Man booked under PSA for “sloganeering” near army vehicle accident site

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A resident of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district, who had recorded the aftermath of a road accident in which a woman was run over by an army truck and uploaded it on Facebook, has been booked under Public Safety Act (PSA) over allegations of shouting pro-Pakistan slogans.

Bashir Ahmad Bhat, 35, has since been shifted to a jail in the Jammu division, according to his family.

Bhat, according to his brother Shabir Ahmad, had recorded the aftermath of the 14 July road accident at Nadihal village. A woman had died in the accident as she was overrun by the army vehicle.

A minor protest had taken place in the area in the aftermath of the accident, according to a video of the incident which had also gone viral. This incident had taken place near Bhat’s shop and he was arrested from his shop on 16 July. 

Bhat was arrested under FIR 31/2021 Indian Penal Code 124 A (Sedition) 147 (Punishment for rioting) 153 (Wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot, if rioting be committed). “He was charged with the things he did not do,” said Shabir. “They [police] were telling us that he will be released then we are not even aware how an FIR was registered against him.”

Shabir said that around “10 people were arrested in this regard but all of them were released on bail 15 days later except him”. “He was shifted to jail in Jammu from Argam Police Station on 31 July,” he said. 

“Who will we ask at the police station about why he wasn’t given bail and booked under PSA?” Shabir said. “Nobody listens.”

The police in its report has charged Bhat and several others of “chanting pro-Pakistani and anti-India slogans”. “They were shouting Pakistan Zindabad slogans which could risk causing rebellion against the country and could harm the integrity of the country,” the police report read.

In the bail application filed by Bhat’s wife, Shaheena Begum, it is mentioned that he has been implicated “in a false and frivolous case and without any reasonable cause or justification”.

“That the alleged applicant/accused are purely an innocent person and is sole bread earner of his family and has not committed any kind of offence or whatsoever nature,” it further read.

The objections filed against the bail application by the police read that the “offences for the commission of which the above named accused [Bhat] is involved being serious and grave in nature, as such, the above named accused person cannot claim bail as the matter of right”.

“Bashir Ahmad Bhat was bailed on interim (by Sessions Court Bandipora), but unfortunately after this bail order he has been booked under PSA,” said Advocate Khanday Mudasir, representing Bhat. 

For Shabir, his brother shouldn’t have been slapped with a PSA and kept in custody. “It’s unjust,” he added.

Another person arrested in the case, told The Kashmir Walla, that he was arrested on 15 July. “At the police station, I was shown a picture wherein I was standing in the crowd at the accident place. I was told that I was shouting slogans,” he said.

He said he had told the police to book him under PSA if the allegation was proven true. “They told me to wait. Then after some time, an FIR was filed against me. I told them it’s unfair,” he said.

He said that he was kept in the Argam Police station for two days, then shifted to Bandipora SOG camp for 14 days. “I got bail on 30 July…then the person who had shot the video was booked under a PSA,” he said.

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