For Honor and Respect

Thirty-four years after Indira-Abdullah accord, Kashmir continues to bleed; army continues to hold it against the will of defiant people and police rules the roost. Nothing has changed except for a fly-over from secretariat entrance to Budshah bridge.

In 1975 the political leadership ended their `political wilderness’. The accord infused new life in them and they promised to strive for an izzat aur aabiru ka muqaam (honor and respect) for Kashmiris. However, the accord failed to deliver. After 12 years, Kashmiris were up in arms against India seeking their unalienable right to self determination. The demand had been abandoned just twelve years ago by Sher-e-Kashmir himself. What did Kashmiris achieve during the past 34-years? Did they get their Izzat aur aabiru ka muqaam? Or has the situation worsened? A study becomes necessary.

Police state: Police continues to crush dissent with an iron hand. Extra-judicial means are employed to silence a person who dares to speak the truth. The police take all important decisions.  The police adjudicate upon the Hajj applications. The police decide who is to be released notwithstanding the court orders. The police fix the eligibility for a government job. The police and not the public service commission (PSC) or the service selection board (SSB) decide whether an aspirant is fit for the job or not.

Today the police have the gut to tamper a document like passport. A police officer decides which countries a person can visit if at all he gets a travel document. The story of a renowned gastroenterologist merits special mention here. He has been denied passport. Reason? His brother-in-law was a militant. The learned doctor even divorced his wife thus putting an end to the relationship with his brother-in-law. Still the doctor is without a passport. It has become difficult to ascertain whether the ghost of his Sala haunts him or the intelligence sleuths who still consider the doctor incompetent of holding a passport. This is the reality of Kashmir. This is how things have been moving in this neglected land.

Draconian laws: From 1947 onwards, a person could be detained under defense of India rules (DIR). This draconian legislation was ruthlessly used to break the determination of political workers. Then came a time when people at the helm framed public safety act (PSA) – a preventive detention law that has been wrecking havoc in the state. In the name of upholding security of state, the administration can detain any person for two years without trial. The irony is that district magistrates, who invoke the law, rarely apply their mind. The high court has repeatedly held that the district magistrates don’t apply their mind while invoking PSA. By signing each and every warrant under PSA, a district magistrate expresses his helplessness. It seems that the district magistrates are scared of the police superintendents (SP) who frame the grounds of detention. They detain a person for creating a wedge in Hurriyat Conference and after three years detain the same person for uniting the conglomerate!
Impotent legislature: The state legislature has been acting as an agent of New Delhi rather than a representative of the people. It gives consent whenever New Delhi requires it. It withholds a Bill if New Delhi orders it. No legislator raised his voice when the 6th constitutional amendment was passed. Even to this day, Kashmiri is blackmailed in the name of protecting and preserving Art 370. The gullible Kashmiri does not know that the same legislators watched Art 370 die and participated in its funeral and burial.

This is why the present day legislators are taken for a ride by New Delhi. Their efforts for revival of autonomy evoke a sarcastic smile in New Delhi. The autonomy document is rejected. The legislators take it with a pinch of salt and that is it.

The Resettlement Bill passed by both the houses of the legislature was referred to Supreme Court because New Delhi could not digest it. The Supreme Court returned it without any changes after twenty-years. The Bill automatically became an Act but New Delhi gave a scornful look to the state government. `It cannot be implemented’, the message was conveyed. The state government could only say: “Yes sir.”

Immediately after assuming power, Chief Minister promised repeal of armed forces special powers act (AFSPA). According to newspaper reports, Omar went to New Delhi to discuss repeal of AFSPA. Most probably he was told to behave and the exercise ended with his minister, Ali Muhammad Sagar stating that AFSPA was still needed.   

The former Chief Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad admitted on the floor of the house that the state legislature was not competent to repeal the legislation. This is contrary to what legal experts believe. Senior counsel, Zaffar Shah believes the state legislature can repeal the said act and its earlier enactment by parliament cannot stand in its way. “The AF (JK) SPA could be amended or repealed as it falls within legislative powers of the state. But it needs will of the legislators,” he said.

Another senior counsel and former law minister, Muzaffar Husain Beg says the AF (JK) SPA being a legislation enacted by the Parliament could not be repealed by the state legislature. “The state of Jammu Kashmir has surrendered its legislative powers to the union government by virtue of the instrument of accession”, he said in response to Shah’s views.

Noted Delhi based columnist, Gautam Navlakha, while taking a dig at National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) says that the state legislature was so impotent that it cannot even discuss a central legislation not to speak of repealing it.  He laughs at the autonomy and self rule slogans.

The legislature, however, is very prompt in extending central laws to the state. In 1984 it extended terrorist and disruptive activities prevention act (TADA) to the state. Jammu Kashmir has the distinction of being the first state to extend prevention of terrorism act (POTA). This draconian law was extended to the state when it was still an ordinance, when it was POTO.

Helpless judiciary: During Hari Singh’s autocratic rule judiciary was independent. When Hari Singh’s queen, Tara Devi, wrote a letter to a magistrate urging him to take lenient view in a traffic offence, the Maharaja tendered an unconditional apology to the magistrate. A few years later, when state came under democratic rule, a National Conference halqa president from Budgam directed a high court judge not hear a second appeal in particular case. The judge wrote to Sher-e-Kashmir who was running the affairs of the state then. He wrote back: “we are living in a state of emergency. Do as you have been told or quit.” The learned judge resigned. The trend continued and today the state has reached a stage where a judge admits his helplessness in an open court. In Jaleel Andrabi’s case, former chief judicial magistrate (CJM) while admitting his helplessness said: “The relatives of the deceased are justified in casting aspersions on the judiciary for its failure to dispense justice.”  

How can judiciary function independently when the state itself has violating it? Kashmiris the only place on earth where the executive can dare to issue a written order directing police officers/jail superintendents not to honor court orders seeking release of political prisoners.

Development: Kashmir has a got a fly-over. Another fly-over at Hyderpora is under construction. In addition, the SMC and SDA have constructed a number of commercial complexes and parking lots in Srinagar. Similar bodies in other districts have not lagged behind. They too have come up with similar `projects’.  Dal is dying down, Wular is shrinking, Anchar’s last rites have been performed. City forest was vandalized in the name of promoting golf. The golf course, unfortunately, is perceived as a sign of development.

The wounded bruised and mauled Kashmir stays where it was two decades ago. Yes, huge buildings have been erected, roads have been recently macadamized and bridges are being constructed but Kashmir lags behind as far as enforcement of political and civil rights are concerned. The quest for Izzat aur aabiru ka muqaam has taken them no where. Aabiru has been trampled and Izzat infringed.  

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