Kashmiri journalist Aasif Sultan kept in jail for more than 1,000 days


Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – This month, Aasif Sultan, a journalist from Indian-administered Kashmir, completed 1,000 days in prison since his arrest in August 2018 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA, a stringent anti-terror law.

Sultan, 34, who worked as an assistant editor for a Srinagar-based English magazine, is accused of “harbouring known militants”, an allegation he denies. He has also been charged with murder, attempt to murder and other crimes.

But Sultan’s family and the editor of Kashmir Narrator, the magazine he worked for, deny the accusations, saying he was arrested for his journalistic work, particularly for a story titled The Rise of Burhan, which he wrote for his magazine in July 2018.

In the 4,000-word story on the killing of Kashmiri rebel commander Burhan Wani in 2016 by Indian security forces, Sultan wrote why the 22-year-old rebel had proved to be “more dangerous” for India “in his grave than in his living room”.

The Himalayan region of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, who rule over portions of the Muslim-majority territory but claim it in full. The two nuclear-armed nations have fought two of their three full-scale wars over the region.

Meanwhile, an armed rebellion against Indian rule in Indian-administered Kashmir began in the early 1990s, with thousands of young Kashmiris joining the rebels, who either demand an independent state or a merger with Pakistan.

In his story, Sultan wrote that after Wani’s killing, “more and more young boys are disappearing into the woods to follow Burhan’s path.”

Wani’s killing on July 8, 2016 made global headlines and triggered a wave of anti-India protests across the disputed region, in which nearly 100 people were killed as Indian police and troopers swooped down on the protests with live bullets and pellet guns.

For his story, Sultan had managed to get exclusive photographs and details about Wani, including interviews with so-called overground workers (OGW), a term used in the restive region to describe non-combatant members of rebel groups, who are usually given logistical tasks.

“Interestingly, one of them [OWG members] met him [Sultan] in a police station in southern Kashmir and the interview was facilitated by a police officer. He [the OWG member] gave us all the details. It was something exclusive which had not appeared anywhere,” Kashmir Narrator’s editor Showkat Motta told Al Jazeera.

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