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In Kashmir, links between militants and government insiders are finally broken

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Termination of the services of six government employees by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on Wednesday, 22 September, has sent out a strong message for the community of 5 lakh employees in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir

Termination of the services of six government employees by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on Wednesday, 22 September, has sent out a strong message for the community of 5 lakh employees in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. It has signalled to the insiders of the system of governance that connections to militants and separatists would no longer be tolerated.

Those dismissed through the latest order include two teachers, two Police constables, a junior assistant and a Forest Range Officer. The Government orders issued separately to the six officials said that their activities were such as to warrant their dismissal from service. The orders did not specify but official sources maintained that their activities were “prejudicial to the security of the State”.

With Wednesday’s orders, the number of the government employees dismissed in Sinha’s 13 months in office has crossed two dozen. Even as some mainstream politicians, including two former Chief Ministers, have been calling it “injustice”, there has been no significant reaction from the employees’ associations who, in the pre-2019 period, called for indefinite shutdown and quite often forced the successive governments to withdraw such orders.

“The saboteurs within the system aren’t even 5% but their campaigns are virulent and activities insidious. Some of them are terrorists without guns. They have enjoyed freedom to sabotage but finally their period is over now”, said a senior officer. He disclosed that an exhaustive exercise to screen and profile the government employees was in progress. According to him, some more terminations were being processed.

Since August 2020, Sinha has invoked and amended a slew of rules and introduced new orders, making it difficult for the government employees to continue to draw salaries from the State exchequer while promoting the separatists’ and the militants’ narratives.

Bureaucrats insist it was mainly because of the restrictions imposed on certain liberties of the public servants that “over 90 percent” of the social media campaigns to promote the secessionist narratives and demonise India had vanished in the last 3 months.

“Of late, social media has surfaced as the biggest vehicle of separatism and many of its drivers are the government’s own employees. As soon as we tightened the noose on this separatist ecosystem, we got the desired results”, said a senior bureaucratic source.

Senior officials maintained that many of the azaadi-promoting government employees had lately terminated their accounts—on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms—or deleted their objectionable content.

“Many of them still operate their accounts but contrary to their past practices, they avoid making incriminating comments. The same people, until recently, used to abuse, vilify and threaten all those who would not toe the terrorists’ line”, one of the officers asserted.

Sinha’s administration has drastically modified rules and eased the process of the dismissal. Passports are no longer issued to the employees reported for their ‘links to militancy’ by the Criminal Investigation Department. Now the Police have been directed not to issue clearance to anybody facing charges of corruption or possessing assets disproportionate to legal sources of income. Biometric attendance system has been streamlined and government employees barred from publishing any content without permission as per the service rules.

“It was a free-for-all for 30 years. Many top-ranking terrorists also managed to get Indian Passports in the 1990s. They used to travel to the whole world. Now multiple checks and balances are in place and it is usually impossible for such elements to obtain an Indian Passport through fraudulent means”, said an officer.

“Many of them were those who took home hefty salaries without attending a day of duty. Some were known to be moon-shining as mediapersons, NGO operators, human rights activists and what not”.

According to the senior Police officers dealing with counterterrorism and counterintelligence, hundreds of the government employees worked as active militants or their over-ground workers while retaining their government jobs and taking home salaries, particularly from 1990 to 2010. Services they were supposed to provide to the public remained paralysed.

A number of the employees were allegedly involved in serious crimes including murder. Some were killed in encounters. Some surrendered. Some were arrested. But few of them faced any trial for their alleged crimes and hardly anybody was convicted by a court of law. Those dismissed from service in the last 32 years are believed to be around 1000—1200.

Sections of journalists and militancy analysts believe that some politicians in different governments played a significant role to protect the erring officials from legal and departmental action. Of late, one of the government officers arrested for militant connections and subversive activities was holding a senior administrative position in Srinagar Municipal Corporation.

A Naib Tehsildar, terminated in the current year, had stored Improvised Explosive Devices under his shopping complex in Pulwama. Some others had allegedly organised anti-India demonstrations and mobilised the stone pelting crowds in 2008, 2010 and 2016.

A conglomerate of the government employees associations campaigned for ‘freedom from India ‘from 1993 to 2003. For 10 years in the Hurriyat and thereafter for many years, the organisation promoted and pursued the militants’ narratives.

Some ex-militants, some officers of the Kashmir Administrative Service and some from other services played a key role in sustaining the sentiment of azaadi before joining mainstream political parties. Some of them became Ministers, MLAs and MLCs.

An ecosystem of politicians, media persons, human rights activists and academics from Srinagar to Europe and America, known for its support to militants and separatists, has been critical of the government’s “egregious orders” to curb the liberties of the ‘dissenting employees’. But the government is going whole hog to discipline its employees.

“No one will be allowed to mess with the unity and sovereignty of the country. We want peace but won’t hesitate to deal sternly with the elements involved in anti-national activities and creating hurdles in the path of peace”, Sinha asserted at a peace promotion event in Srinagar last Sunday.

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