India has shifted at least 21 Kashmiri prisoners to a high security prison in Uttar Pradesh’s Agra, a news report said on Friday.
The shifting of prisoners is being done on the orders of Indian’s home ministry, the report said, adding: ‘all the prisoners have been arrested under the Public Safety Act’, before or soon after the right wing Narendra Modi government revoked the special status of the disputed Himalayan region.
The report said most of these prisoners were pro-freedom activists with at least ten among them being part of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference of which resistance leader Syed Ali Geelani is a part.
India carried out mass arrests before and after August 5, 2019—the day it nullified an agreement with the Dogra king of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.
“While eight prisoners were already lodged in Agra Central Jail, 17 more have been shifted from Naini, Bareilly and Ambedkar Nagar jails. Four more are scheduled to be transferred from Varanasi Central Jail, Senior Superintendent of Agra central jail, V.K. Singh, said.
The jailor said all the Kashmir prisoners “will be kept in a high-security cell, away from the other prisoners”.
The entire cell is soundproof and under constant CCTV surveillance. Sources told a local news agency that the jail staff on duty at the special cell has been strictly directed not to speak to any prisoner. “Only senior officials would communicate with them, if needed,” the report said.
The report added: “the Kashmiri prisoners would be taken out of the lock-up one by one at a fixed time every day and allowed to walk for a few minutes”.
Visitors and staffers would be thoroughly checked at the main gate.
In 2019, over 200 political prisoners booked under the PSA, which the Amnesty calls a ‘lawless law’ and allows detention without trial for up to two years, were transferred to the Agra Central Jail. A year later, most of them were ‘temporarily’ released on the directives of the Indian home ministry.
According to various reports, India had arrested at least 5000 Kashmiris in the run-up to the unilateral abrogation of the special status of the disputed Kashmir region.