Dissent is Democracy

Aseem Ahmad

The acts of retribution by government agencies against young boys involved in incidents of stone pelting won’t salvage the state of the frequent upsurge in separatist uprisings. The unprecedented use of Public Safety Act (PSA) against Kashmiri boys, many of whom haven’t entered adulthood as yet, seems to be the only solution available with the government to constraint their expression of dissent. PSA is the most abused preventive measure available with state government for denying the people, especially younger generations, expression of dissent, irrespective of whether the mode is a bullet, a stone or a mere slogan. The law does seem to be blind when it comes to the implementation of the arbitrary act.

The act came into existence in 1978 to prevent the indiscriminate loot of the green gold in the state. However, the recent history of Kashmir is replete with incidents where the draconian law was used against political rivals. Voices that were raised against the Indira- Abdullah accord of 1975 were denied the public space by bringing in the services of the act. National Conference, the longest ruling party of the state, does seem to carry on the legacy of their founding father.

In 1990, the act was amended in the wake of militancy and hundreds of gun-wielding Kashmiri young men were sent to dungeons in and outside state by the power of the act. The irony of the matter is that in a number of incidents, fathers, brothers, friends and mere acquaintances of militants were taken to task through the unbridled use of the act.

The modus operandi of PSA circumvents all known principles of human justice. Two subsystems of executive, one of the pillars of democracy, connive to deny a human his natural right, the right to express. A person detained by police on charges, fictitious or otherwise, is produced before an executive magistrate with the recommendation that the person may be booked under PSA. The district magistrate without even bothering to see the face of the individual in many cases, just with a mark on a sheet of paper, denies a human his freedom for whatever period he/she deems fit. The discretionary powers vested with the executive in slapping PSA are arbitrary and makes joke of democracy.

The noise that is being created against AFSPA with none other than CM as its champion does lose the steam in the face of indiscriminate use of PSA in the state. PSA is a state subject and could be easily done away with by a simple majority vote of state assembly. They say charity begins at home and it is high time for Omar Abdullah to show the world that arbitrary punitive laws have no place in a society that is hurt by decades of conflict.

Young men booked under PSA once have to carry this taboo for their entire lives. They, in fact, lose their right to live a normal life. The stamp of being booked takes away their right to earn a decent livelihood, and to live a respectable life in society.

Research in social psychology has firmly established that teenage is a volatile age, and aggression, frustration, etc. is quite normal to this period of life. Instead of providing these young men opportunities to make constructive use of this teenage aggression, the state is actually punishing them for what in reality are their natural tendencies and all principles of natural justice emanate from nature.


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