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Kashmir's Public Safety Act denies basic human rights

At least 345 people have been booked under PSA, with most of them moved to jails outside Kashmir region

Nusrat Sidiq   | 09.11.2019
Kashmir's Public Safety Act denies basic human rights

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir 

Sixty-year-old Kashmiri man Mohd Ayoub Pala keenly examines a court order directing the government to allow his son, who is suffering from cancer, to be medically examined.

With a deep sigh, he said there is no justice even for a cancer patient, noting his son should be home now and needs care and treatment regularly.

Mohd Ayoub, a day labor, had done his work on Oct. 14 to earn around 600 Indian rupees ($8.5) so he could come to court the next day to learn about the case of his son, who has been detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA) since Aug. 6.

Parvaiz Ahmad Pala, 33, was diagnosed with papillary thyroid carcinoma in 2014, and has remained on treatment since then and has also had surgery, as reflected by medical records accessed by Anadolu Agency.

But his detention has put the brakes on the availability of such basic rights, said Mohd Ayoub.

"I don’t know how he is now. I fear that his condition might have worsened as his thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) had reached a level of 4.6," he said, indicating he had a mild form of hypothyroidism.

Parvaiz’s family has already challenged the arrest on medical grounds, but he is yet to be released.

In the challenge, the family has brought on medical prescriptions and certificates from a tertiary care hospital -- Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences in Srinagar -- whereby it has been stated that Parvaiz is suffering from thyroid cancer and has been receiving medical treatment since 2014.

Doctor Tanveer, head of the Department of Nuclear Medicine at the hospital, told Anadolu Agency that cancer is a lethal disease but there are few cancers like thyroid cancer which can be cured if there is availability of proper treatment and timely observation.

He also stated that thyroid cancer patients can live more compared to those with other deadly cancers. "But you cannot negate the fact that they need treatment, proper medication and timely observations," he added.

Tanveer noted that Parvaiz had last visited the hospital in May this year, and the level of his body's TSH had risen above 4.0.

"And accordingly the doctor treating him had advised to increase the dosage of his medication but did not know his current condition," he went on to say.

Parvaiz was picked by the Indian security forces in a midnight raid on Aug. 6 from Matibug Village in Kulgam district, around 65 kilometers (40 miles) southeast of Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir.

His arrest came a day after the Indian government abrogated Article 370 of its constitution which guaranteed a special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

"At night, the forces entered our house and took him away. I ran after them, but they kicked me," said Mohd Ayoub.

The next day, on Aug. 7, when Mohd Ayoub visited the police station in Yaripora town, he was told by a police officer that his son will be released by Aug. 15, India’s Independence Day.

Mohd Ayoub waited, but his son was shifted to a jail in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, around 1,000 km (621 mi) from his hometown.

The grief-stricken man petitioned the Srinagar Wing of the High Court on Aug. 17 to overturn the detention order on medical grounds but the court for now has not overturned the decision of the government but has directed authorities to medically examine Parvaiz and provide medical facilities required for his ailment.

- Families distressed, burdened

Sharifi, Parvaiz’s mother always keep asking Mohd Ayoub about their son whenever he goes to the police station or to court to learn the details of his son’s case.

Mohd Ayoub says it is not easy to pacify her. He said each time he visits the two places -- police station and court -- Sharifi hopes their son will be released.

"But when she sees the look on my face when I return, she becomes disheartened and cries," Ayoub described.

Parvaiz has two children aged 8 and 10 who often ask about the whereabouts of their father, but Mohd Ayoub consoles them and tells them he will be back soon.

"Sometimes it becomes very hard to control my emotions when the children ask about him. It is very distressing for the whole family when such a situation arises," said Mohd Ayoub.

For now, he has to manage the family and keep track of his son’s case pending before the court.

- 345 Habeas corpus cases before court after Aug. 5 lockdown

After Article 370 was scrapped from the Indian Constitution, many arrests were made to control the public’s outrage. The arrests/detainments included the top political leadership, both mainstream as well as separatists of the region, young adolescents, middle aged people as well as children as young as nine, according to several reports.

Official figures say that following the Aug. 5 lockdown, at least 345 of those arrested have been booked under the PSA, with most of them moved to jails outside the Kashmir region.

But their families are not able to meet them on account of many "adversities" faced by them as it involves travel, huge expenses and tiring legal battles and at times, the family members are not permitted to meet the detainees.

Mohd Ayoub had managed to arrange travel expenses to meet his son at the Bareilly jail but came back disheartened as he was not allowed to meet him.

"I went to meet him last month, but the jail authorities didn’t allow me. I pleaded that my son is suffering from cancer, but still it was of no avail. I had to come back after trying for three days," he said.

- PSA: a lawless law

A report titled "Tyranny of a Lawless Law" by Amnesty International described the Public Safety Act of 1978 as a lawless law on account of its not being followed under procedures laid down in the law.

Shabir Ahmad Wani, a person with 40% disability in his right leg, was arrested on Aug. 19 from Padgampora village of Pulwama district, around 28 km (17 mi) from Srinagar. He was slapped with the PSA on the grounds that he instigated local youth of his area and disturbed the public order.

Wani’s family said he was arrested on Aug. 19, but the dossier mentions his alleged activities of instigating the youth and disturbing the public order on Aug. 20, which, according to family, is "impossible as he was already in police custody."

"This is how fabricated cases are made against innocents. It shows how this law is being misused and used as a tool by the state machinery to detain any person at will," Advocate Mohammad Ashraf told Anadolu Agency.

Ashraf added that it also shows the negligence and influence of the police on the district administration to pass a detention order without thinking whether this person can be detained or not.

Khalida, Wani’s wife and the mother of three children, including a 10-month-old boy, is skeptical about the release of her husband.

"We are very poor. I have no one to tell my ordeal. It is a woe filled with agony and pain. My husband is innocent. How can a disabled person be a threat to public order?" she said.

Wani, a tailor by profession, is currently lodged in the Central Jail in Srinagar, but his family -- particularly his children -- are hoping he will be released soon so they can meet him again.

"My father has not done anything, and he has to be released. We as a family are missing him," said his youngest son.

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