The Jammu and Kashmir police have launched a massive crackdown on youth across the Valley to contain the unrest that crossed 104 days on Thursday.
According to figures based on daily press releases issued by the police in Srinagar, 1,700 people were arrested between September 16 and October 19 “to curb the activities of trouble mongers involved in various crimes of disrupting the public order”.
News reports, however, peg the number of those arrested and detained to be between 5,000 and 9,000 after pro-freedom protests erupted across the Valley.
Human rights organisations say over 450 among the arrested have been booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) and sent to jails without trials. PSA authorises the officials to send a person to jail for 6–24 months without a hearing in front of a court.
Director general of prisons, SK Mishra, said many of those in jails were students. “There may be around 250 students in the jails. Most of them have been booked under PSA,” Mishra said. He said the average age of the students was 18-20 years though no study was conducted to record their ages.
Mishra said police were providing students with study material in jails to prepare for the coming exams. Others who have been booked under PSA are separatist leaders, activists and human rights defenders.
Security forces, besides arresting the alleged stone-pelters every day, have also started launching crackdowns in neighbourhoods — reminiscent of the 1990s when militancy erupted in the Valley.
On October 18, an army spokesman said an extensive search operation was launched in north Kashmir’s Baramulla during the “wee hours” of October 17. Joint teams of army, police, BSF and CRPF conducted “deliberate search operations in ten sensitive localities” which army said were “reportedly being used as safe havens by the terrorists”.
Minister of state for law, justice and parliamentary affairs, Ajay Nanda, said the arrests had led to an “improvement” in the situation in the Valley.
However, people expressed shock over the way the government was filling the police stations and jails with youth.