Prisoned dissidents died of COVID in India-afterwards police came to pick up their sons



Indian-controlled Kashmir — 17-year-old Ishrac Khalid will never forget carrying the body of his deceased grandfather on his shoulder on a pitch-black night on May 6. A prominent figure from Kashmir under Indian rule. Mohammad Ashraf Serai’s grandfather Mohammad Ashraf Serai dies. COVID While he was in custody Indian government A strict law called the Public Security Act (PSA) allows up to one year of detention without trial.

That night, when the memory of his grandfather, who was carrying the body to the graveyard, passed through his head, he thought the worst was over. But he knew little about that his two uncles (the son of his grandfather) would be arrested a week later. Indian police For raising the slogan of “anti-state” at his father’s funeral home. And like him, both sons are infected with the virus in prison.

While India is suffering from a devastating second wave Coronavirus pandemic This has killed more than 150,000 people and left a large number of political prisoners (many of whom are elderly and imprisoned under severe charges from the right-wing government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi) in prison despite the anger of human rights groups. Life in Japan continues.

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“It’s a mess,” Khalid told The Daily Beast. “First, my grandfather was killed in custody. He sought medical help every day but was refused. Currently, two of his sons are arrested on frivolous charges. The whole family is confused. “

According to Khalid, his grandfather Sehrai was the chairman of the political group Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, who was at the forefront of ending India’s rule in Kashmir, but the state of India.

“My grandfather was put in jail last July. He wasn’t allowed to call us for eight months. Then, after a few requests, he called once a week. He was allowed to call. Last month he called and complained to us that he was feeling sick. Prison authorities did nothing and it was too late to do so. “

Sehrai was imprisoned in a local prison in the Udhampur district, about 150 miles from his home in the Kashmir Valley, and died at a local hospital. No one in the family was present at the time of his death. His two sons, who later attended the funeral, are strict anti-terrorist laws that allow the government to ban individuals as “terrorists” and detain them for months without prosecution, illegal activity (prevention). You have been prosecuted under the Act (UAPA). ..

“When a family tries to attend a funeral, they are even deprived of their rights. There is no dignity to death,” Gowhar Geelani, a prominent journalist in the region, told The Daily Beast. “This is broader. Every expression has a reaction. Thinking is criminalized, mourning is criminalized, prayer is criminalized, and the entire political space is further criminalized.”

Indian activists and medical professionals have demanded the release of political prisoners for fear of spreading prisons, and because of the risks posed to prisoners and prison staff by the rapid spread of the new coronavirus in the country. He has called for the need to clear prison congestion.

According to data reported in 2019 by the National Crime Records Agency (NCRB) of India, Indian prisons are already overcrowded and understaffed, containing 20% ​​more prisoners than their actual capacity. Many of them are still awaiting clinical trials and are vulnerable to infection.

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Minakshi Gangli, director of South Asia at Human Rights Watch, told The Daily Beast: “Everyone detained without legal grounds, especially those detained solely because of peaceful opposition to national policy, should be released. In addition, Indian authorities should release all detained rights activists. The accusation must be dismissed and all detained people must be immediately and unconditionally released. “

The harsh conditions of Indian prisons put many political prisoners in a life-threatening situation. The 55-year-old scholar Honey Bab, who has been imprisoned by the current ruling for “conspiring against the government,” complained of an acute eye infection on May 3, after being infected with the virus in prison, and gradually. His vision that led to the loss. According to his family, prison authorities ignored his complaint for more than a week. His wife, Jenny Rowena, had to file a petition in court to get his treatment.

“If the court didn’t intervene on time, we might have been looking away. He received intensive care for 12 days. It would have spread to the brain. What the government thinks I don’t know if it’s done. It doesn’t seem to be accountable, “Lowena told The Daily Beast.

“The three doctors in the prison are all Ayurveda. [follow the traditional Hindu system of medicine] Doctors and they prescribe … sleeping pills and paracetamol. It’s an inhumane situation. He is trapped in a cramped barracks. He was rubbing his shoulders against his neighbor when he was sleeping, “Added Rowena.

Babu, a professor at the University of Delhi, was arrested last July for giving an incendiary speech at a 2017 conference in Pune, western Maharashtra. Authorities claimed that her speech caused violence in a nearby village the next day. Other prominent Indian scholars, human rights activists and social activists such as Suda Baladwaji, Anand Tertambude, Gautam Navraka, Stan Swamy and Valavara Lao have been imprisoned in various prisons nationwide for similar charges. continuing.

Dozens of young Muslim activists, including Charjir Imam, Khalid Saifi, and Umel Khalid, have also been imprisoned for speaking against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed by the Modi administration in 2019. Three neighboring countries, but not Muslims.

The Supreme Court of India was aware of the COVID situation and granted permission to release prisoners, except those charged under the Tort Prevention Act. However, the vast majority of domestic political prisoners are prosecuted under the law.

“I think our legal system is failing here,” Indira Jaising, a veteran human rights lawyer and senior counsel for the Supreme Court of India, told The Daily Beast.

“The problem is that the government treats these political prisoners as terrorists. Given the situation, I would argue that even terrorists are entitled to proper care,” she said. I’m not saying these are terrorists, but even if they are detained, they are obliged to follow some guidelines. There are laws and regulations that must be followed, but unfortunately they are not done. Hmm.”

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