For the first time after abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution on August 5, 2019, the government in the Union Territory (UT) of Jammu and Kashmir has begun a process to terminate services of the employees involved in anti-national activities. According to some highly placed authoritative sources, 500 to 1,000 government employees, “posing threat to security and integrity of the State,” would be dismissed in the next two months.
On Thursday, July 30, the General Administration Department (GAD) of the Jammu and Kashmir government decided to invoke a special provision of the Constitution of India for the purpose of terminating the services of the employees or reducing their ranks without holding an inquiry but on the basis of relevant records and other collateral evidence.
Article 311 of the Constitution empowers the government to dismiss the employees on the basis of an enquiry. However, most of the government employees’ dismissal orders in the past, when Jammu and Kashmir was a state, had been quashed by courts as the aggrieved petitioners disputed the procedure or called the inquiry as ‘flawed.’ Now the UT government has invoked Clause (2)(c) of Article 311 that dispenses with the prerequisite of inquiry in the matters where the President or the Governor, as the case may be, is satisfied that in the interest of the security of the State, it is not expedient to hold such inquiry.
Under the GAD order, the government has constituted a six-member committee which would be processing for dismissal or reduction of rank in all the cases to be referred to it by any department or police through the Home Department after scrutiny. The Chief Secretary, Secretary GAD, Secretary Law, Secretary Home, Director General of Police, and Additional DGP Criminal Investigation Department have been appointed as its members.
Dispensing with some previous checks and balances, the GAD order reads: “The recommendations in respect of such cases shall be supported by relevant records which may include a copy of the interrogation report and other collateral evidence to justify dispensing with the holding of an inquiry in the interest of security of the state.”
The Department of Law and GAD would process and scrutinize the cases but clearly the opinion of the Home Department and Police would be pivotal in taking a decision.
After the split of the erstwhile state into two UTs, the total number of the J&K UT employees is around 450,000.
A section of the government employees in the Kashmir Valley has been part and parcel and promoter of the separatist narratives since long. Successive governments have occasionally taken action against them but, quite often, orders of their dismissal have been quashed by different courts on the technical grounds. Government has often failed to dismiss even the employees who did publicly support separatists and militants or worked as militants or their over-ground activists without ever discharging duties as public servants.
The first major action against the employees posing threat to security of the State was taken by then governor Jagmohan when he terminated the services of three professors—Abdul Gani Bhat, Abdul Rahim and Shariefuddin—on February 27, 1986.
In less than a month, the dismissed professors formed the Muslim Employees Front (MEF). Within weeks, Kashmir’s first secessionist conglomerate, the Muslim United Front (MUF), was born out of MEF. Bhat played a key role in forming the MEF, the MUF and subsequently its third generation amalgam, All-Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), in 1993. Bhat held several terms as Chairman in all the three organizations.
In 1989-90, around 100 police personnel deserted and joined the militant ranks. Some of them like Ali Mohammad Dar, who towards his end in 1998 was Hizbul Mujahideen’s “chief of operations” with code-name of Burhanuddin Hijazi, were killed in different encounters. A few dozen of them were arrested and dismissed from service. Same groups of policemen caused a major bomb blast at the office of Director General of Police in January 1992.
According to senior officers, around 300 policemen have been dismissed in the 110,000-strong police organization in the last 30 years for being a threat to the security of the state. They include over a hundred personnel who organized a major police agitation in Srinagar in April 1993.
Others lost their job for dereliction of duty, including failure to protect their arms and protected persons. Of late, Deputy Superintendent of Police Davinder Singh was arrested and dismissed for his association with Hizbul Mujahideen.
In July 1990, the then governor Girish Chandra Saxena dismissed four officers of the Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) and an engineer for launching an agitation months after top government officers and bureaucrats were made to sign a memorandum demanding plebiscite. Saxena believed Pakistan’s ISI and terror outfits were instrumental behind the agitation. Government employees locked public offices and stopped all services. The strike continued for 72 days till VP Singh’s government at the Centre crumbled and Chandra Shekhar took over as prime minister.
After intervention by politicians like Farooq Abdullah and Saifuddin Soz, all the five dismissed officers were reinstated. One of them, namely Naeem Akhtar, later took retirement as secretary to government, joined Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and functioned as minister in Mufti Sayeed’s and Mehbooba Mufti’s governments.
In 1995, the then governor K.V. Krishna Rao dismissed 20 government employees, including those working as commanders with terror outfits. Again, all government employees were forced by separatists and militants to launch an agitation. Months later, the government revoked the dismissal orders.
Interestingly, a government employees’ union was incorporated in the separatist amalgam APHC and successive regimes failed to take action against its leaders. It was only under pressure from the coalition partner BJP that Mehbooba Mufti’s government dispensed with the services of around 100 employees in 2016 for their involvement in anti-national activities. However, almost all of them were subsequently reinstated under court orders.
The raison d’etre for last week’s GAD order is reportedly a sustained campaign by a section of the government employees promoting secessionism, supporting terror networks and issuing threats to officers, businessmen, even judges, on the uncontrolled social media..