Stifling voices of dissent

Curbs on political leaders movements and insensitivity to criticism

The manner in which the JKLF Chief Yasin Malik and his colleagues were prevented for the second time within a span of few days from visiting the earthquake-affected areas of Doda district for the noble cause of distributing relief to the sufferers defies logic. The JKLF had collected relief material including clothes and other essential commodities including foodgrains from the concerned people expressing their solidarity with the sufferers of the natural calamity and wanted to provide some relief to the quake-affected persons, a task for which the State government has failed to fulfill its obligations. The JKLF leaders were taken into custody at Sangam while on their way to Bhaderwah for distributing the relief material among the sufferers. Earlier, about two weeks ago, when Yasin Malik and his colleagues had visited Doda with relief material they were not only prevented from distributing the supplies but also roughed up, arrested and taken back to Srinagar. This attitude reflects a mindset that is not only scared of the citizens freedom but also believes in silencing every voice of dissent. While citizens of Jammu and Kashmir have been denied their democratic rights with curbs placed on their movements and civil liberties from time to time under the draconian laws enforced for this purpose, the present coalition headed by Omar Abdullah has the blackest record in this regard. It has betrayed its total lack of faith in democratic norms and practices. 

The police force, which is expanding monstrously for the past few years, is invariably used not only to prevent political leaders from moving from one place to the other, holding protests or addressing rallies but is also directed to resort to brutal force to deal with them. The very day when Yasin Malik and his colleagues were arrested to prevent them from proceeding to Doda, several other separatist leaders including Shabir Shah and Nayeem Khan were prevented from holding dharna to protest against grave human rights abuses being perpetrated on the citizens by the police and other security forces. They along with their supporters were taken into custody. A number of separate leaders including Shabir Shah and Nayeem Khan have been frequently arrested to prevent them from moving to different places or addressing public rallies. Same is the case with several other political leaders. Syed Ali Shah Geelani has been placed under house arrest for months together and even the visitors are not allowed to meet him. The octogenarian leader was even prevented from holding a seminar on human rights.
It is not only the political leaders engaged in the struggle for “azadi” who are being denied political space to voice their feelings and express their views in peaceful manner but even the peaceful rallies and demonstrations by different sections of the people are dealt with by using brutal force. The police has been preventing the march of government employees, other trade unions and professional organizations to hold peaceful rallies and dharnas in different parts of the state. A large number of people including the youth, and even minors, have been arrested in the recent past for holding protest rallies. Even the mainstream political parties and their leaders have been prevented in several ways from articulating their views freely and their voices have been silenced by using coercive methods. The chief minister and his government have been betraying their insensitivity to any kind of criticism, using coercive methods to silence every

voice of dissent. 

The repression let loose by the State government in 2010, when the peaceful demonstrations were dispersed by resorting to unprovoked firing resulted in the killing of as many as 215 youth including minors. A large number of youth arrested during the demonstrations are still languishing in jails. As the past events have shown, the denial of political space to different sections of the people to voice their feelings and articulate their demands peacefully only results in the people losing faith in democratic and peaceful methods and are left with no alternative but resort to violence.