01-Feb-2023  Srinagar booked.net

CoverStoryPoliticsGovernanceConflictFeaturesKashmir

Are Orders of 'Naya Kashmir' Closing Doors

These executive orders indicate red horns and a stricter regime, whether it’s to terminate government officials on the grounds of cyber vigilance against the “anti-India sentiment”, or making an adverse police report significant for refusing security clearances. Before this ruthless handling of defiance, the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir has had introduced many amnesty policies “to change the hearts and minds” of people towards the mainstream.

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After reduced to a powerless politician, the mercurial Farooq Abdullah is making a steady comeback in Kashmir politics with his moniker miming.With Defence Minister Rajnath Singh asserting that militancy “will end soon” and Lieutenant Governor Manoj Singh calling stone-pelting a “history”, the National Conference patron is claiming that his party will sweep assembly polls and make officials “acting as kings” accountable.

The man hailed as a “Gupkar Czar” by his diehards during his eventful career was hinting at the consecutive executive orders signed by a bureaucratic battery and implemented by the constabulary in the so-called “Naya Kashmir” founded post-abrogation of Article 370.

These executive orders indicate red horns and a stricter regime, whether it’s to terminate government officials on the grounds of cyber vigilance against the “anti-India sentiment”, or making an adverse police report significant for refusing security clearances.

Before this ruthless handling of defiance, the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir has had introduced many amnesty policies “to change the hearts and minds” of people towards the mainstream.

But over the years, especially after August 5, 2019 move, a stricter change follows in Kashmir where administrative orders are dictating new terms.

One such order came on July 31, 2021, when the Special Branch of Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of JK Police ordered: “to ensure an applicant’s involvement in Law & Order, stone-pelting and other crime prejudicial to the security of the state be specifically looked into during the verification related to passports, services and any other verification related to government services/schemes.”

Digital evidence like CCTV footage, photographs, videos and audio clips, quadcopter images available in the records of the police, security forces and agencies will be referred, the order further said: “Any subject found involved in any such cases must be denied the security clearance.”

From the tumult of 2008 to the current time, public dissent never separated from the social discourse of Kashmir but does that mean those thousands of people will not be given security clearances? Would they be abstained from accessing the fundamental rights to move outside the country or work in the government sector?

A senior official in the Special Branch CID Kashmir said the new order is not an embargo blanket on people. Any applicant, he added, found ‘presently’ involved in anti-India activities will be denied security clearances and not to the one who has a rebelling past.

“The cases will be accessed individually, investigated on records and decided accordingly because criminal records are made in past and we cannot predict the future,” the officer refusing to comment on the record said.

When asked reasons for the order as getting security clearance is already subjected to stringent rules in Kashmir, the top-ranked officer said that ‘actually,’ the order was not open for public scrutiny as it comes under the structural and organizational regulations of the CID.

“Now that the circular is already in the public domain, people can interpret messages according to their understanding as most of the things are very clearly written in the order,” he said.

The order mostly relies on police records surpassing the law of the court. Thousands of people accused under different tools, like Public Safety Act (PSA) and other anti-terror laws endure an inept judiciary and question a crime or anti-India activity defined against them.

Recently, Bashir Ahmad Bhat, a 35-year-old shopkeeper from Nadihal village of North Kashmir’s Bandipora district was booked under PSA after he filmed an accident in which an elderly woman was crushed to death by an army truck.

“My uncle was in his shop when the accident happened,” said Aqib, Bashir’s nephew. “The face of the elderly woman was crushed so badly that no one was able to identify her. To ascertain her identity, my uncle came Live on social media so that people living in nearby areas could recognize her for the last rites.”

There were throngs of people that gathered around the accident spot and raised anti-India slogans, he said, “but my uncle was detained under PSA because it was easy to use his social media Live feed as evidence against him because his face was visible in the video.”

Bashir has two children, aged 1 and 4, and a young wife struggling to hire a lawyer for the “lawless law”.

“The family has financial crises,” the nephew said. “Was PSA an only option?”

While setting up a stricter approach towards dissenters, the JK administration has already started the termination process of government employees found involved in the anti-India sentiment, even on their social media accounts.

To keep an eye on “troublemakers”, an army of volunteers working on the behalf of security agencies are vigilant on the online space today.

This ‘stick policy’ even endorsed by LG Sinha to counter the recent strike in Lal Chowk has made things tough for the likes of Waseem Hajam.

The 20-year-old Nursing student from Khue Dulgam continues to languish in Baramulla Sub- Jail since August 12, 2020, when he was booked under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

“Around 8:00 PM, the police arrived, searched our house and asked for my son,” said Ashraf Hajam, Waseem’s father. “He was not home, but the police called him and when he came back, they arrested him. Till this day, he continues to remain under custody.”

Waseem’s lawyer has issued 15 summons but not a single witness has appeared in the court, the distraught father said: “When the witness doesn’t appear before the court, the case gets delayed for another hearing and the process repeats for years.”

In another house, a night turned into a nightmare when 19-year-old Jaffer Beigh of Taripora village in Sheeri, Baramulla was taken from his home.

“He was sleeping upstairs, when police whisked him away from our eyes,” said his father.

“Later, he was slapped with UAPA along with another boy named Tanveer Khan for ‘carrying arms and hand grenades’.” For the first 15 days, he was in Joint Interrogation Centre (JIC) Baramulla.

“I managed to visit him after four days there and saw him in a very bad shape,” Jaffer’s father said.

Rights watchdog Amnesty International in its various reports has stated that lawless laws like PSA and UAPA ensure that the detainees are held without trial and exposed to a higher risk of torture.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau data, there has been a significant rise of UAPA cases in Jammu and Kashmir, from less than 60 cases annually until 2015, to 255 cases in 2019.

But data shared by the Union Home Ministry reveals that only 2.2 per cent of cases registered under the UAPA in 2016-19 had resulted in convictions in a country where more than 40 million cases are pending in the supreme court as of February last year.

“A case can be framed against anyone, but until the crime against a person is not proven, punishment based on suspicion is persecution,” Khuram Parvez, noted rights activist, told The Himalayan Post.

“And persecuting someone without a trial is illegal.” From one side, he said, the government is trying to normalize the situation in the valley and on the other side moves like these ultimately radicalize society.

“These are all arbitrarily and illegal moves. In a longer run, they won’t help the Government of India.”

Even local unionists feel that the current handling of Kashmir is bound to backfire.

Over the years, said Suhail Bukhari, state governments in association with New Delhi had made many amnesty policies “to revamp secessionist ideology” among people and let them live a normal life.

“But unfortunately,” the People’s Democratic Party’s spokesperson said, “these new orders are closing those doors.” All these arbitrary decisions essentially alienate larger sections of people, Bukhari said.

These executive orders derive strength from the JK Reorganization Act 2019, said National Conference spokesperson, Imran Nabi Dar.