Wednesday, December 6, 2023

1827 days and counting: Kashmiri journalist Aasif Sultan completes five years in jail

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Aasif Sultan’s daughter, Areeba was just 6 months old when her father was illegally arrested in the middle of the night in August 2018.

She is now five and half years old, and asks about him everyday.

Aasif Sultan’s father Mohammad Sultan, earlier told Maktoob, “I keep telling her that her father will come back. Few days ago, she asked me, ‘you said he will come, where is he? He hasn’t come yet.’”

Kashmiri journalist Aasif Sultan, who had been incarcerated for a lengthy period, marked his fifth year in jail on 27 August 2023, Sunday.

Jammu and Kashmir police took Aasif Sultan into custody on August 27, 2018, and formally arrested him a few days later. In February 2019, police filed a charge sheet accusing him of harboring militants. He was detained at the Srinagar Central Jail as his case proceeded through the courts.

Sultan, a journalist with the monthly magazine Kashmir Narrator, is being tried for “complicity” in “harboring known terrorists” under the draconian UAPA.

Sultan has been repeatedly denied bail, even though Jammu and Kashmir amended its plea to drop the most serious charges, such as a conspiracy against the state and planning a terror attack.

According to a statement filed on October 3, 2018 before a judge in Srinagar, the state accused Sultan of being in touch with a militant group and promoting it on social media. Sultan and his family disputed this claim and said that Sultan was being targeted for his work as a journalist.

In July 2018, Sultan wrote a cover story for the Kashmir Narrator about the slain Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani, whose killing by Indian security forces set off a wave of anti-government demonstrations in Kashmir in July 2016. Sultan’s story included interviews with non-combatant members of Wani’s militant group, Hizbul Mujahideen, and according to his brother Motta Sultan police pressured Aasif Sultan to disclose his sources for the story.

He was granted bail in UAPA case by a court in Srinagar on April 05, 2022. However, he was immediately taken in for questioning by the CIK, after which he was again jailed under the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA). Soon after, he was shifted to the Kot Bhalwal jail of Jammu, but he was later shifted to Agra Central Jail in Uttar Pradesh.

Global press bodies and his colleagues in Kashmir Valley have been demanding Sultan’s immediate release, as they termed the detention “a targeted one.”

Sultan in 2019 was given the John Aubuchon Press Freedom award.

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