4,000 arrested under controversial law, flown out of held Kashmir

August 19, 2019

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SRINAGAR: Mohammad Siddiq, 70, is under treatment at a hospital on Sunday as his wife stands beside him. The elderly man says he was returning home from a mosque when an Indian policeman fired a pellet gun at him, damaging his eye.—AP
SRINAGAR: Mohammad Siddiq, 70, is under treatment at a hospital on Sunday as his wife stands beside him. The elderly man says he was returning home from a mosque when an Indian policeman fired a pellet gun at him, damaging his eye.—AP

SRINAGAR: Thousands of people have been detained in Occupied Kashmir over fears of outbreaks of unrest after New Delhi stripped the restive region of its autonomy two weeks ago, government sources said on Sunday.

A magistrate speaking on condition of anonymity said at least 4,000 people were arrested and held under the Public Safety Act (PSA), a controversial law that allows authorities to imprison someone for up to two years without charge or trial.

“Most of them were flown out of Kashmir because prisons here have run out of capacity,” the magistrate said, adding that he had used a satellite phone allocated to him to collate the figures from colleagues across the disputed region amid a communications blackout imposed by authorities.

Authorities have repeatedly declined to provide a tally of how many people have been taken into custody, apart from confirming more than 100 local politicians, activists and academics were detained in the first few days after the state was stripped of its semi-autonomous status.

Law allows detention without charges or trial for up to two years

They said the “few preventive detentions” were made to avoid a “breach of peace” in a region that has fought an armed rebellion against Indian rule for three decades.

Jammu and Kashmir government spokesman Rohit Kansal said previously there was “no centralised figure” for the total number of people detained. But AFP spoke to numerous government officials in Srinagar, including police and security personnel, who confirmed the sweeping arrests.

A police official who asked to remain anonymous said “around 6,000 people were medically examined at a couple of places in Srinagar after they were detained”. “They are first sent to the central jail in Srinagar and later flown out of here in military aircraft,” he added.

Another security official said “thousands are jailed” but that the figure did not include other residents whose detentions at police stations had not been recorded.

The revelations came as eight people were injured during weekend protests in Srinagar with authorities re-imposing heavy restrictions to quell any unrest.

Authorities on Saturday began easing a massive movement and communications lockdown imposed about two weeks ago.

But clashes in a dozen locations around Srinagar saw restrictions brought back in some locations, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Officials had previously denied or played down reports of any violence and claimed that most of the India-held valley has been peaceful.

State government spokesman Kansal told reporters late on Saturday that eight people had been injured in the clashes but did not provide details.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2019