Release of Kashmiri Political Prisoners Demanded
By Dr. Fahi
“Masarat Alam Bhat, an alumnus of a prestigious missionary Tyndale Biscoe School, is one of the most recognizable Kashmiri youth leader. He has been-detained dozens of times for advocating the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir. Masarat is a political prisoner who has spent 24 years in Indian jails. He is 48. He is in jail not because he is guilty of a crime – though he has been charged with a miscellany of offenses under arbitrarily drawn and enforced regulations – but because he believes that the people of Kashmir should be free to decide their own future in accordance with the pledge extended to them under the authority of the United Nations Security Council,” Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Secretary General, World Kashmir Awareness Forum said at a meeting in Washington, D.C. The meeting was held to raise the awareness about the political prisoners in Kashmir.
“Mr. Bhat advocates that the people of Kashmir are the party most directly affected by the dispute involving their homeland. Even though, they have made every effort to convey their point of view to the United Nations, these efforts have met with no response. The Indian government has kept Alam in jail for decades on more than 30 charges but never convicted him of a single one, ” Fai said.
“The people of Jammu & Kashmir have not forgotten the promise of a plebiscite. Instead, pressure from the Kashmiri people to exercise their right to self-determination has grown. Each time Kashmiris have renewed their demands, Indian army has answered with renewed repression. These acts of repression have now turned into a systematic ‘reign of terror’ in the Vale of Kashmir. All the features of severe political repression are evident — the detention without trial, torture, execution, the torturing of neighborhoods, imprisonment of leadership and gang rapes by the Indian army — are common daily occurrences,” Fai added.
Mr. Saleem Qadri, representative of Masarat Alam Bhat said that currently, Masarat has been detained under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA). Although the courts have quashed 38 PSA’s against him completely. PSA, Qadri said, is a draconian law which enables the Indian army in Kashmir to detain civilians for up to one year without trial or due process for a wide variety of reasons. For example, under this act, an individual whose child has been murdered by Indian army and speaks out publicly against India’s campaign can be detained for up to one year without trial for endangering ‘public safety.’ Also under this act an individual who produces pamphlets or newsletters that advocate the implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions calling for a plebiscite in Kashmir can also be arrested and detained without formal charge or due process.
Saleem Qadri elucidated that PSA violates Articles 9 and 14 of the international Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“The failure of courts to get their orders implemented results in further victimization of persons held under preventive detention laws. The practice of re-arresting detainees, like Masarat Alam is very prevalent and that is done either on the ground of frivolous FIRs (First Information Report) or by passing of fresh detention orders one after another. This is done to keep persons continuously under detention without trial,” Saleem Qadri explained.
Sardar Zarif Khan, President, Kashmir Solidarity Council, Washington Metropolitan area said that the people of Kashmir have come on the streets and marched towards the office of United nations Military Overseer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) and submitted hundreds of memoranda to apprise the world body of the tragic and intolerable situation in Kashmir. It is ironic that this documentation should have failed to become a part of data for the consideration of the Security Council.
Sardar Zarif added that The United Nations bears a special responsibility to bring peace to Kashmir because it was in its chamber more than 72 years ago that India made a pledge to the world body in general and to the people of Kashmir in particular that they would be enabled to decide their future under an impartially supervised plebiscite on the basis of their innate right of self-determination. That promise has not been kept and in fact, has been repudiated in cynical violation of the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.
“No consideration of the Kashmir dispute which is designed to arrive at a peaceful settlement will yield any result unless the Kashmiri viewpoint is fully taken into account,” Zarif emphasized.
The participants of the meeting request the Secretary General of the United Nations as the custodian of human rights to impress upon the Government of India to release unconditionally all political prisoners, including Masarat Alam Bhat, Mohammad Yasin Malik, Shabir Ahmed Shah, Mohammad Ashraf Sehrayee, Ms. Aasia Andrabi, Naeem Khan, Altaf Shah, Ms. Nahida Nasreen, Ms. Fahmida Sofi, Ms. Naseema Bano, others. Also use his great moral authority in bringing India, Pakistan and the genuine leadership of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to the negotiating table so that peace could be restored and durable settlement explored for the battered land of Kashmir.