“To whom should we plead?,” families of Kashmiri prisoners lodged in jails across India demand their release amid Covid scare

On April 14, The Wire reported that Asia’s largest prison facility, Tihar Central Jail, and Mandoli and Rohini prisons in Delhi have become hotspots for Covid-19 with over 500 inmates and staff members testing positive since last year. | Photo Courtesy: Live Law

8 May 2021

The demand for the release of Kashmiri prisoners lodged in different jails across India was raised after a Hurriyat leader Shahid-ul-Islam tested positive in Tihar jail on April 26. His family members appealed the government to release Islam on humanitarian grounds “as he has tested positive for Covid-19 and is also suffering from numerous ailments.”

Srinagar: Amid a massive surge in coronavirus cases across India, family members of Kashmiri prisoners expressed concern for their kin lodged at different jails across the country since the abolition of Article 370 in August 2019. 

India recorded over 3.57 lakh new Covid-19 cases in the 24 hours ending 8 am Tuesday, taking the total infections past the 2 crore mark, official data showed. There are over 34 lakh active cases in the country, while the death toll due to the virus is now over 2.22 lakh.

Thousands of youth, political leaders and activists were detained when the BJP-led government scrapped Article 370 of the Indian constitution that granted a special status to Jammu and Kashmir, bifurcating the state into two Union territories.

Most of the prisoners were lodged in New Delhi’s Tihar jail, while many others were lodged in Uttar Pradesh’s Ambedkar Nagar jail and Bareilly jail.

On April 8, at least 19 prisoners in the Tihar Jail tested positive for Covid-19 and were admitted to different city hospitals.

Last year, when the pandemic broke out, nearly 6,000 prisoners were released on special parole to ensure social distancing in jails. However, between February 6 and March 18, almost all have surrendered, leaving little space for isolation of suspected cases and new inmates, Hindustan Times reported.

The families of the prisoners have expressed their concern over the health conditions of their kin and have demanded their immediate release or shift back to jail in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

“The government should at least lodge our children in Kashmir so that they would be safe and have fewer chances of contracting the virus,” said Mohammad Yousuf Dar, whose son Sheeraz Ahmad Dar has been lodged in Agra jail some 1200 kilometres away from their home in South Kashmir’s Kulgam.

Senior Dar said his son was detained in the year 2019, six months after his other son was killed in an encounter with security forces. 

“My other son was a militant. He was killed in a gunfight. Six months after he was killed, the police came and arrested Sheeraz, Dar said, adding that “it has been over a year since I have met my detained son.”

Mohammad Maqbool Maliq from South Kashmir’s Shopian district, whose son Uzair Maqbool was detained allegedly on the charges of “stone pelting” before August 5, 2019, has no hope that his son will be shifted back amid pandemic.

“Wanni kas wannav (To whom should we plead now),” Maliq said.  

Uzair is incarcerated at Agra jail in Uttar Pradesh. His father, a driver by profession is struggling to meet him.

“We aren’t financially sound so it’s not possible to meet him regularly. It would be better if the government would release him,” Maqbool Maliq said.  

His counsel Advocate Wajid told TwoCircles.net that Maqbool was alleged to be involved in stone-pelting cases and at the same time he was alleged to be an OGW (Over Ground Worker).

It has been over 18 months since Mohammad Amin Ganaie has seen his son Rasik Ahmad Ganaie’s face. 

Rasik, an alleged “militant” was detained over four years ago by Kulgam police. “He was shifted to Agra jail later on,” his father told TwoCirlcles.net. 

“I am very old now. It is very difficult for me to travel and meet my son. Since the pandemic, we haven’t met him. I request authorities to bring back my son and lodge him in any jail in Kashmir,” Ganaie said. 

He claimed that over 17 people from Kashmir are lodged in Agra jail.

The demand for the release of Kashmiri prisoners lodged in different jails across India was raised after a Hurriyat leader Shahid-ul-Islam tested positive in Tihar jail on April 26. His family members appealed the government to release Islam on humanitarian grounds “as he has tested positive for Covid-19 and is also suffering from numerous ailments.”

On May 1, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association also urged the Government of India and the J&K Union Territory administration to shift Kashmiri prisoners lodged in various jails of India back to the Valley because of the massive spike in Covid deaths and cases across the country.

In a statement, the HCBA spokesman said that in an extraordinary meeting chaired by the Bar Chairman Advocate Nazir Ahmed Ronga, serious concern was expressed on the health conditions of the hundreds of Kashmiri prisoners lodged in different jails in India who were already in outside jails post 5 August 2019.

“It was urged upon the Government of India and the and J&K UT administration to shift Kashmiri prisoners from outside jails to the nearest jails in Kashmir given the disastrous wave throughout India which is consuming thousands of lives per day,” the statement said.

“Bar Association also demanded the cases of these prisoners /detenues be reviewed for release on parole and in view of the grave pandemic situation. In the meeting it was decided to appeal to the Government of India and UT administration for review of the cases for release on parole and shifting of these prisoners to the nearest jails in Kashmir,” the statement said.

Notably, the jails in India continue to remain overcrowded. 

On April 14, The Wire reported that Asia’s largest prison facility, Tihar Central Jail, and Mandoli and Rohini prisons in Delhi have become hotspots for Covid-19 with over 500 inmates and staff members testing positive since last year. 

Source https://twocircles.net/2021may04/442079.html

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