Another youngster in Kashmir has been slapped with Public Safety Act (PSA) for allegedly involving in 2016 agitation when he was a minor.
Ikhlak Ahmad Ganaie, hailing from Meemandar village of Shopian district in south Kashmir, was apprehended by police during mid-night from his home on September 7, 2018 before PSA charges were brought against him.
“That day he was not feeling well. We were fast asleep when a large contingent of police raided our house at 2 am and arrested him,” said Manzoor Ahmad Ganaie, his father.
As per his family, Ikhlak was booked under 20 charges related to agitation of 2016 when he was barely 17. He was detained in Shopian police station for around two months, where from he was shifted to District Police Lines, Pulwama, for a week. He was then again detained in Shopian police station for a couple of days before being shifted to Sub Jail Hiranagar, Jammu, under PSA charges.
Ikhlak’s date of birth, according to his school certificate, is September 8, 1999, which proves that he was a minor in 2016. A copy of the certificate lies with this reporter.
“He age was wrongly stated as 18 plus, whereas he was a juvenile in 2016. He was apprehended for a substantive offence and detained in police custody illegally,” said Shafkat Hussain, advocate at J&K High Court, adding that it has become a routine affair in Kashmir to place youngsters in illegal confinement for months together.
“The problem is District Magistrates here do not conduct an inquiry about a case on their own, whereas it is their duty to inquire about the date of birth and involvement of a suspect in case of PSA,” he said.
In this case also, he added, the concerned District Magistrate has signed the PSA dossier “blindly” after being misled by the police.
Ikhlak—the eldest among four siblings—belongs to a poor family. He had to leave his studies midway and work as labourer to support his family. “We are too poor to travel to Jammu and meet him. We would sometimes meet him in Shopian police station, but since then we have no information about him except that he doesn’t stop crying in the lock-up,” said Shakeela, his mother, with tears rolling down her cheeks.
The family maintained that Ikhlak was innocent and had been falsely accused of rioting-related offences. “No stone pelting incident had taken place for a long time in the vicinity, leave alone the day he was apprehended,” said Suhaib Ahmad, Ikhlak’s younger brother.
His father, a carpenter, added that they have raised the issue with two local MLAs “but to no avail.” “We have pleaded repeatedly before the police to release him, but they turn a deaf ear to our pleas. We feel so helpless,” he said.
Pertinently, the J&K High Court had passed an order in December, 2016, stating that a minor cannot be booked under PSA in view of a clear bar envisaged by section 8(3)(f) of the Act. However, the violation of the law still takes place.
The journalist is a media fellow with National Foundation for India (NFI) and can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org