Arrest of Ganderbal man over remarks about officers condemned widely
Omar Abdullah says, it is result of 'unbridled' bureaucratic powers; : Omar Abdullah; PC urges LG to uphold democracy; Tarigami terms it brazen violation of fundamental rights
Srinagar: The arrest of a Ganderbal man over his remarks about the functioning of local and non-local bureaucrats has attracted severe criticism from several political leaders and parties.
National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah on Tuesday said the arrest of a man over his remarks that he has more expectations from local officials rather than those from outside is the result of “unbridled” bureaucratic powers.
It’s unacceptable that a person should be jailed for expressing a “totally harmless” opinion, Abdullah said.
Fifty-year-old Sajad Sofi of Safapora in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district was arrested after he told LG’s Advisor Baseer Ahmad Khan at Mansbal at a ‘Janta Darbar’ on June 10 that he can understand the issues of people of the area better as compared to officers from outside the union territory because he is a local.
Sofi’s remarks did not go down well with Ganderbal Deputy Commissioner Krittika Jyotsna, who is an IAS officer from Uttar Pradesh. According to the police report, she stood up from her seat and “strongly objected” to Sofi’s comments.
Sofi was summoned and booked by the police under Section 153 (promoting enmity between different groups) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) on the same night.
In a tweet, Abdullah said, “I haven’t come across a worse reason to detain a person & I was detained for encouraging people to vote so that’s saying something. It’s unacceptable that a person should be jailed for expressing a totally harmless opinion. This is what happens when bureaucratic power is unbridled.”
Sofi was granted bail by a local court here on Saturday.
However, even after this, police did not release Sofi and instead booked him under Section 107 of the IPC which entitles them to keep a person under “preventive custody” for being a “threat to peace”.
CPI(M) leader Mohamad Yousuf Tarigami said the arrest was unwarranted and brazen violation of fundamental rights.
“The incident in which a resident from Ganderbal district was jailed for just saying that he had more expectations from local officers, is unwarranted, uncalled for and brazen violation of the fundamental rights of people,” Tarigami said in a statement.
“If such incidents happen during the reach-out programme of the LG administration, it can create a sense of fear among the people instead of solving their grievances. Such an attitude of the officer is highly authoritarian and detrimental to the larger interests of not only people, but to administration itself. It damages and dents the credibility of the institution the officer represents,” Tarigami said.
He said police did not release Sofi even when the court granted him interim bail as he has been reportedly booked additionally under sections 107 and 151 of the Indian Penal Code.
“This is a brazen misuse of power and authority besides amounting to a violation of fundamental rights of a citizen,” he added.
Tarigami urged the Lt Governor Manoj Sinha to intervene in the matter personally and ensure that the man is not only released immediately but action under law is taken against the “erring officer” for misuse of power and authority.
Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Conference (JKPC) while condemning the arrest, termed the action as a reflection of the state of affairs here and urged the LG to uphold democracy in J&K.
In a statement, party spokesman Adnan Ashraf Mir said that imprisoning people for highlighting the hardships they face in getting their grievances addressed is “frivolous and frighteningly undemocratic”.
He added that such state action is a “direct assault on democratic principles and goes on to relay the hopeless and scary picture of the state of affairs”.
“Jailing a man merely for his views on administration and slapping him with severe charges is a step towards demolishing the democratic institutions and stifling voices of the common masses who speak of ground realities with absolute immunity,” the statement said.
It said that the present incident should not be viewed in isolation as it is very much an inseparable part of the policies to “bulldoze the institutions of justice and fair-play sans any compunction.” The statement implored the LG to uphold democracy in J&K.
“Some incidents are thought-provoking. Some incidents create history. Maybe it is that moment. Maybe it is a wake-up call for the LG to practice democracy in deeds. We don’t know the ‘babu’ (bureaucrat) who did it and we don’t want to know the ‘babu’ who did it. The onus is on LG to uphold democracy in J&K. He has to let the ‘babus’ know that people are supreme in a democracy,” the statement added.