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Kashmir : Internet Campaign Led Youth's Release

By Fahad Shah

12 April, 2011

“I used to cry all the time in jail thinking of my parents and brother,” says Faizan Rafiq Hakim after his release from Kathua jail, Jammu . He was born on May 18, 1996 as per Amnesty International report which says “certificate provided by his school records has this date of birth”.

Faizan was arrested on February 7, 2011 outside his house in Reshibazar locality of Islamabad town and was later booked under the Public Safety Act for being allegedly involved in stone-pelting. He was released around 1 pm , April 5, 2011 after the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's intervention.

Omar's orders for his release came after he succumbed to the public outcry against the detention of Faizan. First it was the human rights watch dog Amnesty International which termed him as a minor. They demanded ‘urgent action' from its millions of members around the world to write appeals to the state authorities for the immediate release of Faizan. South Asian member of Amnesty International, Bikramjeet Batra, told a local daily, “He (Faizan) has been detained without charge or trial by the Kashmir police since 23 February.”

In its report “Document - India: Child held without charge or trial in Kashmir: Faizan Rafiq Hakeem” Amnesty International says, “Faizan Hakeem was moved to Kathua Jail – 300 kilometres away from Anantang ( Islamabad )– on 25 February. Kathua Jail has no special facility for detention of children. Prison conditions are believed to be harsh with limited provisions of health care.”

The other factor of this release was a large campaign launched on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter as ‘Release Faizan Campaign' by eminent personalities, activists, lawyers, media persons, writers, students and also the Opposition party in the state assembly People's Democratic Party. After the continuous tweets on Chief Minister's profile @abdullah_omar, he finally accepted the responsibility of looking into the matter. One of his tweets in which he replied to the people says "Medical tests show him 2 B (to be) above 17. Law in J&K (has) a minor under 16. However in light of circumstances (I) am looking sympathetically (at the case)."

This came as a light to the new generation of the state that the head of the state has some powers to release a PSA detainee. If Omar Abdullah can order release of this youth, why not others? This question is making rounds in the valley. Though, from this release general public is enjoying a success story of their campaign. Internet campaigns have always been successful so far whether it is Middle-East or Kashmir .

Faizan says he was never involved in stone-pelting. “If there is fresh trouble in my locality, I will go to my maternal grand-parents as they (police personnel) may again arrest me. I will never forget the days in detention,” he said.

Faizan spent two months in detention and returned home with a new observation towards stone-pelting. He says (referring to fellow youth) that they should devote themselves to studies rather than pelting stones. After the success of the Amnesty International report, they welcomed the government decision.

While the government is welcoming the new summers with peaceful rains, people have started to join hands together through internet. The success of Faizan's release came as applause for people of the valley.

A Journalism student from Kashmir University (name hidden) says it was result of internet campaign only that got Faizan released. “One after other we can campaign for other things also. I think means like these can be more fruitful,” he says.

He gives acclaim to the Chief Minister also, saying that in Faizan's case Omar Abdullah too stood for his release on humanitarian grounds. He says, “I think internet campaigns are another ways of peaceful protests now. But I am sure after a few successful cases government will curb this ray of light also.”

This campaign is also mentioned in the Wikipedia.org in the category ‘Human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir '. An article ‘Free Faizan Campaign' in it explains the whole story about how this boy was arrested and what the reaction was.

Fahad Shah is a freelance journalist from Kashmir . He has worked in leading English dailies and monthly magazines of the Valley. He also contributes in openDemocracy, Viewpoint and runs his own website www. thekashmirwalla.com .




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