India/Jammu & Kashmir: Crackdown on lawyers narrows road to justice in Kashmir

September 25, 2019

Lawyers go on strike after security forces arrest senior advocates amid unprecedented lockdown imposed on August 5.

Crackdown on lawyers narrows road to justice in Kashmir

For nearly a month, Shafia Ganai, a softly-spoken 19-year-old undergraduate student of sociology in northern Kashmir’s Bandipora, has visited the police station every day.

“The security forces took my brother Mohsin, a quarry worker, in a raid on our neighbourhood on August 16,” she said. “When I go to the station, the police ask me to come the next day, that they will release him in one or two days. But 27 days have gone past like this.

“I checked many times with the duty officer, who records the daily entries in the station. He says there is no first information report (police complaint) registered against my brother,” she told Al Jazeera.

The absence of any order for his detention makes it impossible for the family to pursue a legal case against the police or to secure Mohsin’s freedom, she said.

Police in Indian-administered Kashmir have detained more than 3,000 people and arrested over 300 after the government led by Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, stripped the region of its relative autonomy on August 5.

Those arrested include senior lawyers, making people’s legal fights difficult.

Among the first arrested after the government lockdown in the Kashmir Valley were senior functionaries of the High Court Bar Association of Jammu and Kashmir, a professional association of lawyers based in Srinagar, the main city of the Muslim-majority region.

The police arrested its president, Mian Abdul Qayoom, and its former president, Nazir Ahmad Ronga. Both are being held in prisons in the state of Uttar Pradesh, 1,000km (620 miles) away.

They were booked under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (or PSA), under which people can be jailed for up to two years without trial.

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