"The worst thing that colonialism did was to cloud our view of our past"
With the rise of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, Government of India is desperately working on a multi-pronged strategy to assimilate Kashmir and wants the international community to believe that entire Jammu & Kashmir is a part of India. Those who believe otherwise within and outside India, shall have to face a punitive action with a fine ranging from 1 Crore to 100 Crore and/or imprisonment of seven years. To ensure the protection of 'security, sovereignty and integrality' of India, the Ministry of Home Affairs on 4th May 2016 released a draft bill for public comments from stake holders within 30 days, on the "The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016" which proposes to regulate the acquisition, dissemination, publication, and distribution of geospatial information of India. Through the passage of this bill, the Government of India shall be empowered to penalize the individuals and organizations who on 'map of India' depict Jammu & Kashmir as disputed territory as per the UNSC resolutions, contrary to the approved government version. The government is said to have undertaken this move after social networking sites showed the Jammu & Kashmir to be a part of Pakistan and Arunachal Pradesh as part of China. The new legislation will make it compulsory for companies or individuals, such as Google, to toe the line of the Government and obtain a licence before producing the map for public use.
What is bill all about ?
The proposed bill "The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016", is to "regulate the acquisition, dissemination, publication and distribution of geospatial information of India which is likely to affect the security, sovereignty and integrity of India and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto" . It would mean use of map of India, any where and in any form, would require a prior permission from the Government. The bill has the provisions for regulations, of Geospatial Information of India, an apex committee to oversee and administer the implementation, constitution of licencing and security vetting, suspension and revocation of licence, offences and penalties, enforcement mechanism, appellate authority, and barring of the courts to take cognizance of an offence under this act .
Section – 6 of the act lays down,
Wrong depiction of map of India etc : No person shall depict, disseminate, publish or distribute any wrong or false topographic information of India including international boundaries through internet platforms or online services or in any electronic or physical form.
Section – 15 of the act lays down,
Penalty for wrong depiction of map of India etc : Whoever depicts, disseminates, publishes or distributes any wrong or false topographic information of India including international boundaries in contravention of section 6, shall be punished with a fine ranging from Rupees ten lac to Rupees one hundred crore and / or imprisonment for a period up to seven years.
Section – 29 of the act lays down,
Cognizance of offences by Court : No court shall take cognizance of an offence under this Act unless upon a complaint made by the order of the Enforcement Authority as defined in the clause (d) of sub-section (1) of section 2.
The draft bill being draconian in nature, in a single stroke, manages to puncture the political aspiration of people of Jammu & Kashmir whose fate remains undecided for last seven decades. Soon after the conditional Accession, in pursuance to a complaint by India under Article 35 (Chapter VI) of the U.N. Charter, the U.N Security Council has passed as many as 25 resolutions on Kashmir conflict, which were aimed at granting right of self determination to the people of Kashmir. Rejecting the Indian claim of ratification of Accession by Jammu & Kashmir Constituent Assembly, U.N Security Council passed Resolution 91(1951), on March 30th 1951 and resolution No. 122 (1957) passed on January 24th 1957 , which reiterated that, the earlier resolution on Kashmir that called for final settlement of dispute' in accordance with the will of people expressed through democratic method of free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of United Nations'. Thus even the 1951 and 1957 U.N resolutions deemed any constitutional change undertaken by India within Indian-administered-Kashmir as irrelevant to the resolution of Kashmir Conflict. Subsequently through the bilateral agreement, be it "Tashkent declaration" signed on 10th January, 1966 "Shimla agreement" signed on 3rd July 1972, and "Lahore declaration" India and Pakistan has agreed that the Jammu & Kashmir is an outstanding issue which needs to be resolved bilaterally.
Though Pakistan has expressed serious concern to the UN Secretary General and the President of United Nations Security Council, that the proposed bill is in violation of UNSC resolutions, but the people of Kashmir being the most important stake holders also need to rise to the occasion. While the people and the leadership are engaged in resisting the attempts of changing demography of J&K through Sainik settlements, revised industrial policy, separate townships for Kashmiri Pandiths, there is a need to file the objections to the proposed bill "The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016" with mass signatures campaign even on social media, both before the Government of India and International community.
(The writer is IFS (Rtd) and Member All India Muslim Majlis – e- Mushawarat. New Delhi)