J&K: Sedition charges stifle cries over border bloodbath

A case of sedition was registered by Jammu & Kashmir police against border residents in Ramgarh last month for protesting over government’s failure to protect their life, liberty and property

NH Photo 
NH Photo
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Ashutosh Sharma

Citizens living in border areas of Jammu and Kashmir can’t protest over the government’s perpetual failure to protect their life, liberty and property. While there is an urgent need for renewal of ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan, the state government is using the sedition law to stifle cries of the residents over ongoing bloodbath from ceasefire violations.

An entire village in Kamore Camp area of Ramgarh sector in Samba district maintains a deafening silence over its development needs, safety and security. Agitated over the death of a villager, the villagers had raised slogans against the government and local BJP leaders last month. What followed left them all shell-shocked: The local police registered an FIR against them under section 124 A (sedition) of the state’s Ranbir Penal Code.

Confirming that a case of sedition stands registered at Ramgarh police station, SHO Bhupinder Singh said: “The accused persons had raised slogans against the government. They are yet to be identified. I can’t say much at this stage. I took charge recently and the case is being investigated.”

“The accused, as per my information, have grievances against the government as they don’t get timely assistance during shelling and firing,” he added.

The villagers raised slogans near the burning funeral pyre of fellow villager Suresh Kumar Choudhary (50), who was killed in a shell explosion. “Our outburst was a natural reaction,” they admitted candidly to National Herald.

Suresh Kumar, according to the family, sustained splinter injuries on his head on January 19. After they took him to Sub-District Hospital, Ramgarh, he was immediately referred to Government Medical College and Hospital, Jammu. As the hospital was already bustling with injured from the border areas, the family shifted him to the Military Hospital, Satwari. But again, he was referred to the Acharya Shri Chander College of Medical Sciences and Hospital, Jammu. “In the hospital, instead of doctors and surgeons, my father was examined by post graduate students. So we shifted him to Fortis Escorts Hospital in Amritsar, where he died 14 days later on February 5,” relatives told NH.

The sedition FIR was lodged by police at the behest of local MLA and Industries Minister Chander Prakash Ganga, allege local residents. “The political leaders just make emotional speeches. They don’t show up at the time of crisis. The minister visited our village after the cremation of Suresh Kumar. What was he expecting, that we would garland him? We chased him out of the village. Does this make us anti-national?”

“We raised slogans as we were going through emotional trauma. But the government considered it an anti-national act and lodged an FIR against us. The message is clear: live blindly and die silently,” said Puneet Choudhary, younger son of Suresh Kumar. “Instead of helping border residents here, the government wants them to keep their mouths shut,” added Puneet, who has recently completed his graduation. His elder brother Prashant Choudhary serves in the Army.

“This is not for the first time that someone lost his life here. Last year, four members of a family were killed in shell explosions at their home in nearby Rangoor Camp village. For how long this will continue: no one knows here when he or his family member is going to die,” he lamented. “Had he received timely medical care, my father would still have been alive!”

As many as 5,000 border dwellers had to migrate from Samba and Ramgarh sectors in January amid exploding mortar bombs and rattle of automatic weapons booming in the area.

Puneet alleged government bias towards border residents along the International Border from Kathua to Akhnoor in Jammu region. Referring to a recent incident in which five members of a family were killed in Pakistani shelling in Balakote sector of Poonch, he said: “A day after the incident, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti visited the affected family in Poonch and handed over an ex gratia of ₹25 lakh to the family besides providing cash assistance of ₹3 lakh each to both the injured family members, assuring a government job as well,” he said, adding that “all we got from the government was a cash assistance of ₹10,000. Why two yardsticks for the victims of the same border conflict in the same state?”

The sedition FIR was lodged by police at the behest of local MLA and Industries Minister Chander Prakash Ganga, allege local residents. “The political leaders just make emotional speeches. They don’t show up at the time of crisis. The minister visited our village after the cremation of Suresh Kumar. What was he expecting, that we would garland him? We chased him out of the village. Does this make us anti-national?”

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