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Bond of silence buys freedom in Kashmir

Detainees forced to sign bond that bans them from speaking against political developments in Kashmir after release

Hilal Mir   | 10.01.2020
Bond of silence buys freedom in Kashmir

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir

A retired academic and social activist Muslim Jan was detained on Oct. 15 for protesting against the continued detention of political leaders in Indian-administered Kashmir.

She had marched to the city center along with a group of prominent women in the city of Srinagar -- summer capital of the region.

Even as she was released after a few days, the busy bee has kept her lips sealed. Because she gained freedom only after signing a bond that she will not participate in any political activity.

Dozens of political activists, taken into custody after India revoked autonomy of the region on Aug. 5 have been released recently, but after signing a pledge to abandon politics or consenting to maintain silence on political issues.

Talking to Anadolu Agency, Harsh Dev Singh, a former lawmaker, said he sought his release after promising that he will not speak against government policies.

“You can imagine the fate of politics emerging out of these pressure tactics. There was no politics anyways in Jammu and Kashmir. This is not a democracy, where you cannot express dissent,” said Singh whose political group Panthers Party had held a few demonstrations in Jammu – winter capital of the region.

Sajad Ahmad Kichloo, former minister for home, responsible for internal security was also asked to sign a bond to pledge that he will not issue any statement or talk about the abrogation of the region’s autonomy.

Legal experts blame authorities for resorting to illegal activities by making politicians and social workers to sign the pledge, as a precondition for their release.

Altaf Ahmad, a lawyer, said there is a provision in the statute book under Section 107 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), to seek a written pledge or an undertaking from criminals to prevent them breaching the peace. But there is no precedence to use it to silence politicians. ''The bond or undertaking has been tampered, to include lines that the signatory will not participate in any political activity or will not give any statement or express his views related to latest political developments in the region,'' said the lawyer.

He said that asking a person, not to make any comment, violates Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, which forms its basic structure, guaranteeing every person the right to free speech.

Bonds to render politicians vulnerable

Sheikh Showkat Hussain, political commentator and former teacher of law, said the bonds have been effectively used to buy the silence of politicians.

“In the long term, the fear of these bonds would render many politicians vulnerable. They will not be able to pursue people-centric agendas. But will only follow the Indian state line,” he said.

Peace Activist and Interlocuter Sushobha Barve is now planning to petition Jammu and Kashmir High Court against these bonds. Along with Muslim Jan, she too had been detained for participating in the demonstration and then released after signing the bond.

Defending the practice of seeking written pledges from detained politicians, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) General Secretary Ashok Kaul said the politicians have been asked to sign undertakings to prevent them from carrying out “unlawful” activities.

“Some of them might have introspected during detention and understood what people want. People are wiser after a mishap,” he said. Advising politicians that they should refrain from agitating against the abrogation of special laws, Kaul said: “Such things would not be allowed in India now.”

Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.
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