Unbelievably ridiculous!

The State’s response to the ongoing crisis and continuum of shutdowns and stone pelting protests has been bizarre from the very beginning. It hasn’t simply stopped at the use of disproportionate force to quell the mobs. Absurdities have been popping up even in the form of statements, threats and flip-flops, both in Srinagar and New Delhi, obviously every little irrational streak provoking a rebellious mood. Events in the last few days have been particularly shocking, making a mockery of democratic practices, culminating in the resignation of J&K Bank chairman Haseeb Drabu. Drabu was forced to resign by the state government. His fault? He kept the bank open on a day that there was no hartal call by the separatists. Is that supposed to be a crime? Or an anti-national act to keep the banks open on days when people can visit these and carry on with their transactions. For over two months people in Kashmir have been locked inside their homes and on the few days that there are no hartals, many of them have found themselves in dire straits with no banks open and ATM machines designed to give them no more than Rs 1,000. Last Sunday, on a normal day in the Valley, J&K Bank was not the only one opened. So what really was the big deal?

Just two days prior to nailing Drabu, the state government stirred a hornet’s nest with massive sized advertisements in all Srinagar based dailies, giving details of the TA/DA some PDP legislators were withdrawing for attending meetings of the various committees and Houses constituted by the state legislative assembly. The advertisement simply singled out the PDP legislators, stating: "The Hon’ble Assembly Members of opposition party have been regularly attending meetings in the Assembly Secretariat to address various issues during the last two months, inspite of hartals or any untoward incidents, for which TA/DA was drawn by the Hon’ble members." The advertisement carried in the name of office of assembly secretariat signifies several things. How is it that the legislative assembly secretariat has acted as a rubber stamp of the state government? Hypothetically, if this is assumed as an initiative of the Speaker and his secretariat, why is it that only the PDP legislators have been singled out? Is it that legislators of other parties including the ruling combine of National Conference and Congress are not attending the meetings? Or is it that they are not availing the benefit of TA/DA? Or is it that the TA/DA being given to these members is some kind of a benevolence of the state government.

At best, it is a cheap political vendetta where the august office of the assembly secretariat has suitably played the convenient role of becoming ‘His Master’s voice, as if the assembly is the fiefdom of the ruling parties. But what really is the purpose of spending so much on almost half a page advertisements to ’embarrass’ PDP members on account of TA/DA drawn by them, which is not even a fraction of the money that may have been spent on publicising the notice. Is it to highlight the money withdrawn, or is it to tell the world that the PDP leaders have been violating the hartal calls by separatists?

On the surface, there may be quite a few apparent differences between the two incidents. While Drabu reacted with a quiet and graceful retreat, the PDP reacted with allegations of corruption against the chief minister. When the appearance of ridiculous advertisements could have been easily questioned on the basis of logic and ethics, it is not known why PDP decided to ignore this political stupidity of the ruling coalition and counter with its own absurdities. The sudden charges against the chief minister may not hold much ground, unless of course, the party has evidence enough to substantiate these. The distinct peculiarities of the two cases are also visible in the fact that while Drabu has been asked to resign because his open offices co-oincided with no hartal, the PDP has been nailed for disobeying the hartal. The bottom line is: An Enemy is an Enemy, whatever he does. This way or that, the government appears to have donned the all supreme role of taking action against whosoever displeases it or challenges its might.

Signs of this were apparent a month ago when the government decided to punish the doctors peacefully agitating against human rights abuse. Cases were also registered against three government employees. But off late, it is the bigwigs too who are bearing the brunt of this tyranny. Even in Jammu, when Pradesh Youth Congress leaders and activists took out a peace rally, they had to face lathicharge. Prior to that civil society members in Jammu who took out a peace march to protest against human rights violations had to face a slanderous campaign, with the tacit blessings of the organs of the State. Irrationality and outlandish ideas have taken over. It is not known where this theatre of the absurd is headed?

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