Ahead of January 26, Families Await Reunion As 26 Move Out of Jail

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by Umar Mukhtar

SRINAGAR: Neighbours and relatives of Rafiq Ahmad Bhat of Gulzarpora village in Pulwama had come to congratulate his family on his release. Bhat is one of the 26 individuals whose detention under Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) was revoked by the government on Monday.

However, Bhat is yet to reach home. His family said they could not make any contacts with him after they got the information about his release. Bhat was arrested in the second week of August. Initially, he was lodged in the Central Jail at Srinagar and then shifted to Agra Jail in Uttar Pradesh.

The official spokesman on Monday broke the news of releasing the largest group of persons detained in August. “The government today revoked detention warrants in respect of 26 persons detained under the provisions of Jammu Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978,” the official statement reads. The statement listed the release gazette.

Not all the persons announced to be released have reached home.

“He (Rafiq) was booked in a stone-pelting case and was also charged for being an instigator,” said his brother Bashir Ahmad. “Nobody has conveyed us about his release. We heard it from our neighbours who have seen it in the newspapers.”

Of the 26 persons whose PSA’s was revoked, 13 hail from South Kashmir, 12 from the North and one from Central Kashmir’s Srinagar district. The list includes two lawyers: Abdul Salam Rather, the president of the Baramulla Bar Association from the Central Jail, Srinagar, and Nazir Ahmad Ronga, former president of the J&K High Court Bar Association, Kashmir, from jail in UP.

Rather, a senior Baramulla lawyer, whose last and the only direct connection with politics was his unsuccessful contest in 1977 assembly elections at the peak of Janta Party government,. However, he directly drove to a close relative’s home to mourn his death, whose funeral prayers he had missed while in jail. Son-in-Law of his sister, he had died in December.

The lawyer, who has been heading the Bar in Baramulla for a long time, was arrested on August 5 and booked under PSA. His grounds of detention, according to Rather, accused him of being vocal against the abrogation of 370 and 35A. He was driven directly to Central Jail, Srinagar.

“Jail is not like an MLA hostel,” Rather said when asked about the life in jail for more than 160 days he spent there. “Jail is just a jail.”

Unlike Rather, the Rongas’ in Srinagar do still not know about their lawyer head of the family. Ronga’s is yet to reach home. Police had arrested Ronga on August 9 under PSA. His grounds of detention, according to reports appearing the media, suggested that he was accused of calling for poll boycott, and was instrumental in mobilizing the people. Initially, Ronga was held at Central Jail Srinagar and then shifted to Ambedkar Nagar Jail in Uttar Pradesh, along with the Kashmir Bar Association president, Mian Abdul Qayoom, who reportedly is unwell.

Humair Ahmad, Ronga’s son, told Kashmir Life that they have read about his release in the news reports but there is no official communication to them. “I tried to reach SSP Srinagar and DC Srinagar but there was no response from them,” he alleged.

However, the release of 26 individuals is seen as the first significant development in Kashmir. Most of these people, seemingly, had least or no political connections.

Earlier, the authorities set free a number of political workers in phased manners. Though, there are around 25 politicians still detained. Ram Madhav, BJP general secretary has recently stated that they may be released in next few weeks.

“Majority of the leaders are free now,” Madhav was quoted saying in Jammu on the sidelines of an event. “About 20-25 of them are still in detention. I am hopeful that they will be set free by the end of this month or maybe next few weeks.”

The official statement listed the detainees who were freed as Rouf Ahmad Dar, Aadil Ahmad Lone, Umar Gull, Showkat Ahmad Shah (Pampore), Tanveer Ahmad Bhat, Mohammad Umer Dar, Mudasir Ahmad Tantray, Shabir Ahmad Lone, Zahoor Ahmad Mir (Rafiabad), Rameez Ahmad Hajam, Rafiq Ahmad Bhat, Shabir Ahmad Wani (Awantipora), Mohammad Imran Dar (Pattan), Muzafar Ahmad Dar, Fayaz Ahmad Naikoo, Shahnawaz Ahmad Dar, Mohammad Maqbool Yatoo (Sopore), Mohammad Arif Lone (Pahalgam), Ishfaq Ahmad Ganie, Mudasir Maqbool Teli (Anantnag), Shabir Ahmad Bhat, Nawaz Ahmad Haroo, Sadam Hussain Haroo (Kulgam), Javid Kalas (Shopian).

Weary Voyages

Rafiabad got the maximum number of detained political activists freed in the list. These included Zahoor Ahmad Mir, reported to be the nephew of Mohammad Dilawar Mir.

Authorities had arrested around 5000 people in anticipation of August 5, when the Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was binned and the erstwhile state was bifurcated into two union territories (UT). The MHA informed the parliament, early December, that a total of 3509 individuals were detained post-August 5. Of them, 234 were held in various jails across UP and 27 were kept in Haryana jails. In Jammu and Kashmir, 3248 prisoners were jailed, the government response said.

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