My Neighbor, a PSA Detainee

One night during the summers of 2010 in Kashmir I woke up to the vociferous growling and snarling of dogs in the vicinity. It was a time when Kashmir was on boil. The unrest of summer 2010 was midway and almost daily I would read and hear about the night raids by the Police at the houses of those suspected to being part of the protests. My first reaction to the blustering cries from the neighboring house was to get out and have a look at the situation, however, the thought of night blitzkrieg and PSA arrests flashed my mind and kept me from doing so. Back to the bed with an intense thought of desaparecidos of Argentina during the late 1970s under President Videla, I conceived that Pinochet’s dirty policies of arresting whoever spoke against the government had its takers even today and that too in places acclaimed to be run democratically.

On the following morning my ‘waking-up late’ habit was subdued by the curiosity to the events of the last night and when I reached the bakers shop I found people already burbling about the raid. Someone soon confirmed that three guys Mohammad Omar, Taffazul and Firdous (names changed)  from our colony have been arrested. Immediately people started paying visits to the families of the three, invigorating their fathers and consoling their wailing mothers. Someone boasting of his connections with the police and assuring quick release while others praying for their well-being. Eventually, one after the other people started to leave and I too left with the blubbering of wails still rebounding in my head.

For days the family members of the arrested youth tried to get any information about their whereabouts. “We went from one police station to another, pleading acquiescence of our loved ones, but they would blatantly deny having our sons” says mother of Taffazul.  Eventually, it was confirmed that they were being held at Parimpora Police Station, Srinagar. After 17 days from that eventful night, while on my way towards home I heard that two of the boys were released while Mohammad Omar was still in the prison. Changing my route, I was at the home of Taffazul. There was a crowd of people. Everyone trying to have a glimpse at him. People were asking him about prison and torture. Some women while crying, enbosoming and  squeezing him so tight that he would squeal. “We were lodged in a cell with another 10 people charged with the same offence. Every night they would bring more and more men and boys some as young as just 15 years old. They would slap us every now and then and if you resist their beating, more and more men would join their conquest. Together they would kick and punch us like savages ” says Taffazul. With these last words a shrieking voice overtook his rather calm persona and tears  started to role down his cheeks. He unbuttons his shirt and reveals his bruised back. It was a vivifying force for tumultuous uproar of cries and I too could not hold on to my tears. The heart-wrenching, puss filled wounds on his back gave numbness to my legs and I chose to go home rather than paying a visit to Firdous, much against the traditions of Kashmir.

In a few days, the news of Mohammad Omar being booked under PSA  came as loathe to the entire colony. He had been shifted to Kotbalwal Jail in Jammu. It was in August of 2011, after 14 months in prison that he was released pertaining to the conditions put forward by the authorities. ” After much pleading and beseeching, they released him. However, we had to provide two sureties into the bond with conditions that he would not indulge into any anti state/ Law or order activity and that he would not leave the jurisdiction of the concerned District Magistrate without permission” says Mohammad Omar’s Father. I met with Mohammad Omar after 20 days of his release. During this time he was undergoing medical treatment to the dislocated disc in his back. I saw a lame and lacerated Omar, lying on the bed, infirmity apparent in his tone. In much a dawdling manner he  began to talk to me and started to recount the most horrible experience of his life. “I was shifted from Parimpora to Shaheed Gunj Police Station and then to Kotbalwal. There were many PSA detainees all in a very pitiful shape. The cells were small and occupied with three times more men than it was supposed to. It would stink and fetor of the sweat. The stench was so severe that I would convulse but as days passed I became accustomed to it. In summer it contrived many diseases due to poor hygiene and my health began to deteriorate. Moreover, we had torture sessions there wherein each one of us would be beaten to pulp, sometimes with wooden sticks and sometimes the fists would grapple all over the body” says Omar. As I was talking to Omar his mother entered with a plastic box and started to give him medicine. I was taken aback by a fit of paroxysm when Omar revealed his arms and legs for his mother to apply ointment on the burn wounds. They were a specific type, circular in shape, with a ring of puss due to infection, typical of cigarette burn scars when it is stubbed out on skin.” I pray to God that these burn wounds do not leave scars on his skin and that God takes care of his dislocated disc in back so that he can walk again” says Mohammad Omar’s mother with tears dribbling down her cheeks. As I left for home a pang of pain and twinge clobbered in my mind for the jeopardized future of Omar and thousands of others booked under PSA. According to news sources almost 4100 men have been booked under PSA from March 2010 to January 2011 alone. In a 70 page report by Amnesty International entitled “Lawless Law”, it says ” Government of India is using PSA as a revolving door to keep people, they cannot convict through proper legal procedure”. It further says that ” around 20000 persons have been detained under draconian PSA for the past two decades”.

My ordeal with three of my young neighbors arrested for protesting against the inhumane killing of civilians by police and paramilitary forces left me stuck to the thought that some establishments believe in crushing any response against them. But how long do they stand, we witnessed a situation in Egypt were a despot was brought to his knees after he tried to break any voice against his atrocities. I see the latent peace in Kashmir a result of that pulverizing force that quelled the voices in Kashmir standing for a legitimate cause. When someone is subjected to atrocious behavior and subjected to    blindness and dumbness by force, he starts to feel desolated and an anger starts to build up in his  heart.Eventually, he gives a vent to it, ferociously, after a certain stimulus. The last summer uprisings in Middle East served as an example to us. It was stimulated by the self immolation of Bouazizi in Tunisia. Government of India should look beyond peace in Kashmir and try to sincerely listen to the disgruntled voices in Kashmir or a spark and Kashmir will be up in flames again.

Published By TheKashmirWalla on August 7, 2012


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Researcher in Chromatin Biology. Science/Politics. Words for @ForeignPolicy @etribune @GreaterKashmir

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