Indian Kashmir Amends Tough Security Law29 October 2011
Srinagar: Indian-ruled Kashmir has approved amendments to a tough law that allows detention of people without trial for two years and the arrest of youths as young as 16, an official said Saturday. 'The state cabinet has approved an ordinance to do away with some harsher clauses of the Public Safety Act (PSA),' a state government official said on condition of anonymity. The amendments mean that no-one under 18 years of age will be detained under the act, he said. In Kashmir, boys aged 16 and over are currently treated as adults and can be detained under the PSA. Rights group Amnesty International earlier this year demanded the scrapping of the PSA, which it said had been used to detain up to 20,000 people without trial in Kashmir since the eruption of an insurgency against Indian rule in 1989. The law allows police to detain a person for up to two years without charge or trial if he or she is deemed a threat to the state. The amendments to the PSA also include a reduction in the detention period from the existing one year to three months in cases of public disorder and from two years to six months in cases involving security of the State. However, in both the cases the detention period can be extended to one year and two years respectively, the official said. Leading human rights activist Khurram Pervez told AFP the changes did not go far enough. 'Our demand is that this law be totally scrapped,' he said. 'It is an anti-people law and these amendments will not deter police from detaining people they want to keep out of circulation. 'Our argument is simple. If you want to detain people, detain them after proving their guilt. Don't do it on mere presumptions.' Hundreds of youths, many aged under 18, were detained under the PSA after taking part in major anti-India protests in Indian Kashmir last year. Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah announced last week that other harsh laws imposed in 1990 allowing troops to act with near-impunity are to be partially withdrawn as security improves in the region. The reviled Armed Forces Special Powers Act and Disturbed Areas Act were introduced to give the army and paramilitary forces - who number 500,000 in Indian Kashmir today - sweeping powers to detain people, use deadly force and destroy property. Army and paramilitary officers are opposed to revoking the acts, saying they are important in the effort to tackle the 20-year insurgency.