Delay in verification keeps kin of J&K prisoners lodged at UP jails waiting in anxietyUpdated: Sep 16, 2019 17:48 IST
The cumbersome identity verification process required for people from Jammu & Kashmir to meet their relatives lodged at Uttar Pradesh jails is not only causing them inconvenience but also making them anxious, as they wait to meet their loved ones. According to reports, many of those who came to meet J&K prisoners in UP in the past month had to return empty-handed, owing to missing papers and delay in identity verification.
However, recently, the UP government has relaxed some of the rules to facilitate visitors.
An official of the Naini Central jail in Prayagraj said that visitors would now only have to show their verification report issued by the J&K police instead of going through the previous lengthy process that was initiated after they arrived at a jail in UP. “But in the absence of proper information about these changed rules, relatives of J&K prisoners still continue to suffer,” he said.
It is believed that over 200 prisoners were shifted from Jammu & Kashmir to seven UP jails over the past month. These include leaders of separatist groups, lawyers and educationists considered to be sympathisers of separatist groups, and those arrested for violence such as people with a record of stone pelting and trouble-making resulting in breach of peace.
Police said they were arrested under the Public Safety Act (PSA) and shifted to Uttar Pradesh, as it was feared they might incite people to violence after the union government diluted provisions of Article 370 on August 5, removing Jammu & Kashmir’s special status and dividing it into two union territories.
At least 24 prisoners from J&K are believed to have been shifted to the Lucknow district jail on August 10. Out of these, family members of only five were allowed to meet their jailed kin so far, said a source in the prison department.
“This is being done, as people can’t be allowed to meet prisoners without first getting their identity proofs verified. It is a time-taking process, as the verification happens by the authorities of another state (Jammu & Kashmir),” he said.
The official said all the prisoners had been asked to submit details of family members they expected to visit them so that the verification process could be streamlined to some extent.
“There’s a separate arrangement for visitors to meet J&K prisoners (in comparison to regular prisoners) at the Lucknow district jail. It is so as the J&K prisoners can’t be allowed to mix with other prisoners due to security reasons,” said the official.
He said the prisoners from J&K had been lodged at separate barracks under the highest level of security available at the jail. “However, they are being provided the same food and facilities as other inmates. A similar pattern is being followed at other jails where J&K prisoners are lodged, especially the Agra Central jail where the maximum number of prisoners are being kept,” he said.
While the state prison administration and reform department has not given the exact number of prisoners from Jammu & Kashmir lodged at UP jails, media reports suggest that at least 241 people have been lodged at seven prisons here. These are -- Agra Central jail, Naini Central jail in Prayagraj, Fatehpur Central jail and the district prisons of Lucknow, Varanasi, Ambedkarnagar and Bareilly.
‘Verification rules relaxed now’
Some prison and local intelligence unit (LIU) officials said that the UP government had now relaxed the rules for visitors from Jammu & Kashmir to meet their relatives shifted to UP prisons recently.
Naini Central jail superintendent, HB Singh, said, “Rules have been made easier. Now, visitors from J&K can arrive here with their details duly verified by competent authorities in the Jammu & Kashmir police.”
Recounting a past incident when two people from Kashmir had to go back without meeting their relatives, Singh said, “These two arrived to see their relative who is among the prisoners recently shifted here. However, they returned without meeting him, as they did not have the relevant documents verified by the police and the intelligence officials of J&K.”
Singh said the visitors were unaware of the new relaxed rules and had not brought along their verification report.
Then and Now
According to the earlier rules, the local jail administration in UP needed to forward details of J&K visitors to the police and intelligence officials there for verification. Once a positive report was received from J&K, the visitors were allowed to meet their relatives.
Singh said, now visitors from the state could arrive at a UP jail carrying the verification report issued by the J&K police and meet their kin without needless delays.
Another jail official said that visitors also had the option of availing of the ‘e-prisons’ facility through which they could apply online to meet their jailed relatives in Uttar Pradesh. “However, in case of J&K residents, this will be possible only after the internet services are restored in the area,” he conceded.
Talking about the role of the LIU, an official said that they got a letter from the prison administration whenever an application was received from a J&K visitor wishing to meet their jailed kin. “All details of the visitor, his or her relation to the prisoner, details and purpose of the meeting, besides other relevant information are recorded by us after meeting the visitors. A record of the visit is also kept,” said the LIU official.
He said that apart from the prisoners recently shifted from J&K, there were some other terrorism suspects lodged at the Naini Central jail.
“The (Naini) jail administration sent information about the visitors who had arrived to meet these terrorism suspects earlier, but no information, in recent times, was received about visitors coming here to meet the recently shifted J&K prisoners,” said the official.
Reportedly, 22 prisoners from Jammu & Kashmir were shifted to the Naini Central jail in August and lodged in a separate high-security barrack with special arrangements.
Meeting loved ones not easy
Hoping to meet Shabbir Wani lodged at the Naini Central Jail, his brother Shakil Wani and cousin Muzaffar Ahmad travelled all the way from J&K to Prayagraj about a week ago. They told HT that after running from pillar to post, they had to return home dejected.
“The jail administration did not allow them to meet Shabbir Wani due to the absence of a verification letter from the Jammu & Kashmir police and LIU officials. Wani is among the prisoners shifted to Naini jail recently,” said Naini Central jail superintendent HB Singh.
Earlier, Shakil had said, “Shabbir was a teacher at a government school but his name appeared in a list of stone-pelters after which he was arrested and sent to prison. We came here to meet him but were not allowed, as we didn’t have the papers issued by the J&K police and intelligence officials. We were asked to first get the verification letter.”
First Published: Sep 16, 2019 17:48 IST