“Ghosts haunted me… cell was a cage”: Kashmiri journalist’s 9-months in jail

Qazi Shibli was at his home on 27 July 2019 when Jammu and Kashmir Police summoned him. A story in his news website followed by a thread of tweets with information about a government order of additional troop movement in Kashmir had landed him in Police Station, Anantnag, next morning, he says. 

Left with a few hundred bucks and in pajama, Shibli didn’t know that it would be before nine months he could return home. A week later, the Central government clamped down in Kashmir and broke the erstwhile state into two federally-governed territories. It also put strict restrictions on civilian movement and snapped all lines of communication.

In late August, Shibli’s younger brother told me that he fears, “since India was running out of prison space in Kashmir, Shibli might be flown outside.” That summer, the government booked at least 412 people under the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA) — Shibli was one of them.

In December, TIME magazine listed Shibli on the fifth spot in “10 ‘Most Urgent’ Threats to Press Freedom”. The Committee to Protect Journalist, an international organization that defends the rights of journalists, also reported about Shibli’s detention and ran an online campaign for the withdrawal of charges against him.

This week, the J-K police booked two journalists under India’s anti-terror law — Masrat Zahra and Gowhar Geelani — for their posts on social media, which the police claimed were “anti-national”. The police also filed an FIR against a story published in The Hindu, reported by Peerzada Ashiq. For more than 20 months, Asif Sultan, who is booked under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act — the same law as Zahra and Geelani — remains under detention.


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