Coronavirus: NC demands release of party leaders, other detainees

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Srinagar

Jammu and Kashmir National Conference on Sunday demanded the immediate release of incarcerated party leaders, other detainees and called for swift action by the government to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in prisons across the country.

Party’s Member of Parliament (RETD) Justice Hasnain Masoodi expressed commiseration with the scores of families whose loved ones are languishing in various detention centers inside and outside J&K. He said, “The families of the detainees languishing in various detention centers across the country are worried, particularly in wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. Mostly coming from the underprivileged sections of society the concerned families find it difficult to frequent their loved ones serving detention. The COVID-19 epidemic has added to the worries of scores of such families who worry for the wellbeing of their loved ones. The lockdown has effectively cut any chance of Kashmiri prisoners locked in different jails outside J&K to meet their families, hence adding to the miseries at both ends. The anxiety level of such families is high.”

He said the inmates languishing in various detention centers are facing a shortage of sanitary material to stem the spread of the virus. “Many inmates sleep in crowded dorm-style units, share the same bathrooms; it is no less than a terrifying situation to which the government has shut its eyes.”

“When the world is going through worst of public health nightmare which requires social distancing and proper sanitation,” he said that having political leaders, activists, civil society leaders in confinement reveals the perturbing indifference of the present ruling dispensation for basic human rights.

“Our party leaders including General Secretary Haji Ali Muhammad Sagar and party functionary Hilal Ahmad Lone have been slapped with PSA and are presently lodged in detention centers whereas our Provincial President Nasir Aslam Wani, Chief Spokesperson Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi, women’s wing president Shameema Firdous, senior leaders Choudhary Ramzaan, Mohammad Shafi Uri, A R Rather continue to remain under house arrest. These, as well as scores of other detainees, are the ones who have nurtured democracy and democratic institutions, paid deference to the rule of law and constitution all their lives,” he said.

“There are scores of other detainees, who are languishing in jails both inside and outside J&K should also be released without any further delay. Country’s jails are already fraught with the burgeoning problems of overcrowding, lack of proper sanitation, hygiene facilities and proper food. Having scores of inmates in such a crowded atmosphere will make the whole lot more susceptible to COVID-19 threat. The COVID-19 outbreak has the jails across the world on high alert, with authorities stepping up inmate screening, sanitation in jails cells and following the protocol, but it seems to be a distant hope here,” he added.

He also sought the release of all the detainees languishing in jail inside and outside J&k. “Incarcerated leaders should be allowed to reunite with their families, who could take better care of them. Scores of other detainees including students, trade union leaders, and political activists should also be released fore with; the measure will bring respite to their families.”

Masoodi said at a time when the world is going through worst of public health nightmare, the government must remember its responsibility to prevent the spread of the outbreak in all the prisons across the country. “Indian jails are already fraught with the burgeoning problems of overcrowding, lack of proper sanitation, hygiene facilities and proper food. Having scores of inmates in such a crowded atmosphere will make the whole lot more susceptible to COVID-19 threat. The COVID-19 outbreak has the jails across the world on high alert, with authorities stepping up inmate screening, sanitation in jails cells and following the protocol, but it is a distant hope, unfortunately, we don’t see the government doing anything to prevent the spread of viral disease in the jails across the country and J&k in particular,” he added.

Calling the attention of the government to the issue, Masoodi said overcrowding in the jails spaces does not help in the proper implementation of COVID-19 protocol. “The government should swing into action and come up with a slew of measures to protect the lives of all inmates serving confinements. The measures should include reducing crowdedness in jails, ensuring proper hygiene, and other COVID-19 protocol advisories, which I believe are to implement in a jail facility. Therefore the government should think of other means and ways to help overcome the crowding issue including shifting of inmates or release of elderly inmates as are nearing the end of their confinement. In addition to the government should do a review of all jails across the country and think in the direction of releasing the inmates on parole as are vulnerable to COVID-19 due to other prevailing health conditions,” he said.

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