After being arrested for more than a week, 23-year-old Kashmiri journalist Sajad Gul has been slapped with the draconian Public Safety Act, PSA, and shifted to Kot Bhalwal jail in Jammu.
IG Kashmir, Vijay Kumar confirmed this to Maktoob, who also said, “he was involved in a lot of digital stuff.”
Public Safety Act which rights groups had described as a “lawless law,” is a preventive detention law that allows the government to detain a person for up to two years without a trial. The Act provides for maximum detention of two years in case of persons acting in any manner prejudicial to the state.
Gul was arrested on 5 January for tweeting a video of women and relatives who were protesting the killing of Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Salim Parray in a gunfight on the outskirts of Srinagar.
The family said at around 10 pm on Jan 5, Gul’s phone rang. It was the Army who was calling him to come outside. Gul told the family that he will check with the call. “But he did not return even after we called his number several times,” said a family member.
“At 1 am, his phone was answered by cops who confirmed that Gul was being held at Police Station Hajin,” relative said to Maktoob.
Police came with the statement on 8 January, where it said that he is in their custody. Police alleged that Gul had posted an “objectionable” video on his social media handle. Gul had an “ill-will against the government,” according to the cops.
“The said person under the garb of a journalist is habitual of spreading disinformation, false narratives through different social media platforms in order to create ill will against the government by provoking general masses to resort to violence and disturb public peace and tranquilliy,” read the cops’ statement.
As per police, “his overall activities are prejudicial to the sovereignty, integrity, and unity of India.”
Who is Sajad Gul?
Youngest among his siblings, Gul is a native of Shahgund, a hamlet in Bandipora.
Gul is a trainee reporter at The Kashmir Walla and has contributed to publications like Mountain ink. He is also a Journalism student at the Central University of Kashmir.
On Saturday, the court had directed police to release Gul against a bond of Rs 30,000.
His lawyer confirmed, that he however was not released as his name had surfaced in another First Investigation Report (FIR) registered earlier this month under number 2/2022 under section 153B, 147, 148, 149, 307 Indian Penal Code.
Gul was also directed to cooperate with the investigation officer and not to leave Jammu and Kashmir without prior permission.
But while the family was hoping to see Gul back at home on 15 January, he was confirmed that he won’t be released as there are other charges against him.
“We couldn’t talk to him properly in police station. He was taken away. He fell silent the moment he looked at us. It was a sad face,” told Javid Ahmad, 33, his brother.
Ahmad said the legal charges against his brother are fabricated.
“They have said that he would spread terror and fear among the public but he was just doing his job. Just because my brother was outspoken doesn’t mean he should be kept in jail like this,” said Ahmad.
Gul’s single parent, hasn’t any idea that her son has been shifted to Kot bhalwal.
“We can’t tell her. We keep telling her he will come back soon,” said Ahmad.
“On 15 January, the court directed police to release Gul after he was granted a bail. But on the same day, his family was subjected to wait in a police station and driven to somewhere,” said Gul’s legal counsel, Umair Ronga.
Police had told the family that there was something more against him.
“Later we came to know that a fresh FIR was lodged against him, where he has been charged under different sections including charges like “attempt to murder,” Ronga called this the high-handedness from authorities.
“They could have simply waited for the trail which hadn’t even started. This clearly shows that they wanted his prolonged custody. But I believe that law will take its own course,” he said.
The family of Gul has been always apprehensive about his career as a journalist in a place like Kashmir.
But, as per them, he would not listen to them and always were keen to do journalism.
“I would tell him to stay away from this. No one from our area reported like him. Local journalists there mostly cover government seminars, inaugurations etc. He was different,” said his family member wishing anonymity.
In February 2021, he was charged with “rioting, trespassing, and assault” after he reported on an alleged demolition drive in Bandipora district for The Kashmir Walla.
In his report, Gul mentioned about the harassment from authorities to locals who were “harassed and threatened” while they were conducting a demolition drive.
The case was against his social media account being used to disseminate information “against the national interests” on the “dictation and guidance” from Pakistan-based agencies.
Gul’s arrest had triggered a wide condemnation from different quarters across the country. The Kashmir press club and Journalist Federation of Kashmir have also released their statements urging authorities to release Gul.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also has called for the immediate release of Gul.