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New high security prison for terrorists being built in J&K

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The Administrative Council headed by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on Wednesday allotted land in Jammu’s Kathua district for the establishment of a special jail

Nearly 34 years after the outbreak of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, the Government has decided to construct a high security prison for terrorists, secessionists and other anti-national elements in the Union Territory.

The Administrative Council headed by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on Wednesday allotted land in Jammu’s Kathua district for the establishment of a special jail.

It is for the first time that a special jail is being built in the terror-ravaged UT for convicts and under-trial detainees involved in terrorism, secessionism, sedition and other unlawful subversive activities. As of now, such convicts and under-trials are lodged either in the UT’s own prisons or some jails outside. A number of such detainees remain lodged in Delhi’s Tihar Jail where the JKLF co-founder Maqbool Bhat and a Jaish-e-Mohammad operative Afzal Guru were executed respectively in 1984 and 2013.

Some of such detainees have also been lodged from time to time at a couple of jails in Rajasthan and UP. Those currently lodged in Tihar Jail include JKLF’s former ‘Chief Commander’ Yasin Malik who is facing murder charges in more than 60 cases. He has been charge-sheeted in the killing of four Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel in January 1990 and the kidnapping of the then Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s daughter, Rubaiya Sayeed, in December 1989.

Prominent businessman and alleged hawala operative Zahoor Watali, former MLA Engineer Rashid, separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s son-in-law Altaf Fantoosh, Hizbul Mujahideen chief Salahuddin’s two sons as well as separatist leaders Shabir Shah and Nayeem Khan, all arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in alleged terror-funding cases, have also been lodged in Tihar Jail.

Decades after two major jail breaks at Srinagar Central Jail, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba’s Pakistani terrorist Naveed Jhat escaped from custody at the SMHS Hospital in Srinagar on 6 February 2018. He gunned down both of his police guards and made good his escape when he was being taken to doctors for a medical check-up. Following his dramatic escape in broad daylight, almost all the detained militants and high profile separatists, including Massarat Aalam and Ashiq Hussain Faktoo aka Dr Qasim, were shifted to different jails outside the valley.

The Police and the jail authorities have several times conducted raids on the two Central Jails, besides the District Jails of Baramulla and Jammu (Ambphalla), and recovered cell phones, SIM cards and data cards from possession of a number of the inmates.

“The construction of High Security Prison for lodging treasonous and insurgent criminals aims at meeting the security requirements of the region and strengthening the national security”, said a press release from the Government of Jammu and Kashmir.

Currently there are 14 functional prisons, including 2 Central Jails, 10 District Jails, 1 Special Jail and 1 Sub Jail, besides a make-shift holding centre for Rohingyas at Hiranagar, in Jammu and Kashmir. As on 31 December 2021, there were 186 convicts and 4,532 under-trials in the UT’s 14 prisons against the total lodgement capacity of 3,860 detainees.