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Corruption pays in Kashmir

Police in Kashmir

Police in Kashmir

Lawyers in Indian-adminstered Kashmir have revealed that Amnesty International’s recent report on the rampant use of the Public Safety Act (PSA) has managed to put the brakes on the number of detainees charged under it.

‘The numbers have definitely gone down after the release of the report. Now, the police either charge the detainees with murder under the penal code or just hold the accused without charging them, and then demand money from the family. At times, they also charge them with inciting violence,’ explains lawyer Mir Shafqat Hussain from his Srinagar office. Shafqat specializes in the release of minors charged under the draconian PSA. He has helped secure the release of several thousand detainees over the past decade.

Shafqat complains that often, despite having release orders from the court, families have to run from pillar to post to get their loved ones released, and also pay anywhere between Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000 (US$225-1,100) to corrupt police officials.

The Deputy Inspector General of Jammu and Kashmir Police, AG Mir, confesses that corruption is a problem in the police force but says that they are trying to do something about it. ‘We are bringing the guilty to book. In the last few days, some police personnel have been arrested for accepting bribes.’

Non-governmental organizations lament the fact that there are no reliable estimates of the extent of the corruption. Says Khurram Parvez, from Jammu and Kashmir Civil Society: ‘This was happening even before the Amnesty report. Extortion is a huge thing in Kashmir. Some of the richest people in Kashmir are police officials.’

Police frisk civilians in a crackdown in Srinagar

Police frisk civilians during a crackdown in Srinagar

Last summer, 123 people were gunned down by the security forces in pro-freedom demonstrations and hundreds were picked up and detained by the police. ‘They picked [up] almost everyone – from university students to 80-year-olds to wheelchair-bound people – for inciting violence,’ said a youth who stayed underground last year to evade arrest.

Sameer Khan (name changed), a stone-thrower who was released last year, had no problem paying the police as he hails from an affluent family. But there are many families who are unable to afford to release their sons.

‘My family paid Rs 10,000 for my release. My friend and his brother were picked up, and his family paid an even bigger amount for both of them. This is a good way for the police to make money,’ Khan explains.

Protesters in Kashmir

Protest in Kashmir

In a state where accountability means little, militarized masculinities continue to dominate the battleground and lawmakers choose to disregard the law. In the midst of this strategic crackdown, juveniles who have been arrested get exposed to criminal elements in jails (Kashmir has no juvenile detention centres) and end up being traumatized and then radicalized, warn psychiatrists.

This year, the police is busying itself organizing police-public meetings, sports camps for the youth and sensitization programmes. The government, on the other hand, is devoting time, effort and money in building a new jail in Srinagar.

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