The authorities in Kashmir charged Mushtaq Ahmad Wani along with six others under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) on February 8. They were holding protests demanding that the mortal remains of Mushtaq Ahmad’s teenage son, Athar Mushtaq Wani, be handed over to them. Athar Mushtaq was killed in an alleged encounter along with two others on January 30.
Mushtaq Ahmad Wani has been participating in peaceful protests in southern Kashmir’s Pulwama for over a month and he dug an empty grave waiting for his deceased son’s body to be handed over.
Athar Mushtaq Wani (16), Ajaz Maqbool Ganai (24) and Zubair Lone (22) were killed in Srinagar’s Parimpora on December 30. Government forces claimed they were “over ground workers of the militants,” but their families have refuted this claim and said that they had no links with militants in the region.
On February 5, Mushtaq said he found that the police’s senior official was present in the mosque where had gone for Friday prayers. “We were just a few people there and I raised slogans demanding the body of my slain son. I thought the DSP would hear my plea and maybe would brief his seniors that I am continuing with my demand,” he told The Print.
In their First Information Report, the police claimed that Mushtaq has been “leading a violent mob along with his brothers” who were also booked under UAPA. According to reports, the police have been threatening the teenager’s father to prevent him from talking to the media.
Responding to the action of the police, the former chief minister of the state and Peoples Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti lamented that the situation continues to worsen in Kashmir. “After losing his son in an alleged fake encounter, Athar Mushtaq’s father has been slapped with an FIR for demanding his dead body. His crime was to stage a peaceful protest. The inhabitants of Naya Kashmir can’t even question a callous admin and have been reduced to living corpses,” she tweeted on February 7.
She also demanded an impartial probe into the matter and that the bodies of the deceased be handed back to their families.
On February 13, Mufti alleged that she was placed under house arrest for trying to visit the family of the Athar Mushtaq.
Placed under house arrest as usual for trying to visit the family of Athar Mushtaq killed allegedly in a fake encounter. His father was booked under UAPA for demanding his dead body. This the normalcy GOI wants to showcase to the EU delegation visiting Kashmir. pic.twitter.com/xFkcqTGQyV
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) February 13, 2021
The UAPA, amended in August 2019, gives state authorities impunity to jail anyone who is deemed to be involved in terror-related activities or unlawful associations without a trial or bail.
In the recent past, the UAPA has been widely used to silence dissenting voices. From the question of human rights violation in Kashmir to that of persecution of minorities in different parts of the country, the stringent law has been regularly invoked to stifle criticism of the ruling regime. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 5,922 individuals were arrested between 2016 and 2019 under the UAPA. In 2019 alone, around 2000 such arrests were made.