January 27, 2020
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Gagging Dissent

Gagging Dissent

AT 5.15 pm on March 8, human rights activist and lawyer Jalil Andrabi was driving to his Srinagar home with his wife when he was picked up by a posse of paramilitary men. The authorities in Kashmir have denied any knowledge of his whereabouts after that to the Srinagar High Court, where the bar association has filed a habeas corpus petition.

However, eyewitnesses, including Andrabi's wife, say that the lawyer was stopped by a turbaned major of the Rashtriya Rifles (RR), a paramilitary unit which handles counter-insurgency operations. Andrabi was dragged out of his car, manhandled, bundled into a jonga and whisked away. The incident was witnessed by shopkeepers in the area who say that the RR men had been stopping private vehicles for close to an hour and seemed to be looking for someone

The RR, on its part, says no personnel were deployed in the area at the time. At the same time, relatives of Andrabi, who had gone to the RR camp the following morning, insist they were assured by a junior .Andrabi would reach him. But by evening, the RR began shifting tack—saying they had no one by that name in their custody.

Meanwhile, the Srinagar Bar Association filed the habeas corpus petition. This angered the authorities, who told the lawyer's family that things could have been sorted out had they not gone to court. The desperate family is now willing to withdraw the complaint filed earlier and even retract all their statements if they can be assured of Andrabi's safety.

The Andrabi family is keeping its fingers crossed. His wife, two daughters and son look lost. Andrabi, who had filed some public interest cases against human rights violations, had obviously got into the bad books of the authorities. He was scheduled to leave for a conference in Geneva on March 11 where he was slated to present a paper on human rights violations in Kashmir. Could his disappearance have anything to do with that?

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