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“Undeclared” Curfew

Posted by Kashmir Portal on June 16, 2009

“Undeclared” Curfew

http://www.kashmirf irst.com/ articles/ politics/ 090614_undeclare d_curfew. htm
Mohammad Ashraf Bhat:

Kashmiris are now getting used to a new form of authoritarianism which has not been seen even in the worst dictatorial regimes. There is no parallel for such a dispensation 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 popular movement 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 every thing 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. Imposition of curfew in a legal way automatically sends a signal worldwide that the situation in Kashmir is grave. However, creating a curfew like situation without the legal requirement of declaring it 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 knows about the real ground situation. But in the present world with information highways such a measure is nothing but self-delusion.

Similar is the case regarding the stubborn attitude of authorities in resisting demilitarisation of civilian areas and revoking the unbridled draconian powers of the security forces. No one can believe that these things are required to contain 600 odd militants mostly on the run because of the relentless pursuit of the security forces. How can one of the largest armies in the world with most modern technological weapons including Israeli night vision devices, sensors, helicopter gunships, and many counter-insurgency gadgets be scared of just 600 or so crudely armed militants! The chain of security bunkers, camps, check-points, drop gates inside every civilian populated area both in cities and villages does not appear to be a set up to stop the movement of militants. The elaborate security network appears to be a means to contain the civilian population in their normal residential quarters and deny them any opportunity of forming a mass of slogan shouting people. The authorities seem to fear the nightmare of getting another upsurge of the early nineties when millions of people were on the roads demanding freedom. It seems the top security brass in Delhi is apprehensive that if these security measures in the civilian areas are withdrawn, there will be a tremendous mass upsurge and it will be impossible for them to control such a mass of humanity without extensive violence and bloodshed. These days it is impossible to crush a peaceful mass uprising with the entire world watching because of the information technology revolution.

One cannot fool all the people all the time. It is known all over that Kashmiris are very much alienated from India. The main reason for this alienation has been the attitude of security forces. Prior to eighties in spite of Kashmiri people harbouring an aspiration for freedom, there was bonhomie between the security forces and the common people. The upheaval of 1990 and the subsequent suppression of the same changed the whole scenario. The force became an occupation force which resulted in the alienation of the masses. No doubt Pakistan too fished in the troubled waters and tried to settle its old scores with India through Kashmiris. However, Kashmiris cannot be punished for every action of Pakistanis. They have their own genuine grievances which need to be addressed. The greatest misfortune has been the handling of Kashmir affairs in Delhi by communally biased security advisors. They judge everything in Kashmir through the actions of Pakistan and refuse to recognise the genuine aspirations of the local people. Political leaders have always been overruled by the security bosses under the bogey of national interest.

But how long can such a situation be carried on? One cannot impose “Undeclared” Curfews endlessly. One cannot keep Kashmiris locked up under a false security grid. It has been globally demonstrated that it is impossible to suppress a people for a long time. In the end, the powers that be have to concede to the popular will. The recent events have shown that the resistance and response to suppression has been markedly increasing among the common people in Kashmir. Last two years have seen a dramatic increase in mass upsurges for ventilating public grievances. The youth has become restive and uncontrollable. The traditional leaders instead of leading are being led by the angry youth. There is only one solution to the fast deteriorating situation. The authorities have to face the facts. Violence from either side would lead us nowhere. Peaceful dialogue without any pre-conditions is the only civilised way forward. To start the dialogue a conducive atmosphere has to be created. That can only be done by removing the sources of irritation, the security forces with unbridled draconian powers. Let them go back to barracks and le
t their unbridled powers be withdrawn. Let the common people heave a sigh of relief and the life return to true and genuine normalcy. The alternative is unthinkable and would lead only to an explosive situation worse than what we faced in early nineties!


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