No Political Prisoner In State: J&K Police

18 March 2015
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Majid Jahangir

Srinagar: With the controversial release of hardline separatist leader Masarat Alam putting the spotlight on Kashmiri prisoners, the J&K police have claimed that there is no political prisoner languishing in any jail in the state. There are, however, 205 prisoners, including militants, over ground workers (OGWs) and stone-throwers, lodged in different jails across the state at present. These prisoners are described as 'troublemakers' by jail officials. Besides, over 100 other prisoners, a majority of them militants facing trial in different cases, are lodged in jails outside the state, including the high-security Tihar jail in Delhi, official sources told The Tribune. Sixteen persons are currently detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA) - a law that empowers a Deputy Commissioner to take anyone in his district into preventive custody for up to two years without trial if he feels the person poses a threat to the J&K security. 'Out of these 16 detained under the PSA, nine have been arrested for militancy-related activity or creating trouble,' said a senior officer in J&K's Home department. 'We are surprised when people say that thousands are lodged in jails,' he added. A top police officer in J&K said there were 'no political prisoners' in any jail in or outside the state. 'Militants, over ground workers for militants, stone-throwers or troublemakers cannot be categorised as political prisoners,' he said. After the massive uproar over the release of Masarat Alam, the J&K Government, sources said, put the release of few political detainees on hold. After taking over, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had directed the police to release political prisoners facing no criminal cases. There was a country-wide uproar and the BJP - coalition partner in the J&K Government - was left red-faced as it was not kept in the loop about Alam's release. Contradicting the police figure, the hardline Hurriyat claims that there are 550 people in various jails in J&K and other states. 'For us all of them are political prisoners as they were arrested after the conflict emerged. There are resolutions on the Kashmir issue and those fighting for it are political prisoners,' said a Hurriyat leader, who deals with the detention cases. 'We hope that these prisoners will be released,' he added. The top prisoners in J&K include Ashiq Hussain Faktoo, husband of separatist leader Asiya Andrabi, Mohammad Shafi Khan, alias Shafi Shariati, Ghulam Qadir Bhat, Mohammad Ayub Mir, Iqbal Jan and Ghulam Qadir.