Kashmiri Lawyer, Who Encouraged People to Vote, Detained to Prevent Protests

Nazir Ahmed Ronga was detained on August 4, a day before Article 370 was read down by parliament.

Srinagar: A former president of the Kashmir High Court Bar Association (KHCBA) was detained under the Public Safety Act after the revocation of Article 370 because, among other things, he had the ability to convince people to vote even during poll boycotts, documents accessed by The Wire show.

After the government of India revoked the special status afforded to Jammu and Kashmir, security agencies launched a massive crackdown to arrest politicians, businessmen, lawyers and young Kashmiris fearing they could initiate mass protests.

Among those arrested was former KHCBA president Nazir Ahmed Ronga. According to a lawyer who is part of the association, Ronga was arrested on August 4, a day before the Government of India changed the constitutional relationship of Jammu and Kashmir with the Union of India.

Ronga was booked under the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA) under which a person can be jailed for six months without a trial. One of the charges levelled against Ronga, in the PSA dossier accessed by The Wire, talks about his potential to mobilise people to participate in voting even when a boycott was called.

“Your capacity can be gauged from this fact that you were able to convince your electorate to come out and vote in huge numbers during poll boycotts,” reads the dossier.

Also Read: In Photos | Life in Kashmir After August 5

The lawyer, who wished not to be named, in a caustic comment, said, “Even persuading people to vote and participate in democracy is a crime in Kashmir nowadays.”

The mass arrests in Kashmir have left even lawyers petrified. Hardly any member of the bar turns up in the courts and those who do prefer not to speak on the arrest of lawyers.

The main office of the High Court Bar Association wears a deserted look. A group of young lawyers in the high court who were engrossed in a discussion about the prevailing situation in the Valley said they had no idea about the total number of colleagues arrested from across Kashmir. But they confirmed that Ronga was arrested and detained under the PSA on August 4.

The former president has also been charged with raising his voice against the revocation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of the state into two Union Territories on August 5. “You have led many protest marches in this behalf and created problem in public order in Srinagar district,” reads the dossier.

The government has also accused Ronga of being affiliated with Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led Hurriyat Conference, saying as a lawyer he has been “looking for criminal cases which were sub-judice against the separatists.”

“You organised seminars, rallies and formulated various programmes allegedly aimed at creating large scale law and order problem during 2008, 2010 and 2016 unrests,” the PSA dossier reads.

Current bar association president also detained

Ronga’s successor and the present president Mian Abdul Qayoom was also booked under the PSA. He was later sent to a jail in Agra. “We have a record of only a few lawyers who have been booked under the Public Safety Act,” said the lawyer.

Another lawyer too wished to speak on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal. He said the incumbent bar president was in an ailing condition. “He is suffering from a kidney ailment and is diabetic. He is suffering from hypertension as well,” the lawyer continued. According to him, Qayoom’s daughter was not permitted to meet her father in Agra.

One of the charges against Qayoom in the PSA dossier is that over a period of time he has emerged as one of the “staunch advocates of secession ideology”.

In his capacity as the bar president, Qayoom, as per the dossier, has been accused of giving calls during the 2008 agitation when massive protests broke out against the transfer of forest land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board.

According to a group of lawyers, no fresh charges have been levelled against Qayoom and Ronga. “They have been arrested for having a viewpoint,” said the lawyers.

A lawyer at a Srinagar lower court said that many of her colleagues have been booked under the PSA. “The situation will become clear only once the gag on communication is lifted,” she said.