Why should we worry about the termination of service of three Kashmiris by the Jammu and Kashmir administration? It is natural to assume the three are guilty of dereliction of duty or violation of the code of conduct state governments have for their employees. However, that is certainly not the case here.
Idrees Jan Mir, a government school teacher, Abdul Bari Naik, a professor at a government-run college, and Nazir Ahmad Wani, a middle-level officer in J&K’s revenue department, have been fired for being a “threat to the security of the state”
The letter informing them of their termination did not even bother to explain how they were found to be acting against the security of the state. No formal enquiry, no show cause notice, no suspension, no forum for appeal. This is how the Indian state is dealing with the people of Kashmir now. That they are Muslims is not irrelevant here.
In the run up to their termination, it was reported in the media that the J&K administration – headed by an unelected lieutenant governor sent from New Delhi – has devised a new method to “purge the administration of dissenting employees in the interest of the security of the state.” The LG set up a special task force using powers under Article 311 (2)(c) of the Indian constitution to look for people suspected of carrying out activities that can be construed as “anti-national”, or sympathetic to the terrorists.
It was also reported that the government order of termination mentioned the ‘Terror Monitoring Group’ set up in 2019 to identify employees who are involved in anti-national acts or acts which help terrorists. We already know that by the standard of the current dispensation, any act can be declared anti-national.
For example, if you do not join people who are singing the national anthem, or if you walk past the national flag without saluting it, it can be construed as disrespecting the nation and harbouring anti-national feelings. Or, it could be merely because you were there and who you are. Names like Idrees, Bari and Nazir can make someone in authority suspect you of being ‘anti-national’.
Before taking this step, the J&K administration had started recruiting ‘cyber volunteers’ to identify radicalised people and anti-nationals. According to a report in The Wire, “the J&K Police asked netizens to register as volunteer through a dedicated section ‘Cyber Volunteers’ on National Cybercrime Reporting Portal” which was relaunched on August 30, 2019 by the Union home ministry to include all kinds of cybercrimes.
“Under this initiative, any Indian citizen can get himself/herself associated by registering in any of three categories of Cyber Volunteer. Cyber Volunteer Unlawful Content Flagger – for identifying online illegal/unlawful content like child pornography, rape/gang rape, terrorism, radicalization, anti-national activities, etc. and reporting to government,” the J&K Police statement said.
The Indian state after doing away with Article 370 has taken several steps to tell the Kashmiris that they are merely subjects and should not expect to be given rights that citizens in India have and exercise. Parliament degraded J&K’s special constitutional position and its statehood was traded for the status of a Union territory to be ruled by an emissary from the Centre and not by elected representatives.
The subsequent changes in land use policy and domicile policy have revealed the sinister designs of the Indian state even further. The idea is to totally transform the demography of the area and to put the Kashmiri people at the mercy of the Indian state. By putting all political leaders and eminent people in different fields under indefinite detention, denying passports to those who have ruled the state with the assurance that neither the high court nor the Supreme Court would even take cognisance of this gross violation of constitutional rights, a message was sent to the Kashmiris that you should never aspire to be treated as people with rights.
The rest of India, conditioned by decades of propaganda, either relishes the humiliation of the Kashmiri people or sees it as a ‘necessary evil’. No major leader of any political party – barring the DMK in Tamil Nadu in and the Communists, who themselves are treated as anti-national – saw fit to protest these moves. Denial of internet services for months did not disturb the soul of the highest court. A school teacher while describing the silencing of the state to me cried on phone. He is from the mainland. But he could see what was being done to his Kashmiri students by depriving them of the minimum means of communication. He wondered how could we even think of online classes in J&K.
No end to repression
This most recent move to cleanse the state apparatus of elements the state deems ‘undesirable’ further dehumanises the Kashmiri people.
It is a matter of shame that no newspaper or media platform thought about the seriousness of the matter and criticised these dismissals on the basis of the lack of due process. There has been no statement from any employees union or any teachers’ association opposing it. This silence is all the more strange given how clear it is that Kashmir is a test bed for the rest of India: what happens there today will happen elsewhere tomorrow.
Bringing Delhi under the thumb of the Central government is only one such example. When the Uttar Pradesh government slaps criminal cases on families and hospitals for raising the issue of lack of oxygen, it is only applying the principle that is already in play in J&K and which we have tacitly approved by our silence.
The methods of repression used against the Kashmiri people and approved by us would definitely be applied in mainland India. But this fear, this potential of them harming us should not be the reason for us to oppose them. We should reject them as they violate the norms of any civilised society.
Unfortunately, many in India see Kashmir as a territory to be annexed, and its people relegated to second class status. All this creates more and more hatred in the valley against the Indian government. The Concerned Citizen’s Group – comprising Yashwant Sinha (former external affairs minister of India), Sushobha Barve (executive secretary, Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation, Delhi), Wajahat Habibullah (former chairman of the Minorities Commission and the first chief information commissioner of India), Air Vice Marshal (Retd.) Kapil Kak, and Bharat Bhushan, former editor and independent journalist – released a report after its recent visit to J&K, describing the frustration and anger of the Kashmiri people towards the Indian state. It noted,
“It seemed that the anger, despair and alienation of Kashmiris that we had witnessed first-hand during our six previous visits to the Valley persisted. However, the Centre’s virtual obliteration of the political mainstream, nullification of Article 370, abrogation of Article 35A, bifurcation of the state and the enactment of the new domicile laws seemed to have increased the all-pervasive sense of fear, humiliation and hopelessness among the Kashmiri population. People were still in shock and seemed psychologically disturbed showing heightened anxiety and paranoia about the future.
“It was beyond the comprehension of ordinary Kashmiris why the Modi government had dismantled the structure of the state and altered the relationship between India and J&K. In taking these decisions, the Kashmiris felt that the Central government had looked upon them as ‘enemies’. Every action of the Centre, therefore, is being viewed as diminishing the Kashmiris as political entities and shrinking their democratic political space.
“A common sentiment among all those we met from the civil society was of anger, hurt and unhappiness. We found a society deeply wounded. Many told us that in the past 70 years, they had not felt as hurt as after the August 5, 2019 decision. As if that were not bad enough, the speed with which the Centre has gone about issuing one executive order after another – ranging from the scrapping of the Roshni Act, granting domicile certificate for non-J&K people, the five language policy to the delimitation of constituencies – has added to the anti-India sentiment and increased peoples’ anger. An enraged Kashmiri lamented, “A coloniser is going about colonising the natives of J&K.”
The group noted the Kashmiris felt that there was no political or civil society platform in India that could even acknowledge the insult and injustice the people of J&K were being subjected to. The idea of Indians standing for the rights of these people is so remote that the Kashmiris do not even think about it. We, as India, are ruling over a people using brute force. It brings no glory to us, just as the domination of India by the British for nearly 200 years did not confer greatness on it.
The move to identify and sack state employees may look small as compared to the other big moves, but it is important that each act of injustice be recorded and opposed, even if for us to have some respect for ourselves.
Apoorvanand teaches at Delhi University.