Political Prisoners

A political prisoner is someone imprisoned because they have opposed or criticized the government responsible for their imprisonment. The term is used by persons or groups challenging the legitimacy of the detention of a prisoner. Supporters of the term define a political prisoner as someone who is imprisoned for his or her participation in political activity. If a political offense was not the official reason for the prisoner's detention, the term would imply that the detention was motivated by the prisoner's politics.

Since 2008, the movement for Kashmiri liberation or ‘Azaadi’ from the Indian military occupation has been overwhelmingly expressed by the people of Kashmir through peaceful protests and vigorous mass mobilizations. The Indian government has always responded to such movements of struggle through brutal killings, debilitating injuries including the use of pellet guns and empty tear-gas canisters to blind and maim, and mass detentions of Kashmiris. Under laws like the Public Safety Act (PSA), state authorities have imprisoned thousands of Kashmiri youth and activists. Over 5,000 Kashmiris were arrested in the summer of 2008 alone. Since then, more than 15,000 Kashmiris have spent some time in prison at one point or the other.
Moreover there are many Kashmiris who have been rotting in jails in Kashmir as well as outside Kashmir over several years, some without trial which includes an overwhelming majority of prisoners who are denied a fair chance to defend themselves in court. The case of Sheikh Farhat and Sheikh Imran, two young Kashmiris, who are lodged in a jail in the West Bengal, is one such case. Both of them have gone on hunger strikes several times to seek a fresh trial for themselves and transfer to a jail in Kashmir. They were arrested in 2003 from Kashmir, and were given life sentences purportedly for having links to the discovery of a truck in West Bengal carrying ammunition, a charge they and their families have denied. Such acts of blindsiding the lives of Kashmiri youth and ruining their futures, just to prove and showcase a propaganda, has been seen many times over the last 27 years.

The Jammu and Kashmir government is actively considering releasing the political leaders and revoking controversial Public Safety Act (PSA) against those not involved in serious crimes and cases. The government must release all detained political leaders, lodged in different jails across the State to bring normalcy in the Kashmir valley. However the government has failed on all the grounds to restore normal life across Kashmir valley. The government has failed to maintain the fundamentals of democracy in Kashmir. The Government had also failed to give a strong reason of putting noted human rights defender and coordinator Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) Khurram Pervez behind bars.

The experiences ofthe political prisoners in Kashmir with respect totheir health issues they have faced due to theimprisonment and the ill treatment they met withduring imprisonment or detention is a topic of utmost consideration. Kashmir is a violentconflict ridden zone since more than two decadesand time and again this state has witnessed frequentarrests of those people who have different politicalagendas and considerations and people who are against thegovernance of the state. There has been many reports of theill treatment that the political prisoners insidethe jails and detention centres go through and there afternegative effects resulting from that ill treatment. One of such example was reported in Kashmir by the Physicians for Human Rights and Asia Watch (1993) that there is a prevalence of a serious disease that has been diagnosed as rhabdomyolysis among the political prisoners in Kashmir. Rhabdomyolysisis a disease in which the kidney may get damaged due to the acute renal problems. Doctors have given main reason of this disease among political prisoners as the interrogation and torture techniques like in which leg muscles are crushed and therefore a secretion of dead muscle fibres is produced that reaches into the blood stream damages the kidneys. Although if quick intervention is done, positive results can be achieved but if there is lack of medical attention, it can prove serious. According to the report doctors have observed 37 cases of rhabdomyolysis since 1990 among many political prisoners in which three patients died of this disease and almost ten required dialysis.The government has to understand that the prisoners inside the jails are also like other people living outside the prison. Therefore just like those people, prisoners are also entitled to all the rights implemented in different laws within the limits of prison and these rights should not be denied to them just because they are inside the protected walls. The impact of imprisonment on the health of a political prisoner during the imprisonment and also the post imprisonment health issues is a serious concern and it is important to know if at all they are given any kind of medical care facility, which is their fundamental right and not a plea, during the imprisonment period.

World Health Organization (WHO) 1946 came with a definition that health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. WHO has also given an operational definition of health, according to which the concept of health has been defines as a condition or quality of the human organism expressing the adequate functioning of the organism in given conditions, genetic or environmental.There are different dimensions of health as given by the WHO like physical, mental, and social aspects are the three specific dimensions of health and few more dimensions may be included to health like spiritual and emotional and these are explained below:

1. The Physical Health- is concerned with anatomical integrity and physiological functioning of the body. It means the ability to perform routine tasks without any physical restriction. E.g., Physical fitness is needed to walk from place to place.
2. Mental Health- is the ability to learn and think clearly and coherently. E.g., a person who is not mentally fit (retarded) could not learn something new at a pace in which an ordinary normal person learns.
3. Social Health- is the ability to make and maintain acceptable interaction with other people.
4. Such as to celebrate during festivals; to mourn when a close family member dies; to create and maintain friendship and intimacy, etc.
5. Emotional Health - is the ability of expressing emotions in the appropriate way, for example to fear, to be happy, and to be angry. The response of the body should be congruent with that of the stimuli. Emotional health is related to mental health and includes feelings. It also means maintaining one’s own integrity in the presence of stressful situation such as tension, depression and anxiety.
6. Spiritual Health - Some people relate health with religion; for others it has to do with personal values, beliefs, principles and ways of achieving mental satisfaction, in which all are related to their spiritual wellbeing.