Friday, June 29, 2012

Strangulating Kashmiris!

Kashmir must be the only place in the world where the administration has coined the word, the “undeclared curfew”! It is a strange measure used to confine people indoors just because there is apprehension of breach of peace. No doubt every government whether democratic or otherwise has the first duty to protect its people and their property. However, there are certain norms or laws to be followed. The constitution guarantees every citizen the basic freedom of expression. It may be expression of joy or sorrow. If the government feels that such an expression publicly will create a problem of law and order, it has every right to take preventive measures. There is no parallel for such a dispensation (undeclared curfew) in the statute book or any legal framework. It allows authorities to curtail all basic human rights without any legal accountability. This strategy appears to have come out from the lessons given to the King in one of the chapters of Kautaliya’s Arthshashtra, an equivalent of Machiavelli’s Prince! However, resorting to such unconstitutional and illegal means to suppress a peoples’ expression of sorrow shows only desperation of the authorities. The constitution of India under article 19 guarantees certain fundamental freedoms to every citizen. The right to freedom enshrined under this article stipulates that all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression; to assemble peaceably and without arms; to form associations and unions; to move freely throughout the territory of India, and so on. It is specifically provided that all citizens have the right to free speech and expression and can move freely throughout India. Imposition of restrictions on free speech and expression are not tenable under any law whatsoever. These can only be restricted under certain extreme conditions especially if such expression causes ill will between communities or any utterances are prejudicial or biased which may cause enmity between people and so on. Even for placing such restrictions there are laws, rules, and specified authorities which are empowered under specified circumstances to place these restrictions by notifications and declarations in writing. Again such restrictions are for a specific period of time. Similarly, movement of people can only be restricted if the authorities are satisfied that such movement can be harmful for the citizens at large. Again such movements have to be restricted only after issuing requisite orders or notifications under relevant laws and rules in writing. Curfew is the last resort of the authorities responsible for the maintenance of law and order in a state. It is resorted to only when the situation is extremely grave and it is not possible to maintain peace without restricting citizens to their homes. The authority, normally the district magistrate has to be satisfied that such a grave situation has arisen that the maintenance of peace in an area requires total confinement of the citizens to their homes on the pain of even death in some cases of communal riots etc. Even under such strict restrictions on the movement of people the members of essential services such as doctors, employees of power and water supply department, journalists, and others are allowed to move with curfew passes issued by the concerned district magistrate. On the contrary in the case of an “Undeclared Curfew” there is no such provision. In such a state, the role of legal administrators such as the district magistrate is totally eliminated. Here everything is legal in national interest. The security forces with the draconian powers conferred on them by the AFSPA become a law unto themselves. There is no accountability at all. They have completely eliminated the legal requirement of a magistrate to take stock of the prevalent situation and order appropriate action under law for ensuring peace. Such circumstances can exist only in an enemy territory during war. In no other part of the country can such a state of affairs prevail. Any violation of the fundamental rights in any part of India will give rise to a media uproar but not in case of Kashmir. The media has even boycotted due coverage of the tragedy. Imposition of curfew in a legal way automatically sends a signal worldwide that the situation in Kashmir is grave. However, the authorities probably think that creating a curfew like situation without the legal requirement of declaring does not send a similar message across through the international media channels. It is like giving a beating to a nasty child within the confines of a house after shutting out all the windows and doors. No one is supposed to know about the real ground situation. But in the present world with information highways such a measure is nothing but self-delusion. In view of this, the most appropriate measure especially in case of apprehension of violence would have been to impose curfew. Once the curfew is formally imposed by the district magistrate, the citizens still have some rights. For instance people connected with healthcare and essential services can be issued curfew passes to enable them to fulfil their obligations. But once restrictions of curfew are imposed without formally declaring a curfew, people connected with various services or even facing some serious health problems cannot be issued any curfew passes for movement. In fact, one could give curfew relaxation in a staggered manner to various localities by turn to enable purchase of provisions, medicine etc. Such cruel measures are not imposed even by the totalitarian regimes. It is not for the first time that resort to such undemocratic measures has been taken in Kashmir. Earlier during turmoil of 2010 and 2008, similar actions were taken. It appears that the government considers strangulating people the best alternative to prevent any expression of mourning or anger. However, such drastic measures may give temporary relief but in the long run these alienate people not only from the local government but from their patrons sitting in Delhi. It seems the people in earlier times were more far sighted and intelligent than the present lot. In early sixties on a similar occasion when the holy relic was removed from Hazratbal, there was wide spread mourning throughout the valley. At that time the then Prime Minister ordered that no restriction should be imposed on expression of grief by the people. In fact, a senior minister was deputed to console people and supervise recovery of the relic. But the current dispensation seems to believe in only one weapon, the weapon of suppression of all feelings, emotions and sentiments. Unfortunately, they do not understand that suppressing genuine expression of one’s feelings drives these down and converts these into seething anger. The most humiliating and unethical has been allowing certain important persons to visit the site of the tragedy and then giving it wide publicity while as the real mourners who have suffered the loss are confined to their homes! In spite of these cruelties Kashmiris have shown patience. Someone has rightly said, “Beware of the fury of a patient man!” When it breaks, it wipes out everything in its path! Comments at:

No comments:

Post a Comment