Srinagar: A teacher is among 11 employees who were fired by J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha without what many claim to be a fair investigation.
The dismissal of Razia Akhtar, whose father Mohammad Sultan, a member of Jamaat-e-Islami, was reportedly killed by Ikhwanis, the formidable militiamen who unleashed terror on the local population at the height of the insurgency, was approved by LG this month.
Jamaat-e-Islami was banned by the Union government in 2019 as part of its broader crackdown on individuals and outfits who were considered associated with “secessionist and subversive” activities.
Sources said that Razia, a resident of Anantnag district in southern Kashmir, worked in J&K’s education department as a teacher before her dismissal. “She was involved in subversive activities which pose a threat to security and public order,” the official line said.
The list also includes Syed Ahmad Shakeel and Shahid Yousuf, sons of Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Salahuddin, who have been accused of involvement in terrorist financing, and two police officers who are believed to have encouraged militant activities.
A junior-level employee from J&K’s health department, an inspector from the electrical department and two other teachers are on the list of those fired.
Officials said four of the 11 targeted employees were from the Anantnag district in southern Kashmir, while three were from Budgam and one from the districts of Baramulla, Srinagar, Pulwama and Kupwara.
The layoffs were informed by a committee headed by the chief secretary of Jammu and Kashmir, Dr Arun Kumar Mehta. Cases are referred to committee by a “special task force” chaired by J&K intelligence chief that was set up in April of this year.
Revocation orders are issued by LG Sinha by invoking Article 311 of the constitution. The reasons for the dismissal of an employee “shall be supported by (…) an interrogation report and other ancillary evidence to justify the waiver of an investigation in the interests of state security “Sinha said in an order last year.
However, these motives have not been publicly revealed or shared with the targeted employees, raising questions about the credibility of the whole process.
Previously, seven employees, including a university professor and an intermediate police officer, were dismissed from the service by order of the LG under section (2) (c) of Article 311, which renders them ineligible for a fair representation.
A senior official in the general administration department said the dismissal of employees was an “ongoing process”.
In 2015, he said, the J&K government fired 63 “corrupt” government officials “including five administrative officers, top engineers and doctors.”
In such cases, a judicial remedy can only be exercised in the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir.
The layoffs are part of a larger J&K government initiative to purge the administration of employees accused of working “against the interests” of the government or of propagating and funding secessionist and terrorist activities.
Article 311 of the constitution enumerates the procedure for âdismissal, dismissal or demotion of persons occupied in civil functions within the Union or a Stateâ after investigation against them.
The article was not applicable to Jammu and Kashmir until the Union government read article 370 in early August 2019.
According to the rules, employees who are going to be fired by the government must have “a reasonable opportunity to be heard on these charges”.
However, section 2 (c), which is relied on by the J&K administration, circumvents the investigative requirement if “the president or governor … is satisfied that in the interests of state security he does not is not timely investigation. “
According to sources, the government has identified hundreds of employees, mostly from predominantly Muslim Kashmir, who are perceived to be working against “state security.”
“We first conduct internal investigations, after which cases are prepared under Section 311 which are submitted to the committee (headed by the chief secretary) for approval,” said a senior government official J&K.
The decision to lay off employees comes amid changing laws in Jammu and Kashmir after the former state was bifurcated into two Union Territories. The new domicile rules for J&K have opened up jobs in local government for new citizens from different parts of the country.
With the BJP pushing new sets of rules and policies on Kashmir following the downward reading of Section 370, this raised fears of a “systemic dispossession” among residents of the predominantly Muslim valley where the rate unemployment rate is one of the highest in the country.
Previously, the J&K administration, which is headed directly by New Delhi, introduced amendments to civil service rules, allowing authorities to retire any civil servant after 22 years of service or 48 years.
Local government, which is Jammu and Kashmir’s largest employer, has a workforce of over six lakhs strong. Experts believe their “total obedience” is crucial for the BJP to normalize J & K’s political changes from the downward reading of Article 370.
However, the administration denies the charges. âSome of these employees, like police officer Abdul Rashid Shigan, have been found to be involved in direct terrorist activity. They are also tried in civil courts, âsaid the officer quoted above.
Shigan is among 11 employees who were laid off in the latest J&K government order. He was arrested by J&K police in 2012 for leading a shadow Hizb group and accused of targeting political leaders and security forces.
With the exception of Shigan and Salahuddin’s two sons, Shakeel and Shahid, who were arrested by the National Investigation Agency in a terrorist financing case (neither were convicted), the J&K government did not disclose the details. details of the criminal charges against those who were dropped in his latest order.
The government has also set up an army of volunteers to patrol social media on behalf of security agencies and report “suspicious” activity, a move that appears to further stifle the space for free speech and expression.
Free speech activists and political opponents of the BJP government believe those dismissed from the service are being targeted for belonging to a different political ideology.
âThese are attempts to deprive people of a dignified and legitimate livelihood. State security is not so fragile to be threatened by a social media post, âsaid Habeel Iqbal, US State Department member and Shopian-based lawyer.
Earlier, after the dismissal of three employees in April, the Hurriyat conference chaired by Mirwaiz Omar Farooq also opposed the government’s âdraconian measuresâ.
“We call on the government to revoke these draconian orders and to stop harassing and intimidating government workers,” moderate leader Hurriyat said in a statement.