By disallowing purely an academic event, authorities on Wednesday proved yet again that Jammu and Kashmir is a police state. Noted writer Mridu Rai was scheduled to deliver a lecture in honour of the great Kashmiri freedom fighter, Raghunath Vaishnavi, at a Srinagar hotel, and had traveled all the way from Calcutta to keep her appointment, only to learn that the police had banned the event in the name of state security. This is how democracy has been treated in this neglected land right from the very beginning.
The Government of India believes that the people of Kashmir came out in large numbers to fight the `raiders’ in 1947 to uphold the decision of joining the Indian Union. New Delhi was more than satisfied by the `Kashmir miracle,’ but the police, in a bid to prove its worth, resorted to extra-judicial and extra-constitutional means to curry favour with the Indian capital. It resorted to extra-constitutional means to get rid of persons who dared to voice their concern. The Defence of India Rules (DIR) was recklessly, ruthlessly and indiscriminately used to project `unrest’ in Kashmir.
When compared to this `democratic governance,’ it becomes extremely difficult to criticize autocratic Dogra rule, especially so far as the role of the police is concerned. Just two individuals were exiled during the reign of Maharaja Ranbir Singh, and the decision was taken by the ruler himself. The police had absolutely no role in it. When Maharaja Hari Singh ascended the throne, both exiles were pardoned and came back to stay in Kashmir as normal citizens.
On the contrary, during jamhoori rule, a police officer known for his brutality would extern a person on his own. This trend continued right up to GM Sadiq’s times. Thousands were exiled, and barely a few came back, only to be persecuted by the police.
Surprisingly no custodial killing, no extra-judicial execution, no fake encounter killing has been reported especially during Hari Singh’s regime.
The right to protest is the essence of a democratic system. Unless this right is recognized, democracy cannot flourish.
The police on Wednesday disallowed an academic event by a civil society group. The hotel where the lecture was scheduled to be held was directed not to host it unless the organisers had written permission from the district magistrate. This adds yet another black chapter to the tainted history of the state police force. Political space in Kashmir is shrinking with every passing day. But who cares. Long live the Jammu and Kashmir police. Long live the security of the state.