Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir police have arrested Talib Hussain, a tribal activist known for his campaign against the perpetrators of the infamous Kathua rape and murder case, on charges of threatening communal harmony. The arrest took place days after he was seen protesting against the arbitrary detention of Kashmiri youth.
Talib, who is also associated with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), was arrested on Tuesday by Anantnag police at Larnoo village, according to his colleagues.
“He has since been in police custody and booked under Section 153 A and 153 B that include charges of promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race et cetera, imputations, and assertions prejudicial to national integration,” his lawyer, Advocate Tariq Ahmad told NewsClick.
A strong critic of the centrally ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), the activist recently participated in a protest held in Srinagar against the arrest of Kashmiri youth who were booked on serious charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The tribal rights activist said the law was being used arbitrarily against the region’s youth. A video of Talib voicing his concerns about these arrests was widely shared on social media.
An affiliate of Talib told NewsClick on the condition of anonymity that the activist, who is also the chairman of All Tribal Coordination Committee (ATCC), was arrested by the police on “flimsy grounds” for openly expressing dissent against the authorities.
Many of his colleagues at PDP are demanding his release along with an end to the apparent harassment of the regional leadership.
“What crime has PDP Leader @Talib_Hussain_ committed? Is speaking up for tribal community and highlighting atrocities committed to them a crime now. Request @JmuKmrPolice to immediately release him and put an end to campaign of harassment of PDP leaders,” PDP spokesperson Najmu Saqib tweeted.
Talib had earlier faced harassment, mob attacks and was booked on several charges, including rape and domestic violence, in 2018. He was, however, instrumental in leading the justice campaign against the victim of the Kathua rape and murder case earlier that year. An eight-year-old girl from the nomadic Bakerwal community was abducted, raped and killed inside a temple in the Jammu province of the region in a case that caused a country-wide outrage.
Following the abrogation of Article 370 and subsequent bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories, Talib had been actively advocating the implementation of the central Forest Rights Act to help the tribal population of the region.
Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir have been accused of using force to crush dissent and opposition, even by regional political parties and international rights groups -- something that has increased according to critics since Article 370 was abrogated.