• Saturday, Sep 26, 2020
  • Last Update : 12:13 pm

OP-ED: Total breakdown of law and order

  • Published at 10:31 pm September 14th, 2020
Kashmir
Reuters

Jammu and Kashmir continues to face violations of human rights and free speech

On the morning of August 5, 2019, the few that had access to dish TV watched in shock the proceedings of the Indian Parliament, which abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and stripped it of its limited autonomy.

The restive Kashmir Valley is already one of the most militarized zones in the world, where suspicion, distrust, and rumour galore brew among the 13 million residents.

“Working has been hell for journalists in Kashmir for the past year,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of the Asia-Pacific desk of Paris-based media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

For J&K’s residents, the state became the centre of the world’s biggest news and information blackout, with all forms of communication -- internet, mobile data, TV, and fixed-line telephone -- suddenly suspended. This unprecedented internet shutdown began on the night of August 4, 2019, on the eve of the abrogation of Article 370 of the constitution of India, which granted special status to the state of J&K.

The South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) deplored Kashmir Valley’s one year under shutdown.

On August 11, a special committee set up by India’s Supreme Court recommended the restoration of 4G internet services in J&K, and access to high-speed internet on a “trial basis in a calibrated manner in specified limited areas to assess the impact on the security situation” after August 15.

However, the government in New Delhi and the J&K Union Territory administration (Delhi-appointed governor in Srinagar) told the court that while security concerns and threats from the region continued to remain high, 4G internet services would not be made available.

Further fuel to the fire is the J&K government’s new media policy for journalists. The policy announced in June has come under strong criticism, with political parties stating that it will give the government an upper hand to militate against journalists and muzzle free speech. “It’s an assault on press freedom,” writes Naseer Ganai in Outlook magazine.

The policy says that background checks of newspaper editors, publishers, and reporters will be carried out before the empanelment of newspapers, media organizations, and outlets. The policy gives power to the Department of Information and Public Relations (DIPR) to examine the content of print, electronic, and other media for “fake news, plagiarism, and unethical or anti-national activities.”

On the other hand, Tapan Kumar Bose, an independent filmmaker and a human rights activist based in Delhi, expressed his deep concern over those detained during the crackdowns and search operations, and those picked up from highways, with promises to relatives of their safe return -- the releases rarely happen.

Since 1990, thousands of habeas corpus petitions have been filed before the J&K High Court. “There is a total breakdown of the law and order machinery. I shall not feel shy to say that this court has been made helpless by so-called law enforcement agencies. Nobody bothers to obey the order of the court,” grieves Tapan Bose.

Besides Kashmir valley, Punjab, Nagaland, Manipur, and Assam are the worst places in India where enforced disappearances are rampant and appalling. Usually, security forces are in denial about those in custody and do not even register complaints about missing persons.

The relatives of the detainees move from pillar to post in J&K after being refused help for year after year. The relatives are frustrated and tired, but angry; they eventually abandon the search for their loved ones, and one day their cries go silent.

Tapan Bose, who made a documentary with Zahir Raihan during the 1971 Liberation War, stated that India’s domestic law allows impunity for enforced disappearances in states such as Manipur, J&K, and Punjab.

He says there is denial of justice and the right to know the truth, but de jure immunity minimizes victims’ access to the right to justice. The perpetrators are rarely held accountable for their acts. 

Saleem Samad is an independent journalist, media rights defender, and recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He can be reached at [email protected]; Twitter @saleemsamad.

337
330
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail