Srinagar: The government of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has fired three employees in a decision officials said was taken in the ‘interest’ of security of the state.
The dismissal has shocked the employees and their families as they refute the government’s claims terming it “severe”.
The terminated employees include a government school teacher from North Kashmir’s Kupwara, a college professor and a revenue official from South Kashmir’s Kulgam and Pulwama areas, respectively.
The decision was taken within a month after the authorities led by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha announced the formation of a Special Task Force (STF) in April 2021 to crackdown upon government employees suspected of being involved in ‘anti-state’ activities. The task force includes members from J&K Police’s Crime Investigation Department (CID), Home Department and Law, Justice, and Parliamentary Affairs Department.
One among the dismissed, Idrees Jan had been working as a teacher since 2007 in the frontier areas of North Kashmir. There was no departmental inquiry or “build-up” to his termination and has come as a bolt from the blue, according to him.
“What has happened is from behind the scenes. I have been working for 15 years and took my job as a teacher seriously,” Jan told NewsClick.
In year 2016, Jan said, he was detained for his alleged involvement in protests. The region back then had witnessed months’ long agitation against the government’s killing of a militant commander, Burhan Wani, on July 8 the same year. “The high court termed my detention as illegal and I was reinstated back into service,” he said, adding that since January 2017, he was only involved in his professional work.
The decision comes at a time when the region is under a lockdown and is dealing with the crisis caused by the second wave COVID-19 pandemic that has led to a steep rise in the cases. The regional political parties have termed the move as “harsh and heedless.”
Many see the move as part of a sustained campaign to silence or end dissent in the region. Several rights bodies have pointed out that civil rights in Jammu and Kashmir have come under attack, especially after the abrogation of Article 370 and continue to deteriorate in the absence of a civilian government.
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“In the middle of a pandemic, GOI should focus on saving lives instead of firing govt employees on flimsy grounds in Kashmir. No wonder its misplaced priorities have converted India into shamshanghats & kabristans. The living continue to suffer & the dead are deprived of dignity,” former J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti wrote on Twitter, responding to the incident.
A resident of Kulgam’s Chidder village, 37-year-old Dr Abdul Bari Naik, who was also dismissed, is known for his fierce campaign against corruption. But, Abdul Rouf, his brother, said that is what landed Dr Bari in trouble. “He was targeted for his activism and because he exposed corruption. There is no evidence of him being involved in anything against the state,” Rouf, who is an advocate, told NewsClick.
Dr Bari, who contested Assembly Election in 2014 from Shalibugh constituency, had a fallout with the then DC Kulgam in 2018 after he had filed a case against the official at the Human Rights Commission Srinagar, a body that has ceased to exist after the Article 370 move.
Dr Bari, a former student of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), has a PhD in Geography and Women’s Studies and according to his brother has been working actively involved in social work since 2013. In 2017, he was appointed to teach in the Higher Studies Department, and last year as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the region, Dr Bari was in charge of one the COVID-19 centres in Kulgam’s Government Degree College, where he taught Geography.
Later, he was transferred to Udhampur and subsequently earlier in March was arrested and remains incarcerated ever since. “He only exposed corrupt officials by filing RTIs and advocated against illegal sand mining and those involved in it. All of it is public on his personal social media page and I do not think social work is unlawful,” Abdul Rouf added.
Like Dr Bari, the third employee to be dismissed is Nazir Ahmad Wani, a Naib Tehsildar from Pulwama, who was also arrested on charges of aiding militants. The police in May last year had claimed to have found a “hideout” in Wani’s property, which was, however, rejected by Wani’s family.