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June 16, 2019

Unjust law


June 16, 2019

Forty-two years after it was put in place, the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act continues to contribute to grave human rights abuses in the Indian-held territory. In a briefing on Wednesday, human rights organisation Amnesty International noted that the law bypasses safeguards contained within the criminal justice system of Indian-held Kashmir and makes it easier to act without transparency or respect for fundamental rights. After a case study of 210 detentions under the law, Amnesty International has found that it contributes to high tension between local people and state authorities. It has sought the immediate repeal of the PSA, in its study titled ‘Tyranny of a Lawless Law’. The organisation also notes that the detention of children, the use of PSA orders without due diligence, often on highly generalised grounds, ‘revolving door’ detentions and using the PSA to prevent releases on bail aggravates the already disturbing human rights situation in held Kashmir. The international human rights watchdog found that in 90 percent of cases analysed, detainees faced both detentions under the PSA and parallel proceedings under the regular criminal justice system. This enabled police to secure detention of suspects released or likely to be released on bail.

The organisation has again called on the government of Jammu and Kashmir to repeal the PSA and other laws facilitating administrative detentions or abuse of rights. This of course can only happen as part of a broader effort to hand governance and law and order in Kashmir back to the people by enabling them to determine their own future. The failure to do so since Partition has contributed immensely to the conflict in Held Kashmir and to the increasingly troubled human rights situation in the territory. This has been pointed out repeatedly by human rights bodies and also the UN.

There is however a lack of international action to tackle the problem and the Indian-backed government of Jammu and Kashmir has been largely able to push through with an agenda that permits it to violate fundamental rights which should be available to every citizen in the valley, and elsewhere. In a vicious cycle, the failure to grant this to Kashmiris has added to their disquiet over the situation they live in. A broad-based resolution is needed and this can only happen through a process of dialogue involving all stakeholders in the bitter territorial conflict that has ripped apart the valley of Kashmir, households within it and also caused a line of divide which continues to run through the region and prevents peace within it.

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