Clutching at straws? J&K govt goes after 'employee instigators' of unrest
The J&K government has prepared a list of over a hundred employees who have allegedly taken part in the ongoing Azadi protests. And they are being arrested and booked under the draconian Public Safety Act.
So far, the state has slapped the PSA on 310 people in 92 days of the unrest, mostly young men. Now, it wants to send a tougher message by booking its own employee who it alleges have instigated the protests.
The list, sources said, has been prepared with the help of security agencies and has been sent to the deputy commissioners of the respective districts for action.
In August, the district magistrate of Baramulla had ordered the district heads of various departments to take action against their employees involved in the protests. The order included the list of the accused employees.
"Enclosed list of some government employees working in your department who are involved in anti-national activities of instigating violence and leading anti-national processions against the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. These employees have specifically figured in various criminal cases registered in different police stations of Baramulla district," the order read.
"The output of the departmental action may be furnished within a week's time for any further necessary action as per law at this end," it added.
The list named 10 employees of the education department, two each of the PHE and the irrigation and flood control departments, and one of agriculture department.
Similar orders have been issued in other districts, against a total of 139 employees. Their salaries have already been stopped. Sources in the police said five of the booked employees are of gazetted cadre, one of them from Kashmir University. Forty of the employees are from education department while the rest work in the agriculture departments, the Srinagar municipality and various urban local bodies. Many of them have already been arrested.
A police officer, however, said the number of the employees found to have been engaged in or instigating "disruptive activities" exceeds 300. "We will book them according to the quantum of their involvement. Some have thrown stones, some have delivered motivational speeches and some have acted as instigators," the officer said, adding that at least 10 employees have already been booked under the PSA.
"We have so far shortlisted 30 employees against whom cases will be filed. We are working on another list after investigating the level of involvement of the other identified employees," he added.
In August, the police arrested the leaders of the Employees Joint Action Committee after they tried to stage protests against the civilian killings at Press Enclave, Srinagar. The leaders - Abdul Qayoom Wani, Tariq Ahmad Sofi, Manzoor Ahmad Pampori and Fayaz Ahmad Shabnum - were taken away and lodged in sub-jail, Kupwara. They were later released on bail.
The FIRs against state employees is being viewed with serious concern by the EJAC, which has termed the move as "unnecessary harassment to find scapegoats for government's own failures".
"We condemn it and demand an immediate end to it," Abdul Qayoom Wani, the EJAC president, told Catch. "If the government frames employees, we'll oppose it tooth and nail and fight it organisationally and legally".
The EJAC spokesman Farooq Ahmad Trali said the committee would soon call a meeting of its office-bearers to decide future course of action. "As of now, we don't know whether the framed employees are involved or not. We don't accept this is the case. It is plain harassment."
According to the government service rules, any employee who is in police custody for more than 24 hours will automatically stand suspended. Some trade union leaders, however, argue that some employees might have been forced to take part in the protests.
"Government employees are part of the same society. So, you can't rule out that some of them have been forced to join protests by the youth. In some cases, they may have deliberately participated in the demonstrations as they are seen to represent the government. So, it can be a tactic to save themselves and their families," said an employee leader on the condition of anonymity.
"Haven't we seen some mainstream politicians with state security joining the protests? Haven't we seen some policemen forced to shout Azadi slogans by their neighbours. So why take action only against hapless employees. Let the government establish peace, then everything will be normal again."