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Hours before Amnesty briefing on detention law, J&K denies permission for event in Srinagar

J&K administration cites 'prevailing law and order' situation to deny permission to Amnesty event that was to focus on law used to detain separatists and stone-pelters.

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Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir administration Wednesday denied global human rights body Amnesty International permission to hold an event and a press briefing citing the “prevailing law and order situation”.

Amnesty was scheduled to hold a press briefing on the controversial J&K Public Safety Act (PSA), widely used to detain separatists and stone-pelters, at a Srinagar hotel Wednesday afternoon. The event included a media interaction and the launch of a report titled, ‘Tyranny of A ‘Lawless Law’: Detention without Charge or Trial under the J&K PSA’.

The administration, however, denied the rights body permission a couple of hours before the event was to be held. It has prompted local human rights groups to say that permissions for such events have always been difficult but that the denials have increased since 2015.

The PSA permits administrative detention without judicial intervention for up to two years. It has come under severe criticism from human rights organisations, and mainstream and separatist political groups who have accused the state police of indiscriminately using the controversial legislation.

Amnesty officials said they had sought permission for the event Tuesday. “We had written to the Srinagar deputy commissioner who had forwarded our request to the state police,” said Nazia Erum, manager, Media and Advocacy, Amnesty International India.

“The senior superintendent of police (SSP) Srinagar, however, informed us that due to the law and order situation, the request had been denied.”

Amnesty then released its briefing via email.

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Wanted to prevent untoward incidents in Srinagar: Police

The SSP Srinagar, Haseeb Mughal, told ThePrint that police only opined that the event should not be held and that the final call was taken by the Srinagar deputy commissioner.

“The request came to us through the office of the deputy commissioner, Srinagar. They had sought our opinion,” Mughal said. “In the interest of upholding law and order in Srinagar district, we gave the opinion that the said event should not be held. The final call was taken by the office of the deputy commissioner.”

The officer said the state police has been busy in maintaining the law and order situation.

“The state police is busy with a number of tasks that includes upkeep of law and order during the Shri Amarnath Yatra,” Mughal said. “The decision to deny permission was taken in order to prevent any untoward incident in Srinagar.”

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The Amnesty briefing

The Amnesty briefing was regarding its analysis of the cases of 210 detainees who were booked under the PSA between 2012 and 2018.

Amnesty International India says it has found 71 cases of revolving-door detentions, where authorities had either issued a new detention order or implicated a detainee in a new FIR, to ensure that they remain in detention.

In 90 per cent of the cases analysed, Amnesty alleged that the detainees faced both PSA detentions and criminal proceedings at the same time on the basis of same or similar allegations.

“The briefing revisits the PSA in the 42nd year of its existence and studies how it continues to facilitate administrative detentions and violate Indian and international human rights laws,” said Aakar Patel, head of Amnesty International India, in a statement. “This Act is contributing to inflaming tensions between the state authorities and local populace and must be immediately repealed.”

A growing trend

Civil society groups based in Kashmir say that the trend of “banning of public events” has always been prevalent in the state but there has been an increase, particularly after 2015.

Irfan Mehraj, a researcher with the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, said the state police has denied them permission around half a dozen times in the last four years especially when they had to release reports on the human rights situation in the state.

“In 2015, a lecture by historian Mridu Rai was denied permission. A commemoration event for Ata Muhammad, who discovered mass graves in Kashmir, was also denied permission,” Mehraj said.

“In 2017, we wanted to organise an event to mark the commemoration of the Kunan Poshpora rapes. When the permission was denied, we appealed to the States Human Rights Commission (SHRC), which categorically said police cannot deny permission by citing law and order. The situation, however, remains the same.”

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