Kashmir: Journalist Aasif Sultan jailed under PSA, after getting bail 

He has already been imprisoned for four years; under the PSA an individual can be detained without trial for up to six months

 Journalist Aasif SultanImage: https://www.aa.com.tr

Once in a while heartbreaking photos of a little child hugging her bearded father Aasif Sultan, who himself is seen wearing a massive handcuff and chain in photographs perhaps seen when he is taken to court, surface. He has also been seen wearing  a T Shirt which proclaims “Journalism is not a crime”. 



Sultan was ‘formally’ arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir Police on August 31, 2018. A few days later, he was detained from his home reportedly for questioning. Since then he has been behind bars, and is seen only during his court visits, or when a photograph is released of his toddler visiting him in a designated area, perhaps within the jail compound on a festive occasion. Aasif Sultan was recently granted bail four years after he was sent behind bars in a Srinagar jail. However, he will not walk free yet. According to a report in The Telegraph, he has now been booked under the Public Safety Act. He will now be housed in the Kot Bhalwal jail, in Jammu around, 300km away from Srinagar.

According to the news report, it was a National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on Tuesday that ordered that Sultan, accused of sheltering terrorists, be freed on bail. However, he was never released. Sultan’s lawyer Adil Abdullah Pandit told TT that he was “detained illegally at a Srinagar police station.” According to the lawyer, “It’s now clear they want to keep him behind bars and the charge of harbouring terrorists was just an excuse.” 

Sultan is Kashmiri journalist who has covered politics and human rights for the Srinagar based monthly magazine Kashmir Narrator. He is also the recipient of the John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award by American National Press Club. After doing a story titled ‘The Rise of Burhan Wani’, he was detained on August 31, 2018, by the Police on charges of providing support to militants. Read about him and the timeline of his incarceration here. Other journalists from J&K detained under the PSA since January this year, include Fahad Shah and his trainee reporter Sajad Gul. According to a Press Council of India fact-finding committee 49 journalists had been arrested in the Valley since 2016. 

How Does PSA work?

Under the PSA an individual can be detained without trial for up to six months. Citizens for Justice and Peace has a section wise review of the Act., which helps  understand the implications of the Act and to understand why it has been termed as a “draconian law”. The implications of the law and its provisions have also been analysed here by CJP.

A review of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA)

The objective of the Act is stated as: “Whereas it is necessary in the interest of the security of the State and public order to make law providing for measures hereinafter appearing”. The Act is short and precise containing merely 24 sections and majority of these are imperative to “achieve the goals” under the Act. The most critical ones have been reproduced below in order to understand the kind of powers that lie with the government and its agencies without due accountability.

Why Did Aasif Sultan get bail then?

The special NIA judge, according to the TT report, had said he was granting bail because he had found “no direct evidence nor any substantial evidence on record that would have connected the accused” to the alleged crime. Sultan, was a reporter with the news magazine Kashmir Narrator, when he became the first Valley journalist to be booked under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and accused of “sheltering militants who had killed a policeman,” an accusation his family and lawyers deny reported TT. 

According to the news report, Sultan’s family, and lawyer insist he was arrested for his professional work, and that “his ordeal began after he wrote an article, “The Rise of Burhan”, for the magazine in 2018.”



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