Dismissed Pelters

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Hiding stick to pave way for the carrot, the government recently announced an amnesty for the first time stone pelters. But there are various people who were dismissed from the government services for the same crime, reports Umar Mukhtar

On August 24, 2016, Ghulam Mohiddin Sheikh, a resident of Logripora Bomai, was with his kids, waiting for the dinner to be served. Then, his phone rang. Shocked, he signalled his kids keep mum. It was Station House Officer (SHO) of Bomai police station on the line and he was summoned.

‘We have to talk, report to the police station next morning,’ the officer told Sheikh, and the phone hung. No reasons sought. That night, Sheikhs’ had no dinner.

For the entire night, Sheikh said, he was thinking of the possibilities of being summoned to the police station but he could not figure it out. “I was confident as I had done nothing wrong,” Sheikh said.

Next morning, Sheikh reached the station and he was arrested. Before he could ask a reason, he was told that he had attacked police station Bomai and was instigating youth, and organising protests.

For 10 days he was in the lockup. Then, Public Safety Act was slapped on him. Soon, Sheikh was driven to Kupwara Sub Jail. Sheikh, a father of four kids including two daughters, all in school, was a worried man. Even his wife was not doing well.

As he was struggling to accept the destiny, he got another shock: He was terminated from his services. A laboratory assistant in education department since 1993, he was jobless in jail.

“The principal of my Higher Secondary School came personally to meet me in jail around 9 pm, one night, and handed over the termination letter to me,” Sheikh remembers. “The irony is that termination orders were issued without any departmental inquiry.”

In the post-Burhan Wani days, Jammu and Kashmir Police acted tough to save the situation from getting worse. Its intelligence wing prepared a list of about 150 government employees, including some gazetted officers, who were allegedly “involved in protests”. The list was then sent to the government for action.

Finally, 12 state government employees were sacked including Sheikh. “The law has taken its course,” the then Education Minister Naeem Akhtar was quoted saying. “These are only the worst cases”. The employees were terminated on charges of posing threat to security, sovereignty and integrity of the state besides flouting the services rules.

Interestingly, Naeem Akhtar along with other four employees was personally dismissed in 1990 for ‘taking part’ in protests, triggering a three-month shutdown by government workers.

After three months of detention, the PSA of Sheikh was quashed by the High Court and Sheikh walked a free man again. His relatives and neighbours crowded to congratulate him. But Sheikh knew this freedom was short-lived. Two days later, he was again summoned by the police.

 “They told me that they have my footage of taking part in protests,” Sheikh said.  After two days in the lock-up, Sheikh was sent to Baramulla Sub Jail. Twenty days later, he was released on bail. Now he is attending court hearings and waits for the verdict.

But he still has to feed his family. He works as a salesman in a pesticide shop for Rs 2500, a month. Sheikh’s daughters have dropped out of college. The family has sold part of the land to pay the legal charges for defending the case.

Mohammad Ramzan Naik, then 58, was busy repairing the defunct motor of public health engineering (PHE) department and had grease still on his hands when he was arrested last year. Driven to Zainapora police station in Shopian and was locked up. Naik has been a  PHE Field Mechanic since 1985.

When the SHO summoned Naik, he said he will come once he finishes his work. He was at work and the police came. In the police station, he was accused of crimes that a person of his age rarely does. He was told that he attacked DySP Zainapora and has burnt the Zainapora Police station.

“How can a man who is about to retire from his service resort to such things?” questions Naik. “I denied all that rubbish.” But Naik accepted being part of some non-violent protests on several Fridays.

“Everybody knows the situation then. It would have been dangerous for me and my family if I would not have come out to join the protestors,” Naik said.

For five weeks, he was in police lock-up. His wife would come and see him in the police station and one day she told him he has been terminated from his services.

“I was planning for the retirement now; I have all my life served the department. How can they do this to me, there is nothing proven yet,” laments Naik.

Naik has 90-year-old mother, wife and four children to feed. To feed the family, his children go as labourers, his daughters have dropped out of college.

Another sacked employee is so threatened that he spoke off the record. “Our families suffer for the fault that we never did,” he said. “I think, to contain the protests and to pressurize others they made us scapegoats.”

Though the Employees Joint Action Committee (EJAC) termed the sacking ‘unjustified and one-sided’, nobody helped them. As the government announced an amnesty for the first timer stone pelters, these 12 employees were also seen on the road, in a small protest, seeking a rethink.

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