Advocacy group issues SOS for Kashmiri political prisoners

As COVID-19 ravages India, people of Indian-administered Kashmir have expressed concern over continuous detention of their political prisoners in Indian jails.

To seek international intervention, Kashmiri advocacy group Legal Forum for Kashmir (LFOVK) on Thursday issued an urgent appeal to the World health Organization, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), UN Special Rapporteurs, OIC Human Rights Commissioner, International Commission for Jurists, Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) besides other humanitarian relief organizations and individuals to press for release of Kashmiri political prisoners.

“The Republic of India is facing a tsunami of COVID-19 with tens of thousands of cases every day including thousands of deaths which has put lives of Kashmiri political prisoners at highest risk,” the LFOVK said in its letter to the WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

It said India has jailed several Kashmiri political prisoners in prisons in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir and in Indian jails including infamous Tihar jail.

The LFOVK identified the Kashmiri political prisoners as Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai, Shabir Ahmad Shah, Masarat Alam Bhat, Altaf Ahmad Shah, Bashir Ahmad Bhat alias Peer Saifullah, Raj Mahraj-uddin-Kalwal, Ghulam Muhammad Bhat, Ayaz Akbar, Farooq Ahmad, Shahid-ul-Islam, Syed Shakeel, Nayeem Ahmad Khan, Zahoor Ahmad Watali, Shahid ul Islam, Ashiq Hussain Faktoo, Muhammad Yasin Malik.

It added among the Kashmiri political prisoners, Republic of India has detained three female Kashmiri political prisoners including Asiya Andrabi, Nahida Nasreen and Fahmeeda Sofi.

“Syed Ali Geelani, who is leading the Kashmiri Liberation Movement, has been detained at his home since 2010 which has affected his wealth in a bad shape,” the group said.

The letter said: “LFOVK demands the WHO, ICRC and other humanitarian organizations to take necessary steps to pressure India to release the Kashmiri political prisoners from jails. Any danger to their lives will be solely on the shoulders of Republic of India.”

“Several of the Kashmiri political prisoners are undergoing several ailments including diabetes, eyesight and hearing loss, few to mention.

“It is in best interest of India to save their money spent on its overcrowded jails and spend that money on its healthcare to sustain COVID-19 battling patients,” the advocacy group added.

“Ending military occupation of Kashmir will save Indian exchequer billions of dollars which could better be utilized to construct modern medical infrastructure for welfare of common Indians,” it said.

“Saving Kashmiri political prisoners from COVID-19 is a priority and humanitarian organizations should take lead in this regard as India has jailed these Kashmiris for seeking fulfilment of UN-granted right to self-determination. There are no criminal cases against them. It is right time to hold India accountable on its crimes committed in UN-designated disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir so that common Indians live a life where facilities of health are available to all,” said the LFOVK.

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