Srinagar: The women relatives of jailed politicians in Kashmir are also facing the brunt of the ongoing crackdown on top political leadership in the region. Women are “bullied and humiliated”, the relatives say, by the authorities in Kashmir.
Families and relatives of incarcerated politicians arrived for the first time to Srinagar’s MLA hostel, where 33 politicians were recently shifted from the city’s Centaur hotel. The government-owned premises were turned into a sub-jail and blanketed with an elaborate security cover after the move.
The family members arrived early Wednesday in private vehicles to meet with their jailed relatives, however, the cars were stopped near the main entry on M A Road and the relatives were asked to proceed on foot towards the jail-premises, an approximately five-minute walking distance.
“My sister-in-law and niece were with me and they were asked to remove clothes, ear-rings and were almost strip searched by the guards. It is deliberate means to humiliate my brother’s family,” Noor ud Din—brother of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Nizam ud Din Bhat—told NewsClick.
Leaders and activists from Kashmir’s regional political parties have been put under detention since August 5, as the government unilaterally abrogated Article 370 and bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories. Many have been put under house arrest and scores lodged under government-owned buildings turned sub-jails including three former chief ministers of J&K—Mehbooba Mufti, Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah.
Shahryar Khanum, daughter of former PDP minister Naeem Akhtar, says the frisking at the new facility is “extremely humiliating”. “My mother had informed me already about the process; so, I removed my coat without arguing about it. She usually never complains but today she was flushed and visibly disturbed,” Khanum told NewsClick.
According to Shahryar, her mother, before being allowed to meet her husband, was asked to remove her head-scarf, shoes and even socks and a hair-clip, which she felt was deeply disturbing.
They are not alone.
The relatives claim almost every relative of the jailed politicians went through the same ordeal at the MLA hostel and some of the women even broke down as they went inside the premises.
This, according to the relatives, did not happen when the politicians were jailed inside the previous hotel turned sub-jail SKICC.
“There is uncertainty and we don’t even know why or how long they will be kept under detention. The effect is both physical and emotional,” Shahryar added.
The politicians including senior leaders like Naeem Akhtar, Ali Mohammad Sagar, Shah Faesal and Sajad Lone from PDP, National Conference, Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement and Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference respectively were shifted earlier, on Sunday, to the government accommodation after they complained of lack of heating facilities at the SKICC on the onset of winter.
The families, however, say the new jail premises also lacks basic facilities. The leaders have been put mostly inside the old block with its windows covered by plywood and tin sheets.
A close relative of former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah says that they also have to go through a humiliating process to meet with them. “It is not the first time the family is going through all this but what for? They both stood for India when most did not and this is how they are rewarded,” she said.
A daughter of one of the incarcerated leaders shared that the impact is also psychological.
“Many people cheer the politicians being detained like this and expect us to think of them as mere politicians, but they are our family, they are brothers, fathers and sons and families depend on them,” she said.
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