Posts Tagged ‘PSA’

Sunday, Jul 14, 2013, 7:54 IST | Agency: DNA Yolande D’Mello

Kashmiri rappers have been forced underground thanks to their music that authorities have labelled ‘anti-government’. But has that stopped them? Yolande D’Mello finds out.

What does it take to ensure that people can hear your voice?

For a few Kashmiri and Palestinian youth, it takes a rap song or two.
While growing up in Srinagar, Zubair Magray was dismayed to see the way the mainstream media overlooked various human rights violations in the name of national security. Magray took to rapping and is now one of the many rappers from Kashmir who rap under stage names about the ‘real’ situation in the state.

The songs that Magray aka Haze Kay sings touch upon issues surrounding the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA) but also include his personal story-telling. The music is part of a new wave of protest that takes a cue from similar protests in Palestine.

Another Kashmiri rapper Kasim Hyder aka MC Youngblood says his songs are just an attempt to give people the real picture of what happens in Kashmir. The songs are a reaction against what they see as one-sided reporting by news channels. “News channels are not telling the entire story… They just show protesting Kashmiri stone throwers but not the violence that led to it.”

Both Hyder, a student in Srinagar, and Magray, who is now studying engineering in Pune, choose to rap in English to reach out to a larger audience.

The Kashmiri youth incidentally have company in West Asia, where a Palestinian hip-hop band Da Arabian MC’s (DAM) also uses hip-hop artillery to fight a lone battle.

“Most governments and media agencies are pro-Israeli so our music was a way to tell the other side of the story,” said DAM’s Tamer Nafar.

DAM is currently touring the US. When they started out, they rapped in Arabic. Their first album with English songs is set to release in December.

It started with the second Infitada in 2000 when Suhell Nafar, Mahmoud Jreri and Tamer came together to rap. “Israeli troops would fire at Palestinian crowds but when Palestinian civilians revolted — suddenly the news channels would show up. I didn’t understand politics but I knew it was unfair,” says Nafar.

It’s the unfairness of it all that provoked Magray too. A peaceful protest in Kashmir is usually met with firing from police, he says. Following this, phone lines and Internet services are jammed so that no news can go out. “Can you imagine this happening in Mumbai?” asks Magray.

In 2010, his music was declared anti-government and the authorities started raiding recording studios he used. His friends also suggested he remove the songs he uploaded on YouTube to protect himself. The song was called Azadi.
These songs are popular among Kashmiri youth who connect with singers and their shared history.

It’s now impossible to find studios willing to record rap music in Kashmir, says Hyder. “They are scared and I don’t blame them,” he says.

But despite the clampdown, the music has not stopped thanks to technology that rappers can use to record at home. The songs are uploaded on YouTube and spread via social networking sites. Haze Kay’s latest upload was Burn the Dice last Sunday.

Hyder calls his songs a cog in the machinery to creating a noise on social media platforms online. “Who else can write about the strikes, random arrests, rape, disappearances… It is first hand information,” he says.

Young rappers also see their work as a creative expression for their angst. However, Hyder doesn’t consider himself political. He loves his music and is planning a collaboration with a few international artists. But Magray is more direct. “Music will also be a hobby.” But he wants to be able to go back and work in his hometown.

But no revolution is complete without martyrs. The rappers are often threatened with the PSA that they often refer to in their songs. This Act is used to ‘detain’ political leaders and activists, suspected members of armed opposition groups, lawyers, journalists and protesters.

Amnesty International, a global movement against human rights violations, has said that authorities in Jammu and Kashmir are using the PSA to detain individuals without sufficient evidence for a trial in order to ‘keep them out of circulation’.

 

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The J&K Public Safety Act is being misused rampantly to arrest young boys. Baba Umar reports

Catch them young Nearly 5,500 stone-pelters have been arrested since 2010

Photos: Abid Bhat

WHEN Mohammad Rafiq Sheikh, a Class X student of DAV Public School in Srinagar, was picked up by unidentified men on 2 February, he couldn’t have imagined the ordeal that awaited him.

Initially, Rafiq was detained at Zakoora Police Station, where he was booked for eve-teasing. He was granted bail on 7 February, but when the order was served to the SHO, the police claimed that Rafiq was, in fact, being held in Shergari PS, where he was being charged with stone-pelting. The drama was repeated when Rafiq was shifted to Nigeen PS and back to Shergari PS and Srinagar Central Jail before he was shifted on 29 February to Udhampur Jail in Jammu, where he has been detained under Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA).

“We deny the charges. At the most, my son should have been charged for eve-teasing,” says Rafiq’s mother Shakeela, who has filed a habeas corpus petition in the Srinagar High Court seeking his release. “When my husband tried to expose the SHO’s high-handedness, Rafiq was charged for stone-pelting and slapped with PSA.”

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) may hog all the headlines, but the PSA, which was introduced by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s grandfather Sheikh Abdullah in 1978, is the most misused Act currently in force. Under this Act, which is being touted as a deterrent against pro-Azadi dissent, one can be detained on such flimsy grounds as falling in love or complaining about cops’ high-handedness.

Even though the state Assembly passed a Bill in April to amend the Act, under which no person below the age of 18 should be slapped with PSA, Rafiq continues to languish in jail. While Rafiq’s educational certificates prove that he was only 17 when he was detained, the police’s grounds of detention claim that he was a “19-year-old stone-pelter who has affiliation with the separatist Geelani group”.

Shakeela says she couldn’t secure Rafiq’s release because she and her husband Abdul Rashid Sheikh, a labourer, were unable to meet the police’s bribe demand. Rafiq’s friend, who was also detained on the same charges, walked free after his family coughed up the money.

The family of Umar Farooq, 15, admit that they paid Rs 30,000 through intermediaries at different police stations to secure his release. “Both were friends and were in contact with a girl for one month on their cell phone,” says Umar’s grandfather Ghulam Qadir Sheikh. “It’s all about the money. We paid Rs 30,000 to various cops.”

Umar was detained on 3 February and taken to Zakoora PS. After finding Umar’s whereabouts, his father Tariq Ahmad Sheikh, a labourer, was told to rush to Shergari PS where Umar was charged for stonepelting. Despite a bail order, he was shifted back to Zakoora PS where a case of obscene acts was slapped. He was later released on 27 February. In this case too, the grounds of detention show Umar as a “19-year-old who had pelted stones and rioted” in 2008 and ’10. Umar’s case is being heard at the Srinagar High Court, which has stayed the slapping of PSA on him.

“Cases like these are rampant in Kashmir,” says Mir Shafqat Hussein, a prominent lawyer who claims to have handled many PSA cases in the past two decades. “You can gauge the high-handedness of the police in a case in which a boy was slapped with PSA because he had an affair with the daughter of a police officer.”

Like AFSPA, where some provisions offer impunity to erring soldiers leading to rights violations, PSA too has a provision, Section 22, which protects authorities from prosecution, even in cases where PSA has been abused. The misuse of PSA seldom leads to the victims getting any compensation.

“So far, there hasn’t been a single case in which compensation was given to victims after PSA misuse,” says Ishfaq Tantray, a journalist who has been covering legal cases in Kashmir for years. “Once a victim’s PSA is quashed, the order often reprimands the detaining authority for non-application of mind while preparing the grounds of detention.”

When medical representative Khalid Farhat Shah, 26, of Sopore was detained on 22 May 2009, he was charged under the Arms Act. A bail order issued on 25 June wasn’t entertained. The police filed a detention order on 18 January 2011, which was challenged by his mother Ateeqa Begum in the Srinagar High Court, which quashed the order. But instead of releasing him, Shah was shunted around various police stations until another detention order under PSA provisions was slapped, on the very same grounds.

The case of Mubarak Ahmad Wani, 33, of Bangidar in Anantnag, is even more shocking. He remains in detention under PSA since March 2010 despite the HC quashing two of his previous detention orders.

In reply to an RTI filed by lawyer Babar Jan Qadri in November 2011, the government revealed that 5,503 people have been arrested/detained in stone-pelting cases since 2010. But rights activists claim that more than 20,000 people have undergone detention under PSA in the past 20 years. The RTI reply also revealed that 5,468 persons were released after courts quashed their detention, or were granted bail, putting a question mark on the ‘grounds of detention’ that the police had prepared.

However, the RTI reply threw up another interesting fact. It revealed that all detainees have come out either on bail or after their detention was quashed by courts and no stone-pelter was given amnesty, which was publicly announced by Omar. The chief minister had announced amnesty to almost 1,200 stone-pelters on 28 August 2011, saying it was an Eid gift.

MEANWHILE, AMNESTY International’s 2011 report on the misuse of PSA has thrown up chilling figures on how the Act has triggered serious rights violations in the state.

Catch them young Nearly 5,500 stone-pelters have been arrested since 2010

Amnesty concluded that the number of persons detained without trial in J&K is 14 times higher than the national average; the conviction rate for attempt to murder is eight times lower, for rioting approximately eight times lower and five times lower for arson. It also reported that of the 600 cases it had studied, 290 detainees were booked in FIRs that included Arms Act offences. But only a handful of the 290 would eventually be convicted.

“The low rates of conviction in J&K are not necessarily indicative of a failing criminal justice system,” says the report. “The percentage of convictions in all cognisable (relatively serious) penal code offences in J&K (50.9) is higher than the corresponding national figure (42.6).”

Amnesty’s India Country Specialist Govind Acharya told TEHELKA that just like AFSPA, PSA should be repealed “and with it the system of administrative detention, releasing all detainees or charging those suspected of committing criminal acts with recognised offences and providing fair trials in a court”. “We share the view of the Supreme Court, which called the PSA a ‘lawless law’ in 1982,” says Acharya.

However, the government says PSA can’t be done away with at least until Kashmir becomes normal again. “PSA isn’t only used in maintaining law and order but to stop timber smuggling too,” says Law Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar. “We have already amended the PSA in which the detention period has been reduced to three months.” About Section 22, which prohibits prosecution of officials even when the Act is abused or misused, he says such provisions can be amended at the appropriate time.

As the debate over PSA rages on, the technicalities involved do not make sense to parents like Shakeela. “Instead of giving my son a fair trial, the government continues to dodge the rule of law by invoking PSA,” she says. “His life is over. By imprisoning my son hundreds of kilometres away, the government is punishing all of us.”

Baba Umar is a Correspondent with Tehelka.
babaumar@tehelka.com

 

 26 September 2011

As the session of the Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly opens in Srinagar, Amnesty International is writing to all members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) to raise human rights concerns in the house and ensure that such issues are not ignored during the session.

Although there appears to be a consistent decrease in the overall numbers of members of armed groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), human right violations continue to remain a significant and widespread concern in the state.

Amnesty International calls on all MLAs to raise human rights issues during the assembly session and call upon the state government to take immediate action required to remedy the situation. In particular, Amnesty International asks you to raise the specific issues below. While not an exhaustive list of human rights concerns in the state, discussion on these would indicate the commitment to human rights of the state legislative assembly and be an important step towards improving the human rights of all residents of Jammu and Kashmir.

 

Investigation into unmarked graves

Over 2700 unmarked graves have been identified by an 11-member police investigation team of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) in four districts of north Kashmir.

Despite claims of the local police that the graves contained dead bodies of “unidentified militants”, the report points out that 574 bodies have been identified as disappeared locals. The police report concludes that there is “every probability” that the remaining over 2100 unidentified graves “may contain the dead bodies of [persons subject to] enforced disappearances.”

On 16 September 2011, the SHRC directed that the bodies should be identified using all available means and techniques including DNA profiling and dental examination and other forensic pathology techniques. However recommendations of the SHRC have often been ignored by the state government in the past. It is therefore imperative that MLAs call upon the government to ensure that sufficient resources are provided on an urgent basis for such identification by an independent body.

The state government must also ensure that all past and current allegations of enforced disappearances are promptly, thoroughly, independently and impartially investigated and that, where there is sufficient evidence, anyone suspected of responsibility for such crimes is prosecuted in proceedings which meet international fair trial standards.

Repeal of the Public Safety Act

In March 2011, Amnesty International released a report in Srinagar calling for an end to administrative detentions in Jammu and Kashmir and a repeal of the Public Safety Act (PSA). In the previous session of the assembly the Chief Minister claimed that the report would be studied thoroughly, the suggestions made in it would be examined carefully and amendments carried out in the law.

In mid July, state Law Minister Ali Muhammad Sagar reportedly told a press conference in Srinagar that the Law Department had approved amendments in the PSA. In August officials from the Home department confirmed that they were examining the issue, but Amnesty International is unaware of any legislation that has been introduced by the Government to amend or repeal the PSA. Detentions under the PSA continue on a regular basis and a number of political leaders and activists remain detained without charge of trial.

Amnesty International urges MLAs to call upon the state government to inform the assembly of the steps undertaken towards repeal of the PSA, along with any time frame that may have been set for it.

Amendment of the Juvenile Justice Act

A violation of human rights of particular concern noted in the Amnesty International report was the detention of children under the PSA – in particular boys above the age of 16 who are considered adults as per the Juvenile Justice Act (JJA). This is inconsistent with both the central juvenile justice legislation and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which India is a signatory.

On 20 April 2011 at a workshop on the Juvenile Justice System in Udhampur, the Chief Minister indicated that the gaps in the JJA would be filled and asked the Law Department to look into this issue. Officials of the Social Welfare department and the Law Department were also quoted in press reports in late June stating that a new legislation on juvenile justice was likely to be tabled in the September session of the state assembly.

These words must be translated into action. Amnesty International calls upon the MLAs to ensure that legislation is introduced to amend or replace the JJA, in order to bring it in line with international law and standards. In June 2011 Amnesty International initiated a global petition calling upon the J&K government to amend the JJA. Over 10,600 members and supporters of Amnesty International worldwide have signed the petition which has been sent to the Chief Minister.

The amendment of the JJA would be a step in the right direction, and its effective implementation – in particular the expeditious formation of Juvenile Boards / Courts in all districts – will ensure that all children and teenagers in Jammu and Kashmir in conflict with the law will have an opportunity to reform and be rehabilitated.

De-notification of “disturbed areas”, repeal of Disturbed Area Act and Armed Forces Special Powers Act

Press reports indicate that the state government is seeking to de-notify parts of the state previously notified as “disturbed areas” under the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act (DAA). The Indian Home Minister has also stated that the areas de-notified as disturbed areas by the state government would also be de-notified by the central government with respect to the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

This would be a welcome first step to remove the operation of the DAA and AFSPA from parts of the state. However MLAs must further call for a repeal of both legislations as they violate international human rights law and standards.

ENDS/

Public Document

International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK http://www.amnesty.org