Founder of Haji Public School in Jammu and Kashmir Sabbah Haji was sacked from her position after she called Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat a war criminal in a social media post, The Telegraph reported on Sunday.
She was allegedly detained between December 14 and December 17, Bar and Bench reported. On Friday, she was released on bail after she provided a declaration that she would not repeat her actions. It was not immediately clear when she was arrested.
Rawat and 12 others had died in a helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu on December 8. Following his death, Haji had criticised the chief of defence staff, saying that he had awarded a commendation card to an Army major who had used a Kashmiri man, Farooq Dar, as a human shield in 2017.
According to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, using people as human shields is a war crime.
Haji’s Instagram post regarding Rawat was shared by many social media users, The Telegraph reported. It prompted some Bharatiya Janata Party workers to file a complaint against Haji. They accused her of “abusing the nation” by calling Rawat a war criminal.
The school education department had also called for the registration of Haji’s school to be suspended.
Doda Executive Magistrate Shabir Ahmad claimed that Haji was neither arrested nor detained, but confirmed that she had signed bonds on Friday under Section 107 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The section empowers an executive magistrate to apprehend any individual for not more than a year on information that a person is likely to disturb the peace and public tranquillity.
“She will be under surveillance for six months and action can be initiated against her if she repeats the act,” Ahmad said, according to The Telegraph. “Yesterday [Friday], she signed a surety bond pledging not to repeat it.”
Meanwhile, Haji Public School published a note on its Facebook page saying that its former director’s statement on Rawat did not speak for the institute.
“The Haji Public School management would like to clarify that a recent distasteful media post during the rounds has nothing to do with the school and that the said person has acted in their individual capacity after their tenure with the school ended,” the note said. “Ms Sabbah Haji is not associated with Haji Public School in any official capacity.”
Members of the civil society who have worked with her or follow her work expressed shock at her alleged detention.
Author Mirza Waheed said that Haji’s arrest was unreasonable. “Unconscionable that Sabbah Haji was arrested,” he wrote in a tweet. “Sabbah has improved the lives of so many children in a region with extremely poor educational facilities. This vengefulness has to end.”
Canadian writer and filmmaker Melaine Easton, who said she had volunteered at the Haji Public School in 2013, supported Haji by calling her an “incredible human being and a teacher”. She added that she was “appalled and horrified” after learning about her alleged arrest.
Supreme Court advocate Karuna Nundy said that converting defamation accusations to public order offences was shocking and “in line with this government’s continual crackdown on free speech”.