir is an internationally disputed predominantly Muslim territory where the Indigenous population is struggling to fight for the right to self-determination. Kashmir is claimed by India and Pakistan, which rule over parts of it.
Recognized by India, Pakistan, and United Nations Security Council in 1948, the right to self-determination to Kashmiris has been consistently denied by the Indian Government in the last seven decades.
Anti-India sentiments are very high in Kashmir. A vast majority of Kashmiris support the merger with Pakistan, while the rest want to establish an independent State.
According to the United Nations and human rights organizations, the Indian Government and security forces have committed grave human rights violations against Indigenous Kashmiris i-e extrajudicial killings, rapes, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, torture, shooting peaceful protestors fatally, or using pellet guns to blind the civilians on a massive scale.
India uses controversial sedition and terrorism laws long condemned by human rights organizations like Amnesty International as lawless laws to curb the dissent in Kashmir to detain peaceful civilians arbitrarily.
Booking medical students over cricket match celebration in criminal cases under anti-terror laws is a heinous and harrowing human rights abuse. Nevertheless, the global silence over India's atrocities is more harrowing to maintain and forward its settler-colonial agenda.
The crime of these students was nothing but to exercise their freedom of speech and expression. The families have appealed to the Government to release their loved ones.
Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right according to the Universal Declaration of Human rights, Ban on freedom of speech is against article 19 (1)(a) of the Indian constitution that says, 'all citizens have the right to freedom of speech and expression.'
'Freedom of Speech and expression means the right to express one's own convictions and opinions freely by words of mouth, writing, printing, pictures, or any other mode.'
India claims to be the largest democracy in the world. Yet, the world is silent over the lawless settler-colonial tactics of the world's 'so-called' largest democracy.
Arresting medical and engineering students for supporting a particular sports team shows the fears of the Indian Government and frustration over their failure to colonize Kashmir successfully.
According to independent estimates, India is using the brutal force of over 600,000 to 900,000 security forces in an area 132 km in length and 35 km in width, making it the most militarized region globally.
Yet, the Indian Government is frustrated that this massive force can't discipline Kashmiris to support India in the cricket match.
Using anti-terror laws to detain the civilian population is a shameless settler-colonial tactic arbitrarily, which should be condemned by the United Nations, governments, and human rights organizations worldwide.
Tazeen Hasan is a research fellow and campaign lead against arbitrary detention at Justice For All Canada.