The Opposition in Jammu and Kashmir have protested against the state government’s introduction of a bill that seeks to criminalise damaging property during protests, Greater Kashmir reported. Members of the Opposition described the state’s proposal to amend the Jammu and Kashmir Public Property (Prevention of Damage) Act as an attempt to clamp down on all modes of protest.
The legislation, introduced by Parliamentary Affairs Abdul Rehman Veeri on behalf of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, proposes to hold accountable anyone who calls for shutdowns, demonstrations or other forms of protest, where properties are damaged.
The accused will be held liable for imprisonment and fine. “Whosoever calls for a direct action, whether he participates in such an action directly or indirectly which results in damage to private and public property, shall be deemed to be guilty of abetment the offence under the Act,” the daily quoted the bill as saying. The Home Department, headed by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, has raised the matter.
Critics allege that this will give the state power to book protest leaders and organisers even if they are not present at the site of the protest. “Even if the violence during the protest has been carried out by anti-social elements, who have nothing to do with the protest, the leaders or organisers of the protest will be held guilty,” an unidentified rights group activist told the daily.
Kulgam MLA M Y Tarigami described the bill as “most draconian”. Senior National Conference leader Ali Muhammad Sagar demanded that the bill be sent to a select committee. “I have submitted an amendment in this regard,” Sagar said.