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On 10th July the J &K UT Government terminated services of 11 employees including two sons of Pakistan based Chairman of United Jehad Council Mohammad Yusuf Shah alias Syed Salahudin. According to the government order these employees were terminated for having taken part in terror activities like raising, receiving , and collecting funds through hawala transactions, and by abetting armed acts of the militants .
On 30th July 2020 , J &K Government came up with Order No 738 empowering itself to terminate services of its employees who, apparently posed a security threat. Art 311 (2)( C ) of the Constitution was invoked to support such an action which permits waving off enquiry as contemplated by clause (2) and termination of an employee can be effected just on perusal of documents. Government Order No 355, dated 21ST Aril 2021 put the measure in operation. Read together, these orders pave way for weeding out government employees who indulge in subversive activities. Clause ( C) became applicable to J&K in consequences of the August 5th 2019 constitutional developments . Order 738 supplied the substance while as no 335 prescribed procedure as how to proceed in the matter. A Task Force, as contemplated by Order 738 with specific terms of reference was constituted. Apparently it is on the recommendations of this committee that 11 employees have been shown the door. As per some media reports 500 employee are on the chop.
This development is fraught with serious legal and political consequences. Whether a government employee can be terminated without holding an enquiry is a moot question. Legal aspect apart, the political angle, nonetheless, calls for a comment. The words “anti-national “ and “ security risk” are too loose to be straitjacketed to fit on a person and condemn him as such. We are witnessing a nationwide phenomenon where these charges are leveled - literally at the drop of a hat – against the inconvenient political opponents and inquisitive journalists. In most of the cases higher courts intervened in favor of the accused.
Here, in 1990, 1995 and 2016 many public servants had to face music and were either seriously censured or dismissed from the services. But such government actions didn’t last long. Either on the intervention of courts or by the imperatives of real politics, those censured were cleared of the stigma and the dismissed ones got reinstated without a blemish in their service record. Some among them ended their service career as the head of state bureaucracy. One notable public servant, among the lot, became an influential Cabinet member in the PDP/BJP coalition government, formed in 2015.
In 1990s such an action could be justified as a section of government employees obeyed separatists more than the established state authorities. But today, as per government reports, political and security situation has hugely turned round in favor of the state. Holding of DDC elections, people from across India thronging tourist spots in the Valley are the instances paraded to show Kashmir is peaceful now. It is true to a large extent. Therefore, such a move flies on the face of ‘normalcy narrative.’
Pushing up a ‘security threat narrative' to day would suggest that there are many in the state administration still holding brief for the terrorists. Rather than strengthening cause of the state it will give rise to a perception which may help revive sagging morale of the militants. A wrong message will go out.
It is time to rebuild bridges. One is tempted to recall how Farooq Abdullah , ex CM, acted on the advice of Central agencies like IB and RAW and brought Syed Salahudins’s son to Srinagar medical college from Jammu where he had taken admission to pursue medical studies. These Agencies moved on the request of Syed Salahudin. ( A S Dulat in Kashmir - The Vajpayee Years p 126 ). True, if the employees have committed grave offenses don’t spare them, bring them to the justice as speedily as possible.
Present government feels insecure of the employees past or present and wants to stop them from airing views even in retirement. Lately, GOI has issued a notification amending pension rules as to enable itself to withhold pension to those retired employees who give vent to their views inconvenient to the state. They are muzzled on the false sense of prejudicially affecting “the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, economic and scientific interests of the state ”.
Jammu and Kashmir is going through troubled times . Whole political structure, much needed for a democratic set up of governance, is in disarray. People across regions feel alienated and neglected. There is huge distrust between government and the people. At the time when state machinery should wage all winning war against the deadly virus it mustn’t be seen fighting its employees and increasing the trust deficit . Terminations of employees would result in accentuating the sense of alienation. This is time to carry everyone - especially the employees - along.
GOI needs to be conscious that post 5th August 2019 trauma inflicted on the state subjects –particularly of the Valley is bound to create psychological sense of humiliation among them. People may be subdued for some time but once the idea of humiliation seeps in deep it is bound to stir them up.
B L SARAF is former Principal District &Sessions Judge