Eid of hope

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Eid is just days away and the festival always generates hope and festivities all around. The state of Jammu and Kashmir being a Muslim majority state has more significance attached to these festivals. And this being the reason that even political dimensions are attached to this festival of thanks giving and salutations.

Keeping this connotation in mind the state government over the past many decades now used to follow a tradition of an annual symbolic gesture of releasing some prisoners, mainly political prisoners in the state-on the eve of Eid.

As per reports and data provided by the state’s prisons department around 3000 inmates are lodged in the state’s jails. The Kashmir High Court Bar Association says 1500 of them are political prisoners.

Several times in the past, a review committee set up by the government for scrutinizing cases of political prisoners would recommend releasing some of them before Eid and other festivals or Republic Day and Independence day, as a goodwill gesture.  However, this time no such gesture is being followed.

The governments stand this year is being seen as a hardened posture as owing to the past practice that was followed, the government should have kept the tradition alive. The government’s decision not to release any political prisoners this year comes at a time when it claims the Ramadhan ceasefire had sprouted green shoots of peace in Kashmir. The decision is likely to add to the woes of the families who had hoped for the release of their loved ones on this festival of Eid.

Families of prisoners, who have committed minor offenses, were hoping to reunite with their kin particularly following the announcement of Ramadhan ceasefire. The cases of those who have been kept in lock up despite court orders to release them should have been taken on priority and these prisoners should have been released without any delay.

On the eve of the Republic Day in January the government had ordered the release of eight convicts by remitting their remaining term of imprisonment. According to Kashmir High Court Bar Association, among the 1500 political prisoners lodged in various jails in and outside the state 37 are serving life sentence.

But there are many who have completed their term of life imprisonment of 14 years as per the Punjab Jail manual which is also applicable to our State, but their release too has been put on hold.

The release of prisoners should have been as a follow up to the Non Initiation of Combat Operations (NICO), as the move by the union government has generated some hope among the people here.

The move of releasing political prisoners on the eve of Eid could have further strengthened the move of the government to gain some more ground on starting a dialogue in Kashmir. The release of prisoners can act as a follow up to NICO. There are prisoners who have minor offenses against them and whose detention order has been quashed multiple times by the respective courts. They should be released on Eid eve.

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