COMMENTARY: Every Citizen’s Right to Liberty and Justice
Published: February 22nd, 2020
While I have been highly critical of the extended detentions of former heads of government, former legislators, and a former civil services officer under the Public Safety Act (PSC), I cannot forget the 200 Kashmiri men being held in jails outside the Valley.
These incarcerated Kashmiris have been detained in Jammu and Kashmir under Public Safety Act (PSA), as well.
It is important to condemn the impunity with which authorities have illegally detained these people, not all of whom are political activists. The BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party of India] has made several tall claims to legitimize its decisions on this and other matters.
From the safety of a land of freedom where now I reside, I must ask the question those incarcerated cannot:
Have these detainees been formally charged, or are they being held on grounds of vaguely defined suspicion?
Unfortunately, a modification to the Public Safety Act in 1990 made it non-obligatory for the authorities to provide the detainee with reasons for his/her arrest. This is obviously unjust.
Some of these detainees were sole bread winners of their families. The families of these young men are now derelict, with nowhere to turn. They lack the wherewithal to undertake the long journey from the Valley to Uttar Pradesh where their sons are being held.
The unknown fate of their children is a constant presence in their lives, like a leaden sky whose clouds are getting lower and lower.
The lack of closure in their lives makes their existence unbearable. Their stories evoke tragic destinies, unredeemed by justice.
As I reflected in a previous commentary, “In their quest to portray Kashmir as a religious issue and not a political one, Prime Minister Narenda Modi’s government is shrinking the political space for those who chose the route of electoral politics to make their voices heard.”
I lift my voice to cry for my beloved country and its people: In a democratic set-up, it is a heinous mistake to nip the political evolution of a society by belligerent and incoherent policies.
NOTE: A native of Kashmir, Dr. Nyla Ali Khan is a professor at Rose State College in Midwest City and visiting professor at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. Her essays and analyses have appeared in publications around the world, including in The City Sentinel newspaper and on the CapitolBeatOK.com website. This essay is adapted, with her approval, from a recent online post.