Kulgam: An assistant professor who posted a video about a school shutting down because of a government forces’ camp coming up nearby, a journalist who posted in a Whatsapp group – of which journalists and police officers are members – news of a woman’s death due to government forces firing teargas on people, and a lawyer who posted something critical of the government on Facebook, have all been booked by police in Kulgam for “separatist” activities, “rumour mongering”, and “sharing anti-government posts on Facebook”, respectively.
The assistant professor, Dr Abdul Bari Naik, a doctorate from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), teaches at Government Degree College Kulgam. He told Kashmir Reader that he was being punished for the social work he does.
“I have been vocal about several social issues and, inadvertently during the course of doing so, a target of the ire of powerful people as well,” said Bari, who unsuccessfully contested 2014 assembly elections from Homeshalibug constituency.
He said he recently posted a video about the closure of a school in the vicinity of a newly established forces’ camp in Redweni area of Kulgam district.
“The school had remained closed for over a month because people in the area were protesting against the establishment of the camp. In the video I suggested that either the camp be removed or the school,” Bari said.
The district administration Kulgam sent a letter to the Principal of GDC Kulgam seeking a report on Bari. The letter asked the principal to find out whether Bari was violating the Civil Service Rules (CSR).
The principal, in his reply to the Deputy Commissioner, instead suggested that Bari was an exceptional teacher and very popular among the students.
“The said Assistant Professor (AP) has never been found involved in any activity that would prove detrimental to the college discipline or lead to violation of service norms under CSR of JK government,” the letter from the college principal said.
Despite getting a clean chit from the college authorities, Bari said, he was booked under a flimsy FIR by the police – on the behest of some influential people.
“I am an RTI activist as well, and the issues I sought information on do not go well with some influential people for reasons that can be understood by everyone. Hence, the FIR,” Bari said.
A senior police officer confirmed that an FIR has been lodged against Bari for “separatist” activities.
“He has been booked for inciting the general public and seeking removal of a forces’ camp. This amounts to intervening in the working of the government machinery,” the police officer said, requesting not to be named.
Journalist Abdul Hameed, who works for a local news channel, has also been booked by the Kulgam police, after he posted a news item in a Whatsapp group about the death of a local woman.
The said group, named “Team Kulgam”, is supposed to be a medium of communication between the police and the media fraternity of Kulgam district.
“It was after the Laroo blast, where many civilians were killed last month. In the group, some police officials posted that the woman died after falling during Shab (night-time) prayer at a local shrine,” Hameed said, adding that he posted in the group that the woman was injured during the funeral of 13-year-old Uzair, who was killed in the Laroo encounter.
Hameed said he had written in the group that police had used tear smoke shells to keep the funeral procession of Uzair away from the main market Kulgam, and in the ensuing melee the woman was injured and later succumbed to her injuries.
“It is a group to seek confirmation from police officials. As the police officials had suggested something (a version of events), I also put there a piece of information, which is properly backed by a video byte from the family of the woman. I can’t understand why I should be booked for that,” Hameed told Kashmir Reader.
Hameed said he does not want a confrontation with the police and will apply for bail for himself.
The police officer Kashmir Reader talked to said that Hameed had been booked for “rumour mongering.”
“He had posted news about the death of a woman. She died a natural death but he suggested that she was injured in the Laroo blast,” the officer said.
The officer also confirmed that a lawyer named Muzammil Butt has been booked for “sharing anti-government posts on Facebook.”
Despite repeated attempts by this reporter, the lawyer could not be contacted.
He, as per sources, has got a stay order from the High Court. The lecturer and the journalist face arrest, though.
Kashmir Reader also tried to contact SSP Kulgam, Harmeet Singh, but he did not answer phone calls.