In the 30 days since the removal of special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir and its bifurcation into two Union Territories, at least 290 people have been booked under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA). Of these, 250 have been booked under this law in the Valley and 40 in Jammu, sources in the government told The Indian Express. Before August 5, these figures had ranged, on an average, between 70-80 per month.
More than 100 of these detainees are being held outside the state, sources said.
Meanwhile, of the unspecified number of detainees in the state since August 5, along with those booked under PSA, Section 107 (abetment) and Section 151 (joining assembly to disturb public peace) of the Ranbir Penal Code, approximately 350 are from Srinagar; 140 are from Shopian, including 22 under PSA; 270 from Pulwama, including approximately 40 under PSA.
The Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) allows the government to detain a person without trial for a period of three to six months. The Act was promulgated in 1978 by the Sheikh Abdullah government as an administrative detention aimed to keep timber smugglers “out of circulation”. However, over the past three and a half decades, the government has frequently used it against political opponents.
When the Act was originally promulgated in 1978, it allowed the government to detain any person above the age of 16 years, without trial, for a period of two years.
The detention order under the PSA is issued by the respective District Magistrate (Deputy Commissioner) after recommendations from the police. The police prepares a case file – called dossier – against the accused and submits it to the respective Deputy Commissioner. Since 2010, the state has used it to detain youth who take part in protests. Human rights groups have questioned the use of PSA against political opponents.
One of the biggest criticisms of the Act has been its use to attain “revolving door detentions” — allowing repeated detentions by the state. Following the the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander Burhan Wani, the J&K government used PSA against more than 550 persons, the highest number in a year.
Meanwhile, in Srinagar’s Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre, designated a subsidiary jail since August 5, about 32 political detainees from across political parties are being held. Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is being held at Hari Niwas at Gupkar while PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti in a hut in the Chashme Shahi area, both designated subsidiary jails. People’s Conference leader Imran Reza Ansari was moved from SKICC on Tuesday to be detained at his house following health concerns, senior officials told The Indian Express.
The J&K Police has also been releasing those detained for short durations, seeking “community bonds” — “these are guarantees sought on blank paper from the family and village elders taking responsibility for the conduct of the person being detained,” a senior police official said.