The Jammu and Kashmir state government on Wednesday terminated the services of at least 12 employees for their alleged role in fomenting the recent unrest. The employees were terminated, without inquiry, for “not only questioning the sovereignty and integrity of India but also violating the rules governing conduct of employees in the State”, reported Greater Kashmir.

A senior police official, on the condition of anonymity, told that the employees had been associated with local committees enforcing separatist shutdowns, delivering lectures against the state, and organising stone pelting.

The names of the employees have not been made public. According to media reports, they belong to a variety of departments including education and health.

The senior police official said dossiers against 36 employees had been submitted to the government and “FIRs against several more such employees have been recorded across the Valley”. He added that attempts were on to build cases against them.

The action has evoked a mixed response from government employees, most of whom have been wary of publicly expressing a political opinion, on account of the sensitivity of Kashmir’s politics. However, the fear of losing jobs or earning a reprimand has not deterred some of them from voicing dissent and participating in public protests.

“Government employees are part and parcel of the society,” said an employee of the education department, who did not want to be named. “How can they ignore all that goes around them?”

He said the government's action against its own employees was aimed at bringing the recent unrest under control. The government is the largest employer in the state's formal sector.

An old tactic

This is the first time since the 1990s that the government has acted against employees on grounds of involvement in so-called anti-national activities. When President's rule was imposed in 1990, among the officials dismissed on such grounds was Naeem Akthar, the current Education Minister and senior leader of the People's Democratic Party. Similar action was taken in 1995. Both times, however, the officials were reinstated.

Recalling those years, Wajahat Habibullah, a retired IAS officer who served as the Commissioner of Kashmir Division between 1990 and 1993, said that the entire Valley had risen up against the Indian state and initially the government employees had been at the forefront of the protests.

“The effort at that time was to try and win them back," he said. "To get them to accept being part of India, being part of the government and working for the government. That was the objective.”

Commenting on the current crackdown, Habibullah added: “If the objective is to punish, you can go on punishing, and you will be punishing all the residents of Kashmir.”

Dismissal without inquiry

The state government has invoked Article 126 of the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir which provides for the dismissal of government employees without an inquiry if “the authority empowered to dismiss or remove a satisfied that for some reason, to be recorded by that authority in writing, it is not reasonably practicable to hold such inquiry.”

According to Greater Kashmir, the government’s dismissal orders state that an inquiry was not practicable as the situation was not “feasible for the witnesses to depose in case of inquiry”. The government also stated that “any delay in proceeding will provide them an opportunity to carry out their anti-national activities which can endanger the sovereignty and security of the State.”

The Kashmir Valley has been experiencing unrest since July when Burhan Wani, a Hizbul Mujahideen militant, was killed in an encounter with security forces. Large scale anti-India protests have erupted in form of public meetings and incidents of stone pelting. The police and paramilitary forces have fired pellets on the protestors. The violence has left 84 civilians and two policemen dead, and thousands more blinded and injured. Several government buildings have been torched, including a mini Secretariat in South Kashmir’s Shopian district.

Habibullah described the current crackdown against government employees as a “peripheral action” with undetermined benefits. The main issue was the generation of young Kashmiris lost on the idea of India, he said.

If the government’s objective was to build a nation while maintaining law and order, the crackdown "is not going to get you anywhere," he added. "The challenge in Kashmir is…the challenge of nationhood, the concept of India’s nationhood.”