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Srinagar: The order approving the detention of Kashmiri journalist Fahad Shah under the Public Safety Act (PSA) accuses him of being a “hard headed and scheming person” who has followed “radical ideology from his childhood” and “works with anti-national gangs across the border” to “promote separatism”.
Shah, the editor of The Kashmir Walla, a Srinagar-based digital magazine and news-portal, was arrested by the J&K Police on February 4 in an anti-terror case. Although the courts in Kashmir granted him bail in the anti-terror and another case, he was arrested in a third case before he could walk out of jail.
Under the stringent PSA, Shah can be detained without trial for up to two years. The order was issued by the district magistrate, Srinagar, Aijaz Assad. The four-page detention order was issued after the senior superintendent of police, Srinagar, Rakesh Balwal, brought a dossier against Shah before the magistrate on March 11, days before his bail application in the third case was to be heard by a court in Srinagar.
Earlier, the J&K Police had said that Fahad was wanted in three cases but he recently got bail in two of them.
Tracing his journey from Anchar locality of the summer capital Srinagar where he was born to a housewife mother and policeman father, the district magistrate has stated that the J&K police cited a “number of incidents” to show that Shah has been “inciting violence thereby leading to disturbance in public order.” The incidents have not been spelt out in the detention order, although it accuses Shah of arranging “logistical support for anti-national activities” in Kashmir.
The order states that Shah is “filled with hatred against Union of India” and his “activities seem to be prejudicial to the sovereignty, security, integrity, peace and tranquility of the UT of J&K and also the Union of India”. “You are having radical ideology right from your childhood and being a prominent journalist by profession, your approach has been based on creating a rift between the groups of law abiding masses,” the magistrate states in the order.
Even though Shah has not been convicted in any criminal case, the detention order claims that the Srinagar-based journalist has been “found guilty of misguiding common masses by circulating fake news against the government and its policies”. “A journalist is one who lifts the curtains of darkness, but you are always trying to bring the people in dark by misrepresenting facts,” the order, accessed by The Wire, states.
The Editors Guild of India has criticised Shah’s detention, noting that he was “summoned and detained multiple times for his writing over the past few years”. His arrest, the media body said, is “part of a larger trend in Kashmir of security forces calling journalists for questioning and often detaining them, because of their critical reporting of the establishment”.
Shah, who has been described as “instigator’ in the detention order, completed his bachelor’s in journalism from Baramulla Degree College in north Kashmir around which time he started The Kashmir Walla as a blog. Later, he attended a master’s program at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London and on his return to India, started writing for leading publications like Foreign Affairs, Time magazine, Foreign Policy and others. He also converted the blog into a full-fledged magazine.
The detention order states that the “well-educated” Shah “continuously propagates stories” through The Kashmir Walla “which are against the interest and security of the nation” because they “highlight the allegations .. of Kashmir conflict and Indian State highhandedness in a particular selective narrative which is in-line with the ISI/Separatist propaganda.”
ISI or Inter Services Intelligence is the external intelligence agency of Pakistan which has often been accused by the authorities in India of fomenting violence in Kashmir.
In the order, the district magistrate states that Shah “disseminates anti-India sentiment in a very subtitle (sic) manner mostly though some of the stories are brazenly provocative as well,” the detention order states. Asserting that “every citizen has a right to protest,” the order states that the stories done by The Kashmir Walla “reflect that a divisive attempt” was made to propagate “the ideology for street protest and violence.”
The order justifies the detention of Shah under PSA because he has been commissioning stories with “victimhood narrative that portrays anti-India sentiment, glorifies stone pelters, terrorists, and justifies separatism and violence”.
“Your news portal extensively carries only one sided and selective stories of a particular singular Anti State narrative, while any other news item or story related to good governance, or positive intervention by GOI hardly finds any mentions” in The Kashmir Walla.
The magistrate has stated that Shah has been “found working against the ethics of journalism … by posting anti-national content which has a multi-dimensional adverse impact on the sovereignty and unity of country”. Referring to the three cases filed by the J&K Police against Shah, the detention order states that the Srinagar-based journalist has posted content on social media to “glorify terrorist activities”, “demean security forces” and provoke “public to indulge into activities causing breach of peace and tranquility.”
Due to “your illegal and anti-national activities, substantive laws have been invoked against you but after every release you did not mend your ways despite being given many chances with the hope that you may not indulge in such activities further, but you did not do so yet, and have been found continuously indulging in illegal activities which are highly prejudicial to the maintenance of Security of UT of J&K,” the order states.
Describing Shah as “a potential threat to the law and order,” the magistrate accuses him of “provoking not only the youth of your locality but of whole Kashmir” against the “sovereignty, integrity and security of UT of J&K and Union of India.”
“You are highly motivated to carry on the illegal designs and are not likely to desist from such anti-national and anti-social activities. You are directly involved in the above mentioned heinous criminal cases and as such normal laws don’t seem sufficient to deter you from indulging in anti-national activities,” the magistrate states while approving the detention of Shah under the PSA.
Shah is presently lodged at a police station in Srinagar and his legal counsel is preparing to approach the Supreme Court to seek quashing of charges against him. His arrest has been condemned by prominent media bodies and legal experts who have called for his immediate release.