Srinagar: As deaths continue to mount due to the fresh wave of COVID-19, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association (HCBA) on Saturday, May 1, urged the central government to shift Kashmiri prisoners lodged in jails outside the region back to the jails in the Valley as a measure to prevent them from getting infected.
The concern regarding the inmates comes after the second wave of COVID-19 taking an unprecedented turn in the country since April. The sudden and exponential increase in cases and deaths due to the infection has overwhelmed hospitals and other health centres, and wreaking havoc on the government’s response to the disease.
In Jammu and Kashmir, the number of active cases shot up from less than 3,000 on April 1 to around 28,359 cases on Friday. The Kashmir Valley is under a lockdown that was enforced since Thursday evening and will remain under restrictions till morning of May 3 as a measure to thwart the rapid spread of the disease. But, many including the rights groups, are worried about political prisoners jailed outside the region where the situation is dire.
GN Shaheen, the spokesperson of the Bar Association, said that there is a concern amongst the families of the incarcerated persons as many of them are already suffering from serious ailments.
“It is also appealed that the cases of these prisoners/detenues be reviewed for release on parole and in view of the grave pandemic situation be released on parole for the time being,” the bar said.
The Bar Association claimed that the condition of one inmate Bashir Ahmad Bhat, who is suffering from brain tumour, is deteriorating.
Also see: Kashmir: Continuous Rise in COVID-19 Cases
“It was observed in the meeting that due to COVID-19 restrictions, courts are not able to take up cases with the desired priority. As such administration be requested for shifting or release of the overall prisoners on parole which is the prerogative of the government and not of judiciary,” the Bar said.
A week ago, the family of senior Hurriyat activist and a close aide of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Shahid Ul Islam claimed that he has tested positive in Tihar Jail, where he is currently lodged.
The spokesperson added that the health of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader Yaseen Malik and other Hurriyat leaders including Shabir Ahmad Shah, Nayeem Khan, Dukhtaran activists Asiya Andrabi and Nahida Nasreen amongst others has also worsened.
Sehar, Shabir Ahmad Shah’s daughter, wrote several messages on Twitter about her concern over the senior Hurriyat leader’s health and urged people to raise their voice in his support.
“I repeat I am just a 19-year-old daughter requesting you all to at least raise your voices. I didn’t mention it earlier but I am myself going through a lot of health ailments and I really am worried about my father and these news are making my health even worse,” Sehar wrote on Twitter.
Similar messages were shared by family members of another Hurriyat activist and son-in-law of Syed Ali Geelani, Altaf Ahmad Shah about his state in Tihar jail.
Hundreds of Kashmiris have been lodged in jails in and outside the Valley, particularly ahead of the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019, on various charges including charges of being ‘anti-national’ or ‘waging war’ on the state. Many rights group, however, have termed the detentions arbitrary.
Also read: COVID-19: Charity Groups, Volunteers Ramp up Preparations in Kashmir as Second Wave Gains Pace