SRINAGAR — Former chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday wrote a letter to Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud and sought his intervention to restore “the fundamental rights of every resident of Jammu and Kashmir that have been suspended arbitrarily since 2019”.
“As far as J&K is concerned, the grip of the Government of India’s iron fisted policy is being justified in the name of national security and interest. Since 2019, the fundamental rights of every resident of J&K have been suspended arbitrarily and the constitutional guarantees given at the time of J&K’s accession were suddenly and unconstitutionally abrogated. All this is happening at a time when the trust deficit and growing alienation has only widened since 2019,” Ms. Mufti wrote in the letter.
The former chief minister flagged the issue of denial and impounding of passports in J&K. “My aged mother’s passport has been arbitrarily withheld by the Government. It has been over two years since we filed a petition in the J&K High Court. Here too, we are given date after date with no decision in sight. This in addition to my daughter lltjja’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,” she said.
She said passports being a fundamental right are impounded with full impunity. “Journalists are being jailed and even prevented from flying out of the country. Even a Pulitzer award winning young photojournalist was denied her right to fly abroad to receive the award,” Ms. Mufti said, in the letter. She also highlighted the case of jailed journalists like Fahad Shah and Sajad Gul,“ who have been jailed under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA) since over a year now for simply shining light on excesses committed by the Indian Government”.
Describing judiciary “the only ember of hope in these bleak circumstances”, Ms. Mufti said, “However, it saddens me to say that so far our experience with the judiciary has not inspired much confidence. Your recent observations on the inability of lower judiciary to grant bail in ordinary cases in a functioning democracy as ours should have been adopted as a directive rather than just being consigned to a single column story churned out in newspapers. The fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian constitution and guaranteed to all Indian citizens are being brazenly impinged upon.”
She also drew the attention of the CJI to what she described as “curbs on freedom of expression”. “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 and trivial grounds. All government agencies be it Enforcement Directorate, National Investigation Agency 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 & humane decision this government could take is to shift them to J&K,” she added.
Ms. Mufti said she was writing to the CJI with a deep sense of concern and worry about the prevailing situation in the country, especially J&K.
“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 and religious matters. And more worryingly, to those who actively contribute and not obstruct GOls 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 and economic fringes.” the PDP president said.
Ms. Mufti said she has chosen not to be overwhelmed with pessimism and despair. “I have the highest respect and 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. I fervently hope that with your 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 Mahatma Gandhi’s India,” she added. — (The Hindu)