Afraid of a woman!

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The state government’s insistence on keeping woman separatist Asiya Andrabi jailed out of Kashmir surprises even the apex court of India.  Hamidullah Dar reports.

DeM chairperson Asiya Andrabi (KL Image)

As government cracked down on separatists in the wake of Shopain protests, it slapped Public Safety Act (PSA) on at least 18 prominent ones, including the firebrand woman separatist Asiya Andrabi.

Andrabi, who heads the women separatists group Dukhtaran-i-Millat (Daughters of Faith), was arrested from Soura on June 10. Next day, a PSA was slapped on her and she was sent to Amphala Jail in Jammu.

As Asiya’s counsels filed a writ petition in High Court, they also sought that she be shifted to Srinagar. The government, however, refused to move her to Srinagar even on the High Court orders.

On July 14, Justice Hakim Imtiyaz gave the state government 48 hours to shift her to Srinagar from a Jammu jail. Instead of complying with the single bench orders, the State chose to appeal against the order before a Division Bench, which dismissed the appeal.

The state was forced to bring her to Srinagar, partly for the medical examination at SKIMS, but went to Supreme Court against the High Court order. The apex court expressed its surprise over state’s efforts to keep the woman leader in Jammu.

In the last four years, Andrabi has spent more than 400 days in detention. Andrabi is not just a woman separatist voices, she is one of the most vocal against accession of Kashmir with India. She has, however, mostly been behind bars for her protests against immoral activities in the valley and oppression against Muslims world over. Many in the valley question her detention for protests against immoral practices.

“If Asiya Andrabi is fighting against social evils, why should she be put behind the bars and the accused roam around freely,” questions Abdul Rashid, 45, a school teacher from Khanyar area of Srinagar citing an example of an infamous sex scandal in 2006.

File Photo of Asiya and Neelofer

However, authorities consider her activities as instigation to violence. “She (Andrabi) is leading the protests to further her agenda of separatist ideology which results in violent law and order situations. She is a potent threat to the security of the state which we will not allow at any cost,” said a police official on condition of anonymity adding that her protests instigate people to violence.

It is apparently the state’s perception of Andrabi as a potent threat to the security of the state that even her protest against the gruesome double murder and rape of a woman and a teenage school going girl was enough to send her behind bars.

“Whatever be our political penchant, when it comes to social issues we exhibit collective concern for which Baaji (Andrabi) pays the price. Be it activities under FASE (Forum for Action against Social Evils) to save the chastity of Muslims girls or protests against Shopian tragedy, Asiya raised the voice and was imprisoned under PSA (Public Safety Act). This shows Kashmir has become a police state where raising concern over immoral activities is considered an offence,” says Rifat Fatima, acting chairperson Dukhtaran-e-Millat. “Not only Baaji, but a class 11 student Fehmeeda Sofi is also detained with her.”

Giving details of charges against Andrabi, her counsel Advocate Mian Abdul Qayoom said, “She is in jail on certain charges including organising programmes, hartals, rallies and harassing common people. The matter is sub judice and within days it will come up for arguments and truth will be known to all.”

Senior advocate J&K High Court Syed Tassadque Hussain terms Andrabi’s detention as a human rights violation. “Asiya Andrabi’s detention away from her home and hearth shows that J&K PSA of 1978 is being utilised for coercing political opponents so that they suffer psychological trauma. Normally a lady of Asiya’s eminence, who is only a political leader, should have been kept at Srinagar central jail. This case illustrates a case of human rights violation,” opines he.

The Supreme Court this week firmly turned down the state government’s plea to shift Dukhtaran-e-Millat founder Asiya Andrabi back to Jammu from Srinagar and rejected its apprehension that her presence in the Valley could fuel anti-national activity. “Are you afraid of a single woman?” asked a Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam.

The Bench said she was a single woman as against the might of the state with a large number of police personnel at its command. At Srinagar, she would be able to meet her children, it said. “State is a big thing and it can always curb her activities, she being lodged in prison. Is the state afraid of a single woman? You should have some consideration for her small children,” it said.

“How can the state be afraid of a woman?” the Bench wondered, observing that shifting her to Srinagar was necessary as her two children, aged 14 and 8, were residing there and this would make their visits to her easier. However, reliable official sources told Kashmir Life that Andrabi’s presence in Srinagar was a thorn to some “immoral” politicians and bureaucrats for some reasons and “they try to keep her away at any cost”.

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