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COVID Catastrophe in India: KIIR chief seeks UN intervention in release of Kashmiri prisoners

Islamabad: Chairman Kashmir Institute of International Relations (KIIR) Altaf Hussain Wani has sought the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Michelle Bachelet’s urgent intervention in seeking immediate release of Kashmiri prisoners who have been languishing in jails in different parts of India.

2021 In a letter addressed to the UNCHR, on May 11, the KIIR chief while highlighting the plight of Kashmiri prisoners said, “A sizable number of Kashmiri detainees who were arrested by the Indian authorities before and after 5th August 2019 have been detained in Tihar, Haryana, UP, Tamil Nadu, Madya Pardesh, Karnatka jails where there is lack of proper sanitation, hygiene and medical facilities”.

Referring to Indian government’s absolute failure to handle the situation Wani said that the pandemic has wreaked havoc all across India where deadly disease is consuming thousands of lives each day. “The crippling health care system, non-availability of necessary drugs, dwindling oxygen supply to hospitals and above all the government’s absolute failure to handle the situation has pushed the Indians towards an unprecedented health crisis”.

The sharp spike in the coronavirus deaths in India, he said, had sent shockwaves down the spine of the Kashmiris whose near and dear ones continue to languish in overcrowded jails and detention centres in different parts of India. “Most of the prisoners including top-rank pro-freedom leaders have been lodged in the highly congested Tihar jail in New Delhi that has already been declared as a potential hotbed for the coronavirus disease”.

As the deadly virus continues to creep in Indian jails and prisons Mr. Wani said, “Since the third wave of the Novel Coronavirus had hit the country badly, prisoners’ coronavirus case fatality has also risen to an alarming level”. About the terrible situation in Tihar Jail he said, “More than 250 prisoners are reported to have tested positive so far”.

Disturbing reports pouring in from the Indian jails he said was a matter of grave concern as many prisoners including a Kashmiri leader, currently detained in Tihar Jail, were reported to have contracted the deadly virus.

“In the wake of fast spreading coronavirus in the prison, the family members of these illegally detained Kashmiri prisoners are highly worried about the health and lives of their loved ones who are at grave danger and heightened risk of the COVID infection”, he maintained.

Regarding Indian government’s refusal to release Kashmiri prisoners he said, “The Indian government had blatantly refused to heed the growing calls from international human rights groups regarding the release or shifting of Kashmiri prisoners back to Kashmir valley”. He pointed out that the BJP government has violated the Indian Supreme Court verdict that seeks immediate decongestion of prisons in the wake of the recent surge in Covid19 cases.

He said that since the outbreak of the deadly Pandemic, the Indian government has released thousands of prisoners but not a single prisoner hailing from the occupied Jammu and Kashmir was released till date despite the fact that two prisoners including a prominent Kashmiri leader have recently died in the Udhampore jail.

He said that instead of releasing the prisoners or shifting them back to Kashmir the Indian authorities have shifted over a dozen more Kashmiri prisoners from the valley to the prisons in other Indian states last week. “This reckless step, which is tantamount to endangering the prisoners’ lives, was taken at a time when prisons all across India have been declared as potential hotbeds for the coronavirus disease”, he added.

“This deliberate attempt on the part of Indian authorities to let Kashmiri prisoners rot in the highly congested prisons and making them vulnerable to the deadly virus is a heinous crime that should not go unnoticed at international level”, the KIIR chief said.

Urging the UNCHR to take effective notice of the matter he said, “Given the urgency of the matter it is humbly requested to pursue the matter to ensure that; the Indian government takes urgent steps to make sure that prisoners and detainees have access to adequate medical care and protective measures against covid19; releases all illegally detained Kashmiri prisoners especially those who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 infections and stops using COVID-19 as a tool to punish and persecute Kashmiris”

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