Kashmir shuts on International Human Rights Day
Kashmir observed a strike on the international human rights day on Monday against the “increasing incidence” of trial courts sending erstwhile militants to life imprisonments as the trials conclude.
JKLF leader Yasin Malik, who sponsored the strike, was on a day long hunger strike on a road in Maisuma with a number of victims of violence making speeches. A number of separatist leaders also participated in the day long event. Amid massive deployments, Malik later came out in a protest carrying torches.
Malik had called for a strike last week after a designated court under TADA awarded life imprisonment to two of his erstwhile comrades - Nazir Ahmad Sheikh and Shawkat Ahmad Khan. The verdict came within days after a high court decision, in a separate case, reiterated that life imprisons means “till death”.
Given the general belief that life imprisonment essentially means 14 years, the assertion that it is actually till one is alive triggered a lot of panic. Right now, the courts have awarded life imprisonments in 28 cases in militancy related incidents.
The strike paralyzed life as roads were deserted, schools closed and businesses locked. Even officers reported thin attendance. Deployments were massively made across the state though there were no clashes reported from anywhere. But Malik’s strike and sit-in was just one of the many events across Kashmir.
During the morning hours, independent lawmaker Engineer Rashid led a group of his supporters to Residency Road. They were carrying placards against the rampant violations of human rights. Though they were keen to go to the United Nations Military Observers Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), the police did not permit. Interestingly, a police officer accepted a memorandum on behalf of the UNMOGIP that the lawmaker and his supporters had drafted.
Almost at the same time, there was another small group of people that appeared on the scene. Police said they belonged to one of the constituents of the Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Geelani. They were immediately arrested and a case was registered against them.
The day would usually be a very hectic day because various organizations and groups would schedule different events. Given the strike, all those activities were advanced by these groups in wake of the strike call. Association of Parents For Disappeared Persons (APDP), for instance, had an event on the eve of the International Human Rights Day. Its members carrying the photographs of the missing met for a symbolic protest on Sunday morning.
A grand alliance of the human rights groups comprising International Peoples Tribunal for Human Rights and Justice and APDP released its major report last week. The report, first of its kind, had investigated 214 cases of violations of human rights including deaths in custody, torture, rape and enforced disappearances. For the first time, the report, names 500 names from state police, army, CRPF, BSF, ITBP and the Rashtriya Rifles who were allegedly involved in these cases. It included two Major General, three brigadiers, nine colonel rank officers, two additional director generals of paramilitary forces, and two Director General of Police ranks. Even though the report was released last week, there has not been any official response or reaction to the allegations.