New Delhi, Human rights activists have criticized the Indian authorities for implementing Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking devices on individuals facing terrorism-related charges in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, as reported by Al Jazeera TV. The use of these devices, often attached to the body, has raised concerns over privacy and fundamental liberties.
According to Kashmir Media Service, interviews conducted by Al Jazeera TV with activists revealed that the GPS anklet, described as a black, square-shaped, water-resistant gadget, is considered a form of 'virtual imprisonment.' This technology is especially contentious as it is used against individuals who are under trial but have not been convicted, implying a presumption of guilt before innocence.
Mohamad Junaid, a Kashmiri assistant professor of anthropology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in the United States, spoke to Al Jazeera about the issue. He asserted that the use of GPS trackers is equivalent to imprisonment by other means. Junaid highlighted the potential for such devices to be used to suppress political dissent, labeling the process as a form of mind and mobility control, thus creating a 'techno dystopia.'
Ravi Nair, executive director of the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre, expressed concerns about the infringement of fundamental liberties, such as freedom of movement and the right to privacy, caused by electronic tagging. While acknowledging the state's intention to maintain public security, Nair emphasized the need to accord fundamental rights to those subjected to electronic monitoring. He raised ethical, legal, and practical issues regarding surveillance potential and overregulation, advocating for informed consent and procedures to address unethical or illegal practices. The manufacturing of GPS trackers by private firms adds to these concerns.
Al Jazeera's report also discussed the case of Ghulam Muhammad Butt, a 65-year-old lawyer from Srinagar and the first victim of this novel form of punishment. Butt, a close associate of veteran Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Gilani, was arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and only recently granted bail. His bail conditions include 24-hour tracking and a restriction on changing his residence, enforced through the GPS device.
A police officer in occupied Kashmir stated that the device, both GPS- and SIM-based, would help authorities monitor defendants' real-time locations to ensure compliance with bail conditions. In September, a parliamentary panel in India recommended the use of GPS trackers on inmates.
This development in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, where a significant crackdown on pro-freedom groups has led to thousands of arrests, has alarmed human rights advocates, calling attention to the high percentage of such restrictive measures being employed in the region.