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Free J&K political prisoners in view of Covid situation, Mehbooba writes to PM

She wrote reports about jail inmates dying due to Covid-19, and lack of medical attention being given to them, are coming in.

Written by Naveed Iqbal | Srinagar |
Updated: May 8, 2021 3:11:08 am
Mehbooba Mufti, Narendra ModiMehbooba said worrying reports about prisoners dying due to COVID-19 and subsequent lack of medical attention have been trickling in. (Express Photo by Shuaib Masoodi/File)

Two days after Tehreek-e-Hurriyat chief Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai died at a hospital in Jammu, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti on Friday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and appealed for release of all political prisoners in the Union Territory.

Citing the growing number of Covid-19 cases in J&K, Mufti wrote, “Hundreds, or may be thousands of detainees & political prisoners arrested since August 2019 continue to languish in jails both in and outside J&K. Most of them are detained under preventive laws and don’t face any prosecution.”

The PDP chief wrote that reports about jail inmates dying due to Covid-19, and lack of medical attention being given to them, are coming in. “At a time the system is struggling to cope with this horrendous situation, lives of prisoners may be the least priority,” she mentioned.

Drawing Modi’s attention to the issue, Mufti underscored that many countries have released prisoners on parole in view of the pandemic. “A democratic & civilised country like India shouldn’t drag its feet & must release these detainees immediately so that they can return home at a time when life feels so threatened,” she stated.

Sehrai, 77, had died in detention in Jammu on Wednesday. The separatist leader, who was jailed under the Public Safety Act, was shifted to Jammu hospital from Udhampur jail a day before. Government officials said he had tested positive for Covid-19 posthumously.

This is Mufti’s first communication with the Prime Ministrer since August 5, 2019, when she was placed under detention alongside the entire police mainstream of the erstwhile state.

On Thursday, NC president and Lok Sabha MP from Srinagar Dr Farooq Abdulah had urged the Union government to consider parole and temporary release of ailing inmates. “The government should also conduct a Covid care audit of all prisons across the country in general and J&K in particular to ensure strict adherence to Covid protocol, availability of critical care equipment and drugs and immediate parole to such inmates who are suffering from comorbidities. Such a measure will help prevent loss of lives,” he had said.

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