By Ubair ul Hameed
Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and People’s Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of India “about the prevailing situation in the country especially J&K.”
Mufti, in the letter, said the judiciary was not taking cognizance of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
“The fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution and guaranteed to all Indian citizens are being brazenly impinged upon. Unfortunately it is these basic rights that have now become luxuries and entitlements bestowed upon only those select citizens, who toe the Government’s line on political, social & religious matters. And more worryingly, to those who actively contribute and not obstruct GOIs idea of an India where its strengths of diversity, religious pluralism and tolerance must be weeded out and crushed to lay the foundations of a one religion nation where minorities are relegated to the social, political & economic fringes”.
“Since 2019, the fundamental rights of every resident of J&K have been suspended arbitrarily & the constitutional guarantees given at the time of J&K’s accession were suddenly & unconstitutionally abrogated,” Mehbooba Mufti said in the letter to the CJI.
Since Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was revoked in August 2019, Mufti said that the Center had implemented an “iron-fist” policy in the area and suspended peoples’ fundamental rights.
“In any civilised society, upholding the truth is the norm but in J&K, the freedom of expression and speech to state the obvious has become the biggest casualty. Draconian anti-terror laws like UAPA are slapped ruthlessly on flimsy & trivial grounds,” she said in the letter.
“All government agencies be it ED, NIA or CBI are used to hound businessmen, political leaders and even youngsters. Hundreds of our youngsters are languishing in jails outside J&K as undertrials. Their condition is exacerbated since they belong to poor families who lack the wherewithal to get legal aid and in such circumstances, the least and humane decision this government could take is to shift them to J&K”.
Mufti, in the letter, said, “the trust deficit and growing alienation has only widened since 2019.”
Mufti said, “Passports being a fundamental right are impounded with full impunity.”
“Journalists are being jailed and even prevented from flying out of country. Even a Pulitzer award winning young photojournalist was denied her right to fly abroad to receive the award.”
In the letter, she criticized the government for jailing journalists.
“Journalists like Fahad Shah & Sajad Gul have been jailed under UAPA & PSA since over a year now for simply shining light on excesses committed by the Indian Government,” she said in the letter.
“Bail is an exception not the norm with recent examples of Stan Swamy, Sudha Bharadwaj, Siddique Kappan, Umar Khalid and countless others substantiating it. In my own habeas corpus case filed by my daughter in 2019, it took the Supreme Court well over a year to order my release while I was arbitrarily detained under PSA. Another example is my aged mother’s passport that has been arbitrarily withheld by the Government. It’s been over two years since we filed a petition in J&K High Court. Here too, we are given date after date with no decision in sight.”
“This in addition to my daughter Iltija’s and my passport being withheld for no obvious reason. I have cited these examples only to drive home the fact that if my own fundamental rights being a former Chief Minister and an MP can be so easily suspended you can well imagine the plight of common people. My mother too is the wife of a former Union Home Minister, a senior statesman and two-time chief minister and her passport was rejected on unknown grounds,” Mufti wrote.
“There are countless examples of common citizens, journalists, mainstream political workers and social activists who are bearing the brunt of such oppressive arbitrary decisions that trample upon their core rights & freedoms. A senior citizen like Stan Swamy died as a prisoner begging for bare necessities like a sipper and a straw,” she said in the letter.
Mufti said she “choose not to be overwhelmed with pessimism & despair. I have the highest respect & unflinching faith in the courts of our country.”
“Unfortunately it is also my last refuge of hope in such bleak and despondent times that the judiciary will fulfil its duty.”
Mufti said that she hopes with CJI’s “intervention justice is delivered and the people of J&K see their expectations of dignity, human rights, constitutional guarantees and a democratic polity realised which had inspired their forefathers to join Mahatama Gandhi’s India.”