Academics and security agencies
Militarisation of civilian space has never sustained a system for long
In response to Kashmir Uprising of 2010 Indian Home Minister announced eight-point package. It included consideration for the revocation of some draconian laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act and Disturbed Areas Act.
The State Government immediately called a meeting of Unified Command in order to take decision relating to withdrawal of Disturbed Areas Act. The action of the state government depicted the malice within which State has plunged for several decades. Disturbed Areas Act is an Act of legislature. It is legislature which should have ultimate say relating to its continuation or withdrawal. Instead of deliberating on the issue in the legislature, the State thought it appropriate to sort out this issue within unified command, extra constitutional body powers of which are neither provided nor defined within basic law of the state. What this depicts is that there is a body over and above the legislature which is enjoying powers that were supposed to be exclusive domain of law makers.
The action of the state government was deplorable in another way also. The principles of natural justice demand that no one should be judge of his own cause. Disturbed Areas Act confers powers upon those who constitute the unified command. The ones who enjoy powers and immunities as a result of the legislation can’t be expected to remain unbiased while ascertaining the need for continuity or discontinuity of the law. What is true about unified command and legislature, same remains true about every other institution of the state. The institutions have abdicated their powers and the omnipresent security apparatus has occupied the space. The social welfare department has been replaced by Sadbhavana. The School education too is becoming the domain of security agencies. Sports activities are invariably organised by Law enforcing agencies. One needs to travel just two to three kilometres over highways to ascertain the traffic regulating role of Security forces. Migrant labourers often receive support of security personnel to settle their accounts with their employers. Even Bihari wives of Kashmiri men invoke the support of security pickets to harass their in-laws.
Recent episode pertaining to question papers is an extension of the same problem. Irrespective of the fact whether the contents of question papers did come within the mischief of law or not, the issue is which institution should have been the one to take cognizance of it at the first instance. And if that institution does not act, does it behove a different institution to plunge into the domain that is alien to it. What is manifested in the form of police taking cognizance of contents of question papers sue motto and those who were supposed to look into it remaining indifferent is reflective of a situation where institutions have been relegated to back seat and law and order enforcement agencies poke their nose into every sphere of civil life. And if the trend continues, tomorrow security agencies may have to establish paper-monitoring cell, media-monitoring cell. Security apparatus may have to create a Task Force to monitor the lessons that are imparted in classrooms, screening of the books that are provided within libraries. And in the era of revolution in the information technology an impossible task of censoring the materials which get depicted on various advanced sources of information.
There is nothing new in this trend; it remains a reincarnation of totalitarianism that was experienced within communist states during the cold war era. Regulation of the social and intellectual endeavour has been the mark of identity for totalitarian regimes throughout. Security apparatus overtakes every other institution in such regimentation. India too experienced this phenomenon during emergency days (1975-77). The family planning assignments were given to police instead of health officials. Police resorted to coercive sterilization of prisoners, college going students and those who travelled without railway tickets in order to fulfil the assigned quota. Even beggars didn’t escape fury of the sterilization campaign. It was indispensable consequence of involvement of police in family planning campaign. Induction of army and paramilitary forces in to the domain of civil administration is fraught with risk of much more vulgar ways of execution and in fact it is often experienced. Coercing people to free medical camps after a crackdown is just one instance of such eventuality. North Kashmir experienced a bizarre incident when a security agency made a VIP to flag of a bus of its own recruits instead of stone pelters for tour to India when later didn’t turn up.
Militarisation of civilian space has never sustained a system for long. Regimentation didn’t help in perpetuating the totalitarian regimes of East-Europe and Asia, nor did it benefit those who imposed emergency in India. On contrary institutional breakdown and regimentation has a potential of consuming those very regimes which use them for controlling the societies. In Kashmir, this attitude too can’t have any different results. Apart from tarnishing the image of the Indian state globally and perpetuating enhanced form of alienation that already exists nothing can be expected out of militarisation of civilian space. Abdication of powers by Civil Administration in favour of security agencies has already paralyzed the state apparatus and condition of statelessness remains a predominant phenomenon of Kashmir. One was not surprised to find the arrest of Prof. Noor Muhammad attracting front page coverage in Washington Post. The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has done a commendable job by securing release of the academician. This, however, does not suffice unless the choked space of the institutions is restored and the lessons of limits of power are imparted to those who have intruded in to the realm of civilian life.
Author teaches at the Department of Law, University of Kashmir and can be mailed at email@example.com