Close on the heels of the attack on a Pakistani prisoner in a Jammu jail, separatists on Saturday pitched for return of all Kashmiri prisoners lodged in prisons across the state to the Valley.
"Those who have been jailed for political reasons are not conventional criminals. All political prisoners from Kashmir lodged in jails outside the state are victims of the state's retribution for their political aspirations and freedom movement. These people should be immediately shifted to jails closer home," said 83-year-old Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who heads hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference, in Srinagar.
Referring to the assault on prisoners in Indian and Pakistani jails, Geelani said, "The death of Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh in a Pakistani jail and attack on a Pakistani inmate in an Indian jail are equally condemnable and unfortunate. Such incidents have resulted due to extra-judicial killing of Afzal Guru (executed for the Parliament attack on February 9).
A heightened tension is palpable in jails in Jammu after Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh was fatally attacked inside a Lahore jail. On Friday, a Pakistani prisoner, who is facing two life terms, was hit on the head by a fellow inmate in Kot Balwal jail in Jammu.
Describing the attack on Pakistani prisoner Sanaullah Haq as a "deliberate" move, Geelani blamed jail superintendent Rajni Sehgal, who is facing suspension, for the incident. "The plot was hatched by Sehgal, who had previously terrorised jail inmates. We demand that a murder case be registered against her."
The ageing and ailing separatist is writing to the prime ministers of India and Pakistan. "I appeal to governments of both nations to take measures to stop these prison attacks immediately by stepping up jail security," he said.
Moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, too, had demanded release of "political prisoners". "The recent attacks have put the lives of Kashmiri prisoners in danger. There are serious apprehensions over their safety. They could meet the same fate in jails. We urge the Jammu and Kashmir government to ensure shifting of political prisoners to the Valley," said the Mirwaiz.
The moderate separatist leader appealed to India and Pakistan to release prisoners of the other country lodged in respective jails. "The recent attacks on prisoners have strained ties between India and Pakistan. It can have an impact on Kashmir," said the Mirwaiz, who condemned the assault on Sarabjit Singh and Haq in prisons.
There are 2,444 prisoners lodged in 14 jails across the state. Sixty-four of them are foreign militants, while several have been booked for anti-India and secessionist activities.