How Govt employees lost ‘freedom of expression’ in J&K

AHMED ALI FAYYAZ. Updated: 3/26/2023 12:53:59 AM Front Page

Srinagar: Chief Minister of the PDP-BJP coalition Mehbooba Mufti approved social media restrictions for nearly 5 lakh employees of her government in 2017 when the post-Burhan turmoil was subsiding on the streets but borrowing space on the internet. That was the time when cricket matches in Kashmir used to start with the Pakistani national anthem and the cheerleaders of separatists and militants were enjoying a field day.
Ms Mufti’s government notified these social media restrictions for the government employees vide Government Order No: 1646-JK (GAD) of 2017 on 26 December 2017.
Today, on 25 March 2023, Ms Mufti assailed the Manoj Sinha government’s Circular No: 09-JK(GAD) of 2023 Dated 24-03-2023 whereby her social media guidelines have only been reminded to the employees. “Whether it was blacklisting contractors & the social media gag to employees, a clear intimidation of dispossessing people in J&K of their livelihood has emerged. Authorities have become judge, jury & executioner in complete violation of the fundamental rights of people”, Ms Mufti tweeted.
Politics apart, both PDP as well as BJP have reasoned their ‘social media gag’ on identical grounds. Both perceived a threat to the government’s day to day functioning if the rant of victimhood in the social media drifted beyond a point.
Apparently an addition this time around is that the employees are now also barred from entering or continuing as members of the anti-national groups or accounts or pages of persons posting anti-national content. Besides, their dependent family members too cannot post anything critical of the government’s policies or actions. This could lead to a defaulter’s termination of service.
The circular reminded nearly 5 lakh government employees that they were already bound to strictly adhere to ‘The Jammu and Kashmir Government Employees (Conduct) Rules, 1971’ and ‘The Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1956’ which specify punishment for violation including “dismissal from the service of the State” and “disqualification from future employment”.
“Despite the aforementioned elaborate guidelines and governing legal framework, it has been observed that government servants often engage themselves with social media in a manner which is in contravention to these rules. While using different social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. or Instant Messaging applications like WhatsApp, Telegram etc., employees have been seen to air disparaging views on subjects that they are expressly barred under rules to comment upon”, mentions the circular.
Even as the majority of the government employees in J&K have been discharging duties as per their mandate and responsibility since 1990, a considerable chunk has been overtly and covertly supporting the separatists and the militants. They have been glorifying acts of terror and violence, buttressing the Pakistani narrative within and outside India, enforcing their shutdown calendars while drawing salaries for themselves without attending offices.
Quite a number of the government employees, according to Police, have been found publicly discrediting the Indian systems and institutions and trolling anybody soft towards India or critical of the anti-people acts of separatists and militants. A few hundreds of them, including in J&K Police, deserted offices, went across for guerrilla training, returned with guns and grenades, killed innocent civilians, attacked security forces and either survived it all or got killed in encounters or group clashes.
While a good number of such employees retained their jobs in the government due to the prolonged system breakdown, hundreds of the gunmen managed to get jobs in the government. LG Manoj Sinha last week mentioned their number as “one lakh” but residents and the Police officials insist that it was “in thousands”. Most of them also managed to get non-involvement certificates from Police, passports and licences as government’s suppliers and contractors.
With the very beginning of the separatist movement and insurgency in 1990, several high ranking officers, including doctors and professors, virtually or physically joined the JKLF. Some of them like cardiologist Dr Abdul Ahad Guru and academician Professor Abdul Ahad Wani were killed in internecine hostilities. At least two officials joined top ranks in Hizbul Mujahideen.
In March 1990, J&K government employees, including senior bureaucrats of the rank of Chief Secretary, administrative Secretary, Director and Deputy Commissioner, signed and submitted a memorandum, calling for “end to human rights violations of security forces”. They also demanded implementation of the UN resolutions of the Plebiscite. In the same year, they launched an indefinite civil disobedience strike which continued for 72 days. Five top officials, dismissed by Governor Jagmohan “in the interest of State”, were later reinstated by the Chandrashekhar government.
The federation of government employees was admitted as a constituent of the ‘All Party Hurriyat Conference’ (APHC) when it was floated in 1993. It continued in this role till APHC’s split in 2003. Thereafter it operated as an individual supporter group of the separatists till 2018 when it vanished silently.
Vice chancellors of the universities were forced at gunpoint to lead anti-India and pro-Pakistan demonstrations on the campuses. Chief Ministers (Pro-chancellors) were booed and heckled for being “killers of the Kashmiris” at State events. Interestingly, the spouses of a large number of terrorists and separatists were absorbed and promoted in government services. Books written by professors were released only by the separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Geelani’s biography writer was a professor of Persian till he was arrested.
Senior bureaucrats say that more than 1,000 employees have been dismissed, many after August 2019.
This section of the government employees supported, controlled, promoted and amplified the narrative of separatists, militants and Pakistan. While holding positions in the government, they and their cheerleaders trolled and silenced every voice soft towards India or critical of Pakistan and terrorists. After 2008, social media became their key platform. They had no inhibition in naming even senior academicians, artists and journalists as “traitors”, “Indian agents”, “collaborators” and “stenographers” and thus exposing them to threats and attacks from terrorists.
“They needed the internet only to spearhead anti-India propaganda campaigns in 2019, not for the students who wanted it to pursue education. When the terrorists banned schools and school buses, these people remained silent. Ironically, most of them were exposed by (their activities on) the internet itself”, said a senior Police officer.
“Their extracurricular, anti-national activities went on for nearly 30 years. Their empire began crumbling only after a surgical crackdown after August 2019”, said the officer. He claimed that the Government had achieved “about 95% control” over the social media and internet which are no longer shut down—even on Independence and Republic Day and during encounters—in Kashmir.

Updated On 3/26/2023 12:58:14 AM

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