Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir: Happy with his family members and talking to everyone with a smile on his face the Kashmiri award winning journalist Fahad Shah has finally returned to his home after almost 21-months. He was granted bail by the Jammu and Kashmir high court last week in a case filed by the State Investigation Agency (SIA). Shah had been arrested in February 2022 under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA).
Shah who was imprisoned in Jammu’s Koth Balwal prison has safely reached his home in Srinagar’s Gulab Bagh area on November 23. He was booked by the Jammu and Kashmir police after he published a news piece on his magazine The Kashmir Walla in the year 2022. Shah was arrested on February 4 by the Pulwama police and was accused of glorifying violence and crime, leading to his arrest and subsequent legal battles which were long and arduous.
On his release, in his home, Kashmiri journalist Fahad Shah recalled the horrors of prison and shared with Feminism in India how his health deteriorated in jail. Shah, a prominent journalist who has just won a legal battle; was granted bail by the J&K High Court after being arrested in 2022. He spent 22 months nearly (600 Days), in jail.
Fahad Shah of The Kashmir Walla had found himself at the centre of a controversy after he had published an article about an incident in 2019. Following the publication of this article in The Kashmir Wallah, Fahad Shah faced multiple charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), a stringent anti-terrorism law that is supposed to combat sedition but is often criticised by activists for silencing voices of dissent in India. The police also filed three separate reports against him in Srinagar, Pulwama, and Shopian, alleging that he had glorified extremism, spread misinformation, and incited the people of the disputed region.
Shah’s case had sparked massive outrage among journalists and human rights activists worldwide, who view it as an attack on the freedom of the press. They argue that the charges against Shah are based on flimsy evidence and that he was being targeted for his critical reporting of the conflict in the disputed region. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has earlier called on the Indian authorities to drop the charges against Shah and to release him immediately. The CPJ has also urged the Indian government to respect the right of journalists to report freely and without fear of reprisal.
While again reacting on Shah’s release the CPJ Asia on his recent announcement said; ‘Kashmiri journalist Fahad Shah has returned home Thursday after nearly two years in detention on terror charges. CPJ welcomes his release on bail. All charges against Shah must be dropped and the ban on his publication The Kashmir Walla.’
Speaking to Feminism in India, at his home at Srinagar, Shah was happy while expressing joy with a smile in his face. He said his health condition suffered and he fell ill as he was in prison for almost 2-years. Fahad Shah shares how it was a very tough time for him. ‘My health condition suffered. But I am very much happy while being with my family members. The feeling is special as I missed it a lot in these two years.’ he said.
Shah’s return to Srinagar after two years
After spending over two years in jail, Kashmiri journalist Fahad Shah was finally granted bail by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court on October 19, 2023. Shah is the founder and editor of the independent news portal The Kashmir Walla.
The charges against Shah stemmed from his reporting in Kashmir, which the authorities deemed as “glorifying militancy” and “inciting violence.” However, the high court found insufficient evidence to support these allegations and ordered Shah’s release on bail. Shah’s case has been closely watched by journalists and human rights groups, who have condemned his arrest as an attack on press freedom. ‘While Shah’s release is a welcome development, he will still faces trial under Section 13 of the UAPA for allegedly abetting unlawful activities and Sections 35 and 39 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010. These charges carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.’
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has welcomed the release of Kashmiri journalist Fahad Shah from prison after more than two years. However, the CPJ also urged the Indian authorities to lift the ban on The Kashmir Walla’s website, which was imposed in August 2023 under the Information Technology Act.
‘We are relieved that Fahad Shah has finally been released from prison,’ said CPJ Executive Director Steven Butler. ‘However, his release is just one step in the right direction. The Indian authorities must also lift the ban on The Kashmir Walla’s website and stop harassing journalists who are simply doing their jobs.’