Officials claim the prisons in J&K are overcrowded but so is the Agra jail where they have been shifted to.
SRINAGAR â The family of Yasir Majeed Mir was awaiting his release from Kathua jail when they heard that their son has been shifted to a high-security jail in Agra. Mir, 22, was arrested in September last year and shifted to Kathua jail in the Jammu division.
A resident of Tangpawa village in south Kashmirâs Kokernag, Yasir is one among the 22 detainees who were lodged in Kathua, Udhampur and Kot Balwal jails, and have been shifted to Agra.
His family is shocked. âWe were not informed about the shifting of Yasir from Kathua to Agra jail,â Nazir Ahmad Shah, the brother-in-law of Yasir said.
Yasirâs family live in an old mud house with little resources. âMoving from one jail to another is frustrating, even within Jammu and Kashmir,â Shah said, âHow can we visit him now when he has been shifted to a far off prison,â Shah asked.
The family has not spoken to Yasir for over a month. There was no communication from the jail authorities about the shifting of Yasir to Agra Jail, Shah said.
On Monday, the Jammu and Kashmir administration shifted 22 Public Safety Act detainees to outside Jammu and Kashmir jails. The order for shifting the detainees was issued on October 16. The detainees were lodged in the central jail Jammu, district jail Udhampur and district jail Kathua
The detainees have been in prisons for over six months. Among the 22, 9 are from the Anantnag district, 8 from Pulwama, 3 from Kulgam, one each from Doda and Baramulla districts.
Since 2019, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has booked 954 people under the Public Safety Act (PSA). Out of them, about 30 per cent of those detained under the PSA are still in jail, both inside and outside J&K, without the prospect of an early trial.
Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Prisons Jammu and Kashmir Dr Muhammad Sultan Lone said that the order was issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs. âWe had to shift them to a maximum-security prison in Agra.â
Dr Lone said that the prisoners have been shifted because of overcrowding. He confuted the speculations that it is being done in the wake of the recent killings in Kashmir. âIt’s not true. It’s just the process. This has been done in the past as well.â
However, as per the latest available data of prisons, Agra jail is full beyond capacity. In 2020, 1943 inmates were detained in Agra jail against a total capacity of 1500 inmates.
Yasirâs family is as clueless as they were when he was shifted to Kathua jail from district jail Anantnag. Then, his family went to see him in Anantnag jail but were informed that he has been shifted to Kathua jail, Nazir said.
Yasir was arrested from his house by Jammu and Kashmir police 16 days before his sisterâs wedding in September 2020 and was booked under PSA. After spending about 6 months in district jail Anantnag, Yasirâs family visited the SSP Anantnag and requested to set him free. âHe didnât listen to us and said Yasir was a âcriminalâ and canât be spared by the law,â recalled Shah.
Suffering from a serious eye disease, Yasirâs family sold the land for his treatment. âWhen his mother visited him in Kathua jail last time, the jail authorities did not allow us to buy him medicines.â
Zubair Ahmad Reshi, a resident of Ashajipora in southern Anantnag district was detained under the Public Safety Act in March this year, and has been shifted to the Agra jail. Like Mirâs, his family, too, was not informed about shifting him to Agra jail. âWe talked to him some weeks ago and he was fine. I don’t know what has happened,â Sameer Ahmad Reshi, Zubairâs brother said.
Zubair, 24, was arrested in March this year from his home along with three other people. He was booked under PSA and shifted to Kathua jail. âHe is a daily wager and mostly used to stay indoors,â his brother said. âHe was arrested, and since then, he is in jail. Nobody told us that he is being shifted to Agra Jail.â
Advocate Riyaz Khawar told Mountain Ink that authorities have to inform the family of the detainee before shifting him to outside prison.
âThere’s also a judgment of the Supreme Court of India which states that the PSA detainees should be kept in close proximity of their place of residence. Not informing the family members is the violation of law itself.â
He, however, said the amendments in the Public Safety Act after the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir has resulted in the shifting of these prisoners to outside jails.
After the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmirâs special status in August 2019, hundreds of Kashmirisâincluding politicians, lawyers and activistsâ were shifted to prisons outside J&K including in Agra, Coimbatore, Jaipur and Tihar.
Most of the detainees have been booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA), 1978âa law termed as âa lawless lawâ by Amnesty International, a global human rights advocacy.
In April this year, over 20 prisoners detained under the PSA were moved to district jails in Haryana.
Basit Parray is a trainee staff writer at the Mountain Ink. He is a bachelor's student of Journalism & Mass Communication at the Cluster University, Srinagar.