Political prisoners in Kashmir narrate tales of insult and humiliation

Political prisoners in Kashmir recount the tales of insult and humiliation they went through after they were suddenly detained before and after the Union government announce abrogation of Article 370

Srinagar
Srinagar
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Gulzar Bhat

On August 4, Jammu and Kashmir police picked up Sartaj Ahmad Bhat, an active Peoples Democratic Party worker from his government allotted flat in Srinagar during an overnight raid.

Police drove Bhat straight to his native town in North Kashmir and put him in a dingy cell at a local police station. Soon the policemen went out and collared three more political activists of different political parties from the area and lodged them in the same cell.

The arrests came hours before the BJP government did away with the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and divided the state into two union territories--Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.

Like Bhat and other political activists from his town, police picked up hundreds of people from their residences during a string of takedowns across Jammu and Kashmir. An estimated 4000 people including the political leaders were arrested during the first three weeks since August 5. Dr Farooq Abdullah,  former Chief Minister and sitting Lok Sabha member has been booked under Public Safety act while two erstwhile Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti are still under detention. A fact-finding team of five women that visited the valley in the last week of September said that around 13000 boys had been detained by the police in Kashmir.

The next morning, Bhat says, a police man came and opened the heavy metal door of the dark cell and shifted them in a room.

"But in the evening, we were put in another cell that was filled with at latest 14 odd stone pelters", Bhat says.

A few minutes later after they entered the cell, their fellow inmates began making some flippant remarks. Soon some of them hurled a stream of insults at the main stream political leaders.

“They cocked a snook at us by discussing how the Central dispensation has always used the Kashmiri political leaders to their advantage", recounts Bhat.

He says that a few of them outrightly asked them why they are always falling in the trap of India.

"Every day we faced a lot of humiliation and embarrassment," he said.

He said that once a senior police officer passed by their cell and when he called him out, the officer completely ignored him.

Abdul Ghani Malik, another political prisoner alleged that they were deliberately subjected to such humiliation by the authorities and made vulnerable to physical attacks.

Malik says that he pleaded umpteen times with policemen to change their cell but they turned a deaf ear.

According to Malik, no officer not even the SHO took the trouble to speak to them during their more than six weeks detention.

Like many other political leaders, all four political activists were set free last month after signing the bonds.

According to the bond, they will not issue a statement, make a public speech or participate in any assembly.

In the militancy torn valley, it is always not easy to be part of a mainstream political party.  The mainstream political leaders and workers are viewed as pro-Indians and have always been the soft target of militants. Many National Conference, Congress, PDP and  CPI workers were killed over the past thirty years of turmoil in valley.

"I don't understand who will side with India if the government humiliates and risks the lives of mainstream political leaders ", says Malik, adding that current dispensation is not only shrinking the pro-India space in Kashmir but also vindicating the stance of separatist leadership.

(All the names in this story have been changed)

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