Anantnag’s minor serving PSA term in Kotbalwal


The prolonged detention of a mentally challenged minor from Malaknag seems a loud rejoinder of the much-hyped official amnesty for the first-time offenders. The 2002-born Umar Yusuf Khan suffers from a peculiar nervous disorder due to which he is not able to organize his thoughts or speak coherently. He was arrested November last on charges of “leading violent mobs to enforce closure of roads, damaging public property including and provoking youth to attack police and CRPF personnel with intention to kill.” Interestingly, the police last year had retrospectively booked him for “anti-national” activities in 2016 when the boy was barely 15-year-old.
Soon after his arrest, Umar was booked under the notorious Public Safety Act despite his family producing his birth certificate that confirmed him being under 18 years. The repeated pleas from the affected family for Umar’s release on grounds of being a minor seem to have fallen on deaf ears. His 50-year-old mother Saleema Bano has been living in abject poverty after her husband Yusuf Khan died five years ago.
Umar, who was born along with his twin brother Tariq Khan, has three more brothers. School and Municipal records of the twins testify that both were born on 1 December 2001. Saleema and Tariq say they had submitted Umar’s age proofs to the authorities but they dismissed them and booked Umar under PSA while recording his age as 21. He is being lodged at Jammu’s Kotbalwal jail.
“Date of birth: 1/12/2001,” reads the date of birth certificate issued by office of the registrar births and deaths municipal council, Anantnag.
A school dropout, Umar was living with his maternal uncle in nearby Donipawa village before he was rounded up for charges of stone pelting and violent protests.
The family appears shell-shocked on Umar being treated as an adult criminal. Tarq and Saleema have been pleading with officials and jail authorities citing to them the Mehbooba Mufti-led government’s earlier announcement of amnesty for the “first-time offenders”. 
Detaining minors under the draconian PSA is not unusual here. In 2011, the arrest of a teenager Faizan Rafiq Misgar of Reeshi Bazar had kicked up a huge row. Faizan at the time of arrest was 14 yet the police slapped PSA on him. But the issue grew bigger with human rights organizations including Amnesty International running a sustained campaign, which ultimately led to Faizan’s release. 
The Public Safety Act was introduced by former chief minister Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah as a deterrent against timber smugglers but was later abused to tackle political opponents. The act would consider adult any offender of or beyond 16 years age. The state legislature in April 2012, under pressure from human rights bodies, amended the controversial act and enhanced the age bar to 18. Under the renewed provisions, no persons below the age of 18 years can be detained under this law. Furthermore, the Supreme Court guidelines and JK juvenile justice act clearly states that any documentary evidence regarding the age of the accused should be considered authentication of final date of birth.
The police dossier against Umar reads: “During the 2016 unrest you were at the forefront of violent mobs and instigated them for closure of roads and damage to vehicles and other public property. You also provoked youth to attack police and CRPF personals with intention to kill.” It further says that the boy would instigate violence in Donipawa village by delivering “furious” speeches. “You have secessionist tendency and always go by the diktats of the separatists and have played a vital role in advocating, abetting and provoking people especially from Donipawa village,” the dossier reads blaming Umar of provoking people to raise anti-national slogans and damage public property “on a large scale.”
Umar has been charged with four different cases only during the 2016 uprising, which was triggered by the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani. However, the records available with Greater Kashmir suggest that Umar has already been bailed out in all cases by the court.
While in first three cases the accused has been bailed out by Chief judicial magistrate Anantnag, in the last one he has been bailed out by principal and district session judge. 
Umar’s family lives in a mud house with her sons doing petty jobs in order to make their living. Umar despite his mental instability was driving an auto-rickshaw to support his family. Saleema said she had not been able to marry her sons because the all the incomes put together are barely enough to feed the family. What makes the matters worse for Saleema is her inability to visit Kotbalwal due to financial constraints. “I miss him but can’t afford to travel to Jammu and from there to Kotbalwal. I wish I could see him on Eid,” the visibly shattered mother says.
“I know my son would participate in protests after the killing of Burhan but he never resorted to violence. He is not well and has been on medication. He has never spent night away from his own or his maternal house where he often lived. I am pained at thinking how he would be living in Kathua jail amidst hardcore criminals,” laments Saleema as tears trickle down her cheeks.
Umars elder brother Zahoor Ahmad, also an auto driver says that that they had been moving from pillar to post to seek his release.

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