Kashmir takes to social media, campaign against bad law

Omar Abdullah
Srinagar, April 13: It was enacted as law to stop timber smuggling in late 70s but now it has been so badly misused that there is an online campaign to stop the Public Safety Act and to repeal it.

The online campaign is to press Omar Abdullah-led Jammu and Kashmir government to stop detaining people under the Public Safety Act.

Jammu and Kashmir is new to the social media and the online initiative is very encouraging, whatever be the outcome. This at least makes the state connect with the mainstreme India and oull significant number of people into particpative democracy.

The online campaign "Global Petitions" started on Facebook urges netizens to support the campaign to appeal the Chief Minister to "pick up his pen and stop police abuse!"

It is ironical that the people are telling Chief Minister Omar Abdullah not to misuse the state act while he himslef has been campaigning against Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

"The people of Jammu and Kashmir call on you (Omar) to take immediate steps to stop police abuse by addressing the persistent practice of administrative detentions in Jammu & Kashmir under the Public Safety Act (PSA)," the petition reads.

Under the PSA, it said, people are held without charge or trial, for months and sometimes years. "This has not changed despite the amendments in 2012".

The petition reads that this situation cannot continue. The campaign calls on Omar to issue an administrative order directing that authorities must stop the practice of "revolving door detentions", and not use the PSA to repeatedly detain an individual on similar grounds.

"The PSA detention records maintained by the J&K Ministry of Home Affairs must be publicly accessible, especially to spouses and close family members and legal representatives assigned and agreed by detained persons," it said.

"Beyond this, we call on you to use your powers to ensure that no one is detained under the PSA until it is repealed," it added.

The chief minister himself had spoken in the State legislature about the PSA that was made into a law in 1978 to act as a deterrent against timber smuggling, much before militancy reared its head in the State.

Abdullah stated that while there were no plans to scrap the PSA, the government would not allow the law to be misused.

In a detailed 2011 report, human rights organisation Amnesty International came to the conclusion that "the PSA violates India's international human rights legal obligations". The report also inferred that administrative detention "under the PSA was used in J&K to detain individuals for years at a time, without trial, depriving them of human rights protections otherwise applicable in Indian law".

It says that the government carried out 8,000-20,000 administrative detention during two decades of militancy.

Another Amnesty report quoted a senior police officer of the J&K Police as having admitted that more than 15,000 people had been detained under the PSA in the last two decades.

In an open letter to Abdullah, the rights body said Amnesty's research in 2012 found that the manner in which authorities used the Act continued to result in unlawful deprivations of liberty through ‘revolving door' detentions, detentions of suspected members of separatist groups, torture and other ill-treatment, and denial of medical care while in detention.

It should put a full stop to the lack of transparency on the whereabouts and condition of detainees by making the PSA registry, maintained by the Jammu & Kashmir Home Ministry, publicly accessible, particularly to their families and lawyers, AI India said.

Oneindia News

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