We are deeply concerned by the continued detention of thousands of Kashmiris who have been held in jails in Jammu and Kashmir and all over India before and in the aftermath of the events of August 5, 2019 including minors, women, those who are ill and the elderly. In addition to those who have been languishing in jails for years for expressing their dissent to India’s occupation, an estimated 4,000-13,000 people have been detained since August 5.
Of the total number of detentions, 412 were booked under the Public Safety Act—a law that India has used for decades to quell any protest. The detainees do not have the right to legal representation and can be held up to two years without charges. Amnesty International has called this a “lawless law.” A number of detainees are held under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Amendment Act 2019 (UAPA), which gives complete powers to the Indian government to designate an individual as a “terrorist.” Some detainees are held without any formal order, while others have been imprisoned for years under criminal charges.
Although the Indian government has released a number of detainees as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, a majority of them remain imprisoned. At the latest count, 261 prisoners belonging to Jammu and Kashmir are currently lodged in different jails of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. 3,248 prisoners are in jails across Jammu and Kashmir. A committee that was mandated to decongest jails in the wake of Covid-19 has stated that it will not release those booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA), or militancy-related convicts, on any parole.
In the context of pandemics, prison populations in particular are vulnerable because of the high probability of an outbreak to occur. Kashmiri prisoners live in unhygenic and overcrowded conditions, have inadequate food, have little to no contact with the outside world, and are subject to psychological and physical torture. The lack of proper health care is commonplace. Consequently, we fear that most prisoners suffer from a frail immune system and will not be granted the necessary healthcare in case they are faced with Covid-19.
We join our voice along with senior UN officials and over seven international human rights organizations, as well as concerned academics and citizens around the world, who have all expressed their concerns and called for the release of Kashmiri detainees.
1. The immediate revocation of all PSA detentions
2. The release of all children on humanitarian grounds (approx 10 are in the juvenile home)
3. The release of women, the elderly, pre-trial detainees and undertrials on bail (including political prisoners and those detained from the civil society)
4 The release of convicted prisoners on parole, especially ones held in jails away from Kashmir.
5. Besides formal jails — the release of people legally and illegally detained or held in police lockups, joint interrogation centres, and house arrests.
In addition, all detainees should also receive medical attention as needed.
We stand by all of Kashmir’s prisoners, who have been fighting for their right to self-determination and are the unsung heroes of our freedom struggle. Just as we stand with them, we also wish to voice our solidarity with other oppressed peoples and struggles for liberation and self-determination around the world that are demanding the release of their prisoners–be it be the mass incarceration of Black Americans in the US or those in occupied Palestine, amongst others.
We are thankful to the organizations that have shown their support by signing this statement:
East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
Justice for Muslims Collective
Take Back the Bronx
Adalah Justice Project
BRITISH Kashmiri Women and Youth Council
Jewish Voice for Peace – New York City
The Palestinian Youth Movement
Alliance of South Asians Taking Action
Bizgrow Marketing Management
Diverse American Volunteer Association
Justice For All
Mary Crane Center, Morse
South Asia Solidarity Initiative
War Resisters League