The Jammu and Kashmir Police on Saturday filed a First Information Report against two media websites – The Kashmir Walla and The Kashmiriyat – for publishing reports on the Army allegedly forcing authorities of a school in Shopian district to hold Republic Day celebrations.
The FIR was filed on the basis of a complaint by a local Army camp of the 44 Rashtriya Rifles in Imam Sahib area of Shopian, a police official told Scroll.in. The FIR has been filed under Sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code.
Both websites published their articles on January 27, a day after a video of the Republic Day event at Jamia Siraj ul Uloom school was widely shared on social media. However, the school’s Chairman Mohammed Yusuf Mantoo said that Army personnel of the 44 Rashtriya Rifles had been forcing them for a month to hold the event, The Kashmiriyat reported. “It has almost been a month that the Army is pressurising us to hold the event inside the school premises,” Mantoo said. “The Army forced us to participate in the event and put the banner of the school in front of the Republic Day celebrations.”
Speaking to The Kashmir Walla, Mantoo said that the Army insisted on holding the event at the school, despite him refusing to do so. “I told them you can do it and if you pressurise us, at most we will participate and sit in front of you,” he said.
Mantoo claimed that children who can be seen in the video holding national flags were not students of the school, and were brought by the Army from nearby areas. Locals were also asked to come for the event, Mantoo said, adding that he had told the Army that students and teachers of the school will not be able to attend the event due to winter vacations.
Mantoo also said that the school has been under the scanner of security forces since the police claimed to arrest three of its teachers in October last year under the Public Safety Act. Vijay Kumar, Inspector General of Police, Kashmir had earlier alleged that five or six more teachers were under surveillance and that the school was affiliated with banned outfit Jamaat-e-Islami, according to The Kashmir Walla. The school authorities have denied the allegations and said they were ready for any investigation.
However, days before the FIR was filed, on January 30, the school management put out a statement denying begin forced to celebrate and had named both The Kashmir Walla and The Kashmiriyat.
“On 26th of January, celebration of Republic Day took place in the vicinity of an educational institution Jamia Siraj UI Uloom at Imamsahib Shopian,” the statement signed by the chairman and the principal of the school said. “Local people, students and administration participated in the ceremony. There was not any compulsion on behalf of any army personal [personnel] and police. The celebration ended with peace and pleasure. The news item appeared in news portal Kashmiriyat and Kashmir Walla regarding pressure for organising such events and the hand of security agencies is negated as being totally baseless allegation.”
Local village head Mohammad Shaban Thoker, who unfurled the national flag at the school, termed the event “a routine function like every year”, The Kashmir Walla reported. “Ten-fifteen locals, numberdars (village heads), government employees, and the Army were there,” he said.
Both the websites also tried to contact Army officials, but they were not available for a comment.