Srinagar: A government order yesterday warned its employees from using personal social media accounts for any political activity. As the screen-shot of this government order made its way to social-media platforms like facebook, twitter and whatsapp, angry reactions started pouring in from almost all quarters.
Interestingly, the first ones to react to this gag order were public servants themselves, who termed it a “curb on free speech”.
Dr Shah Faisal, who is Managing Director of State’s Power Development Corporation, wrote on his facebook page: Aazki peth kar ba code zubani manz update. Dapan Facebook chalawnus peth karun sarkaer mulaziman tal–paet shalakh 🙂
(Now onwards I will use coded language. I have learned that using Facebook will put government employees in trouble)
Then in his second status update on facebook, Faisal wrote: “But jokes apart, Government employees must observe a certain code of conduct while using social media. I mean good behaviour, nothing more. I have seen some teachers hurling invective, doctors abusing with freedom, officers getting into unsavoury arguments and engineers sharing indecent content much to everyone’s embarrassment. That is not acceptable. Even criticism has to be worded politely (Sic).
Syed Shahnawaz Bukhari, another KAS officer reacted in a sarcastic manner and wrote: “I will keep on posting whatever is in my mind. Politics lies in the eyes of the beholder. No politics intended in this post.”
After the gag order became public a senior doctor posted in a government hospital, who used to be vocal about social issues, was seen talking about benefits of eating curd on his facebook page. He ended the post by asking, ‘is it okay to post!’.
“Khabar Dhar Hoshiyar:- Motbar Raay Aayi Kaladam Qarar Dinni. Aezki Pethe Yus Te FB post Zameer te Aqli Hisab lekhi, Temis Yiyi Nas Chatne,” another officer wrote to somebody’s FB status. “FB new syallibus:
1. Loktay Moktay Tarko, Aechh watan mandh chhhan chhukhow, 2. Bishte Bishte Brario Khotkho wan 3. Ukus Bukus Teli Wan Chhe Kus”
‘We will start revolt against this government order. This order is not legitimate,” Quyoom Wani, the Teachers Forum leader said. “The restrictions on the use of social media on its employees exposes the dictatorial and regressive mindset of the present government.”
“#PDP rewarded one #IbneBatuta, a #JKBank employee for writing 24×7 on #Twitter against the establishment by appointing him as some TOPE in #CM secretariat.” Businessman and political activist Farooq Parra wrote on Facebook. “Same government is now intimidating rest of the state employees for having an opinion. #JKEmployeesMouthShut.”
But the reaction was not limited to government employees only, as Junaid Azim Mattu, spokesperson of principal opposition party National Conference said the gag was “aimed to defame and vilify lakhs of Government employees as either terrorists or anti-social elements who are apparently unable to differentiate between right and wrong in conducting themselves on a day-to-day basis.”
In a tweet Matoo asks Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and Director Information Muneer-ul-Islam: “Would this amendment to the J&K Govt Employees Conduct Rules 1971 also cover the Information Dept Press Officers attached with Ministers who openly write against NC and its leaders? Or is it just meant to gag criticism of the Govt? @MehboobaMufti @diprjk @Munirul52770130 (Sic).”
Apart from politicians and government employees journalist and commoners too reacted to this gag order.
Manzoor-ul-Hassan, a Journalist working with local English daily wrote on his facebook page: “In the times of social media gag, only Ibn-i-Batutas are safe.”
Taking a dig at Mehbooba Mufti’s recent entry to twitter Junaid Azim Mattu said: “It’s quite possible that the Government might issue another diktat asking Government Employees to endorse every post and tweet of Mehbooba Mufti on social media – given the damning invective of indifference people have shown towards her. This level of pettiness is unbecoming.”
MLA Langate Er Abdul Rashid said the move is an attack on fundamental rights of speech and expression. Making government employees accountable is always a welcome move but nobody can deny the fact the Government employees are also part of the society and sons of the soil.
The only communist voice in Kashmir, Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami asked the government to “withdraw the authoritarian notification baring the employees to use social media to express the opinion on government policies”.
Interestingly, the condemnation came from separatist camp too which denounced the gag in strong words. The first one to react was Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who said: “State (government) employees are an educated lot and important opinion makers of the Kashmiri society and choking their voice by issuing dictatorial gags is another form of state repression, and the victims this time are the state employees.”
JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik compared termed the gag order dictatorial which resembles the North Korean dictatorship. “Fraud politicians who ones used to make a hue and cry on human rights violations and who propagated healing touch and battle of ideas by their undemocratic dictates have turned Kashmir into a military dictatorship where every voice of dissent is being suppressed by military might,” Malik said in a press release.
Peoples Democratic Front (PDF) president and MLA Khansahib Hakim Mohammad Yasin asked the government to revoke this order.
“In a democracy, every citizen has certain basic rights that the state cannot take away from them. Everyone has the right to express his ideas and to protest government actions. However, citizens, including employees, have an obligation to exercise these rights peacefully, with respect for the law and for the rights of others,” Hakim said in a statement. “The latest order by the government where it has warned the employees to dismiss them from service, pre-maturely retire them, withhold their promotion or salary increments and even demote them to lower positions, if they engage in political discussions or criticise its policies on the social media is undemocratic. The incumbent Government after failing on every front is continuing to muzzle the voices of dissent.”
Fearing that their comments may actually trigger some problem, some employees have started using poetry to convey the message. Some are using interesting emoji’s as well.