India charges Kashmiri pro-independence leader amid crackdown

Yasin Malik, chief of the pro-independence JKLF group, booked under controversial Public Safety Act.

yasin malik kashmir
Malik, centre - wearing cap, was arrested as part of a wider assault in Jammu and Kashmir by Indian authorities [Fayaz Kabli/Reuters]

A top pro-independence leader in Indian-administered Kashmir has been booked under the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA) which could see him imprisoned for up to two years without a trial.

Yasin Malik, chief of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), was sent to Kot Balwal jail in Jammu city from a police station where he had been kept since his arrest on February 22 together with 160 other people.

The arrest came amid a wider assault in Jammu and Kashmir by Indian authorities after its government banned religio-socio-political organisation Jamaat-e-Islami and detained more than 300 of its members.

Tension in the region has been running high since a suicide bombing in Pulwama in Indian-administered Kashmir last month killed at least 40 Indian troops. 

The attack, the deadliest in 30 years of the Kashmir conflict and claimed by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), escalated into a massive standoff between the two South Asian nuclear powers.

“This government has reached the extreme level of suppression. They are detaining everyone who raises his voice,” a senior JKLF official told Al Jazeera.

The situation calmed down after days of rising tension between Pakistan and India as well as exchanges of fire across the Line of Control. But violence and deaths have continued in Kashmir, the Himalayan territory claimed in full by the two nuclear-armed rivals.

‘Spree of arrests’

Joint Resistance Leadership, a group of separatist leaders in the region, has called for a complete shutdown on Friday to protest the “arbitrary arrest”.

“This spree of arrests, the ban on Jamaat-e-Islami and the attempts to tinker with hereditary state subject law deserves our stiff protest and resistance,” a statement released by the group said.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who heads a faction of the pro-Pakistani Hurriyat Conference, condemned Malik’s arrest.

“Strongly condemn slapping of draconian PSA and shifting to #KotBalwalJail Jammu of Yasin Malik and others by the authorities,” tweeted Farooq.

Last year, a report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights questioned the arbitrary use of PSA by India and said that more than 1,000 Kashmiris were detained using this act between March 2016 and August 2017.

In a statement on Tuesday, Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, said, “India’s failure to address the rights of people in Kashmir has to lead to increased violence in recent years.”

“They have been victims of torture, threats, extortion, arrests, and killings,” said Ganguly.

“International community should now insist on reform to address the decades of repression in Kashmir.”

Additional reporting by Rifat Fareed in Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies