IIOJK in focus

Speakers seek world help in release of Kashmiri Detainees

Islamabad, July 02 (KMS): Speakers at a webinar organized by Kashmir Institute of International Relations (KIIR), in collaboration with World Muslim Congress, have sought the urgent intervention of the international community in early release of Kashmiri political detainees, languishing in highly congested jails in many parts of India despite surge in coronavirus.

The webinar, “Upsurge of Pandemic COVID-19 in India, Plight of Kashmiri Detained Political Leaders” was attended by noted human rights activists, scholars, academicians, international law experts and representatives of civil society rights organizations hailing from different parts of the world.

The speakers included Mr Lars Rise, former MP, Norwegian Parliament, Ms Nayeema Ahmed Mehjoor, senior journalist and author, rights activist, Agha Syed Muntazir Mehdi, Information Secretary of Tehreek-e-Kashmir, UK, Advocate Rehana Ali, Ms Seher Shabbir Shah, daughter of senior Hurriyat leader, Shabir Ahmed Shah, Muhammad Ashan Untoo and Prof. Dr. Shagufta Ashraf, Coordinator Event at KIIR. The KIIR Chairman, Altaf Hussain Wani moderated the event.

The speakers, while raising their serious concerns over the continued detention of Kashmiri Hurriyat leaders, said that the Indian government was using detention as a weapon to suppress the voices of dissent in the occupied territory. The ruthless suppression of dissent in the region, they said, has led to illegal and unlawful detention of thousands of Kashmiris.

“A sizable number of Kashmiri detainees, who were arrested by the Indian authorities before and after 5th August 2019, have been detained in Tihar, Haryana, UP, Tamil Nadu, Madya Pardesh and Karnatka jails where there is lack of proper sanitation, hygiene and medical facilities”, the speakers said.

They said that along with thousands of other prisoners, top-rank Hurriyat leaders, including Muhammad Yasin Malik, Shabbir Ahmad Shah, Nayeem Ahmed Khan, Masarat Alam Butt, Dr Qasim Fakhtoo and Aasiya Andrabi continued to languish in over-crowded jails, which had already been declared as a potential hotbed for the coronavirus disease.

The speakers demanded the international investigation on the extra-judicial killing of APHC leader, Ashraf Sehrai, who died in custody, denied proper medical care and was declared COVID-19 positive.

Referring to their life-long struggle, the speakers said, “These leaders have to spend most of their lives in jails owing to their political beliefs.” “They are being persecuted for the expression of their conscientiously held political beliefs and for raising the banner of revolt against injustices and indiscrimination meted out to the people of IIOJK at the hands of the Indian authorities”, the speakers maintained.

Seeking an immediate release of all illegally detained Kashmiri leaders, they said, “Since the third wave of the novel Coronavirus has hit India badly, prisoners’ coronavirus case fatality has also risen to an alarming level”. A large number of prisoners, they said, have contracted the deadly virus.

In the wake of fast spreading coronavirus in the prisons, they said, since the lives of prisoners were in grave danger and heightened risk of the COVID-19 infection it was imperative that the Indian government should release all illegally detained Kashmiri detainees, especially the ones who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 infections. They also asked the government of India to take urgent steps to make sure that prisoners and detainees have access to adequate medical care and protective measures against covid19.

The speakers also urged the Indian government to cease the dirty game of using COVID-19 as a tool to punish and persecute Kashmiris.

Denouncing the Indian government’s indifference towards the plight of Kashmiri prisoners, they said that the BJP regime had blatantly refused to heed the growing calls from international human rights groups regarding the release or shifting of Kashmiri prisoners back to Kashmir valley. “Even, the government of India seems reluctant to implement the verdict of the Indian Supreme Court that seeks immediate decongestion of prisons in the wake of the recent surge in Covid-19 cases”, they added.

Regarding the worsening political and human rights situation in IIOJK, they demanded of the Indian government to take the recommendations of Human Rights Commissioner serious and form an international inquiry commission to investigate the human rights violations in the territory.

They appealed to the UN Secretary General to appoint a special envoy on Kashmir to probe the rights violations being committed by Indian forces in the territory.
Suggesting the name of former prime minister of Norway Mr Kjell Majne Bondevik as special envoy, they said, Mr. Bondevik is a person of international repute and has met all stakeholders and leaders on both sides of Line of Control (LoC).

The participants of the webinar showed their serious concern over the surge of deadly coronavirus in India and raised alarm on the health conditions of political leaders languishing in different Indian jails.

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