Madhu Kishwar And The Dogs That Did Not Bark to Protect Free Speech
The efforts to muzzle one of the saner voices of nationalism on Kashmir and India in general will not succeed.
Truth will win.
It was just the other day that the Supreme Court firmly rejected the Jammu & Kashmir High Court’s claim that the state’s constitution was equal to that of the Indian Constitution and that its “sovereignty” could not be “challenged, altered or abridged”.
The Supreme Court rubbished this claim and affirmed unequivocally that the state derived its own sovereignty from the Indian Constitution. Thus, “the state of Jammu & Kashmir has no vestige of sovereignty outside the Constitution of India and its own Constitution, which is subordinate to the Constitution of India…”. Moreover, “they (residents of state) are governed first by the Constitution of India and also by the Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir.”
The very fact that the state high court could even make such a claim shows how much the fear of militancy has seeped into various organs of the state, including its administration, police, and possibly the judiciary itself at some levels.
A case in point is the recent order issued by a chief judicial magistrate (CJM) in Srinagar asking Madhu Kishwar, author and social activist, to appear personally before him and furnish a bond or face arrest for alleged defamation.
The reason for his order seems to have been a bunch of tweets by Kishwar alleging that Shujaat Bukhari, Editor of Rising Kashmir, had been substantially funded by various Indian agencies, but continued to pout radical separatist rhetoric in his newspaper. Kishwar has essentially been accused of defamation, but was neither asked to make a statement nor defend her position before being asked to present herself in Srinagar.
And this despite the possible threat to her life if she appeared in person without state protection. As a nationalist, Kishwar lives a charmed life for exposing the machinations of some of the separatist forces in Kashmir, and her knowledge comes from access to key political leaders and army officers in the valley. Among those she has had conversations with include the late Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, whose daughter is now Chief Minister.
Clearly, the Supreme Court needs to quash the CJM’s orders and ensure that Kishwar does not have to travel to Srinagar to defend herself. She can conceivably defend herself in Delhi, where she lives. The defamation case can be transferred outside J&K, for it is possible that the local judiciary may be conflicted in its efforts to ensure justice to someone who does not agree with separatist opinions in the state.
What is disconcerting is the deathly radio silence of the Left-Liberal community in Delhi, which tends to raise a hullabaloo over every alleged instance of “intolerance” and encroachments on freedom of speech. The Left-Liberal elite has made common cause with Islamists and separatists for the simple reason that it has no love lost for the Narendra Modi government. It has not stood up for any one else’s freedoms, especially if those freedoms affect people in the so-called right-wing.
However, the efforts to muzzle one of the saner voices of nationalism on Kashmir and India in general will not succeed. Truth will win.
One hopes the Supreme Court ensures that it is the Constitution which prevails, and not a sectarian interpretation of the law by a compromised lower-level judiciary.
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