PSA detentions are unlawful

Kashmir Times. Dated: 9/23/2019 2:06:29 AM

Mere act of criticizing govt move on Article 370 cannot be criminalised

The sudden slapping of PSA on former chief minister and National Conference leader, Dr Farooq Abdullah, last week and conversion of his house arrest to detention in one room of his house, now converted into a sub-jail, is a glaring epitome of how civil liberties of the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir are being trampled. The move came one and a half months after his detention since the midnight of August 4 and 5, hours before the Centre brought a bill in the parliament to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special status, statehood and split the state into two entities. The decision to slap PSA on the National Conference leader came the night before the Supreme Court hearing on his habeas corpus petition filed by MDMK leader Vaiko, who contended that constitutional rights conferred on the National Conference leader had been deprived of on account of illegal detention without any authority of law. If his house arrest was an extra-constitutional step, his detention under PSA is even more obnoxious and a reflection of the anarchical high handedness that is being exercised by the Centre in Kashmir in the name of maintaining law and order. As per rough estimates, more than 4000 people have been detained under PSA. They include political leaders, political workers, activists, lawyers, traders and intellectuals. Thousands have been picked up and released, many among them tortured during their respective detentions in a process the security forces call "a dynamic one". While majority of these detentions have been made in Kashmir, many have faced the heat of this new authoritarian brutality in other parts of the state. Many have also been put under house arrest and complete surveillance. What are the legal grounds for such detentions? The government in its fit of arrogance is unwilling to spell out other than invoke the convenient but legally and logically unsound argument of maintaining law and order.
Evidently, anybody who is seen as a dissenter or holds a viewpoint different from the government qualifies for arrest in the manner in which the Centre is handling this sensitive state. Such methodology militates against the democratic norms and violates the civil liberties of the people. Criticism of government's moves including the scrapping of Article 370, that accorded Jammu and Kashmir a special status under the Indian constitution, through a parliamentary process does not qualify for arrests. The grounds given for Farooq Abdullah's arrest, similar to the ones used in the case of Shah Faisal, are that he incited violence. Farooq has been in house arrest since August 4 and the only public statement from him came three days later when he forcibly came out to face a television crew, anguished by the false claims of the union home minister, Amit Shah, who wrongly averred that Farooq had not been kept under house arrest but was a free man. Neither did the act of nailing Amit Shah's lie nor his anger over the nullifying of Article 370 amount to incitement of violence. There is nothing to show that Farooq Abdullah's statement incited imminent violence or created a major law and order problem. The petitions pertaining to Article 370 are still pending before the Supreme Court and any act of the parliament does not on its own become sacrosanct. It is open to criticism and opposition. The mere act of opposing it cannot be criminalised. If this were so, BJP would not have taken the lead in opposing the Mandal Commission based reservations in the 1990s. It would serve the government well to recall the unrest and lawlessness that the BJP and many other groups had pushed the country towards in their opposition to the reservation based laws three decades ago. Opposition, criticism and protests were not illegitimate back then. They continue to be constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right even now.



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