Govt’s gag order backfires

Srinagar: From mainstream politicians to the separatists, from legal experts to government employees itself, the Jammu and Kashmir government’s social media gag order on its employees has evoked a lot of criticism and condemnation from across the valley.

While social media gag has not been an uncommon phenomena in this part of the world, the move evoked a lot of criticism from all sections of society be it the mainstream politicians, the separatists, or the government employees. Most people called the gag order, unreasonable and farfetched.

Pertinently, the government on Tuesday in a bizarre move, issued a diktat asking the government employees not use personal social media accounts for any political activity.

According to an order issued by the General Administration Department, the government has exercised the powers by provision to section 124 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, and amended the Jammu and Kashmir Government Employees Conduct Rules, 1971.

Terming the order authoritative and undemocratic, CPI (M) State Secretary Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami said that it exposes the ‘dictatorial’ and regressive mindset of the coalition BJP-PDP government.

“The Tuesday’s order issued by the state government imposing extensive restrictions on the use of social media by its employees, exposes the dictatorial and regressive mindset of the coalition BJP-PDP government,” Tarigami said.

“At a time when the government is claiming remarkable success in bringing the state, back on the tracks of normalcy; restricting the use of social media, not only belies its tall claims, it has also the negative potential to further alienate among a substantial proportion of the masses. Going by its own claim of improvement in the situation, the government should have initiated the process of withdrawing draconian laws like AFSPA, PSA etc already in place. Unfortunately it chose to curtail the freedom of expression of its nearly half a million employees,” he added.

Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq reacted sharply to the social media gag order on its employees.

Mirwaiz said the gag order has exposed the “occupational regime of New Delhi and its local agents in Jammu and Kashmir.”

“Ordering gags and threatening  punishment to State employees for expressing their opinion on social media completely exposes the aversion to truth or its disclosure by the occupational regime and its unscrupulous local agents! The charade of “normalcy” in #Kashmir will continue to be maintained by silencing people through bullets, jails, gags and bans !!” Mirwaiz tweeted.

Chairman of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Muhammad Yasin Malik also castigated the order of the government banning employees from expressing their point of view.

Terming the order, as ‘a direct attack’ on the freedom of speech, JKLF chief said that ‘fascist’ regime ruling Jammu Kashmir led by Mehbooba Mufti is setting new records of authoritarianism in the name of democracy.

“This regime has banned every peaceful political activity, restricted every peaceful protest and choked even the tiniest of political space in Jammu Kashmir. Thousands of young and old, men and even women and even minors have been jailed for raising their voices. Hundreds of students are being penalized for making hue and cry against killings, blinding and maiming,” Malik said.

Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) chief, G A Mir termed the Government order as undemocratic, demanding immediate revocation of the order.

He told ‘Kashmir Vision’ that it seems that the government is scared therefore it is imposing ban on independence of the people. “This has never happened in democratic country like India. People of Kashmir were already caged,” he said.

Mir said that the government has become aware that the employees who are part of the government are against them. “There is no doubt that the employees are being paid for their work but you can’t impose ban on their liberty,” he said.

While condemning the ban imposed by the government, Mir said that the social media gag for the government employees should be revoked immediately.   

National Conference (NC) spokesperson Junaid Azim Matoo also condemned the gag order.

“For a Govt where a JK Bank Manager handles the @jkpdp Twitter account and that of @MehboobaMufti – the social media diktat to employees would be funny if it weren’t tragic,” Junaid tweeted.

The government employees also expressed their resentment over the order.

 “Yet another shameful ploy of muzzling the voice of Kashmiri’s Freedom of speech and expression, not extensible to government employees” Aarif Hussain a young government employee said.

Notably the said order was also widely discussed on social media.

Shah Faesal, the 2009 IAS topper gave a sarcastic response to the order.

“From today, I will update in a coded language. Heard it that using Facebook will earn government employees ‘tal-paet shalakh’ (foot whipping),” Faesal wrote on Facebook.

Meanwhile, legal experts have also expressed dismay over the gag order saying it is in violation of the Article 19 of the Indian constitution.

“The order is in violation of Article 19 (1) (A), and it amounts of being the writ of Dictatorship” Babur Qadri a noted lawyer said.

“Under Article 19 of the Indian constitution every Indian citizen has a right to freedom of speech and expression where as the order is totally a violation of the said Article” he added.

Pertinently, the government on Tuesday amended the conduct rules for employees and barred them from airing political views on personal social media accounts.

“They shall also not use their personal social media accounts for any political activity or endorse the posts or tweets or blogs of any political figure,” the new rule states” the order read.



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