Coronavirus | J&K decongests jails, after holding 700 lockdown ‘violators’ in lock-ups

Srinagar Municipal Corporation employee sprays disinfectnat on a police vechile during a nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the spread of the novel coronavirus, in Srinagar on March 30, 2020.   | Photo Credit: Nissar Ahmad

The J&K administration has started decongesting jails and lock-ups, but not before rounding up about 700 “violators” of the countrywide lockdown and holding them in police stations and exposing them to the dangers of contracting the virulent COVID-19.

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In a major step to decongest the territory’s prisons, the J&K administration revoked the Public Safety Act (PSA), a law dealing with preventive detention, of 31 prisoners in J&K. “Eleven [of those] to be released were lodged in the Kotbalwal Jail, 14 in the Srinagar Central Jail, four in a Rajouri jail and two in Kathua,” an official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

However, at least 700 civilians, who were designated as ‘violators’ by the police and booked for their movements on the roads, were detained for hours together in police stations across the region, with many allegedly detained for days.

Police sources said Block Development Council (BDC) Chairman Muhammad Yasin Sheikh from Handwara’s Dolipora was arrested and detained for at least three days for “his movement in Dolipora and arguing with the policemen”. He wad lodged at the Police Station Vilgam, Handwara, and booked under Sections 353 and 506.

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The Vilgam police detained 15 “violators” on March 24 and held them together in the police station. A total of 35 civilians were arrested across the entire Handwara area on that day.

“The police swooped on Vilgam area in the past one week and started arresting shopkeepers without educating them the reasons behind it,” asserted the uncle of one of those who had been detained, declining to be identified. “Many villagers are not educated. In the police station, many policemen were without masks. The detained persons were put in danger of contracting the disease in the name of saving them,” he added.

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The Kashmir Valley’s Bandipora, Handwara and Ganderbal districts were at the forefront of detaining violators and lodging them in lockups and police stations. In the past two days, more than 50 “violators” have been detained in these districts.

“In many cases, the family and relatives were forced to visit the police stations,” said a relative of a detained person in Ganderbal, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Many of us were not wearing masks because of the shortage. We had no option but to plead for the release of our relatives,” the relative added.

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After a video went viral showing a father-son duo entering into an argument with the police and later exchanging blows on March 27, the duo, identified as Azad Wani and Suhail Ahmed Wani, were booked under Sections 269 and 353 (non-bailable offence with two to five years in jail if convicted) of the Indian Penal Code and arrested by the Delina police station under FIR No. 29/2020.

A police official said the father-son duo was released on Monday.

Meanwhile, in fresh drive on Monday, a police spokesman said 44 civilians were booked in Handwara and Sopore “for violating the prohibitory orders”.

According to Director General of Police Dilbag Singh, at least 337 FIRs were registered and 627 people arrested till Saturday in the Union Territory for violating the lockdown.

A senior police officer told The Hindu that most of the detained persons were booked under Section 188, which is bailable, and had been released immediately. “Not many are in the lock-ups now due to the disease’s spread,” he added, declining to be identified.

Meanwhile, the police have threatened to quarantine any traveller using the Jammu-Srinagar national highway for at least 14 days.

The Supreme Court has already asked States to consider releasing prisoners on parole to reduce overcrowding in prisons.

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Printable version | Sep 17, 2021 3:20:54 AM |

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