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J&K activist behind bars for remarks on ‘outsider’ officers at janata durbar

The Lt Governor has initiated these public hearings or durbars across Kashmir to reach out to people. Top officers, including advisors to Sinha, attend the hearings and listen to the grievances and demands of public. However, Sajad Ahmad Sofi may be paying a price for speaking his mind.

Written by Bashaarat Masood | Srinagar |
Updated: June 15, 2021 7:16:28 am
At the durbar held at Safapora village in Ganderbal on June 10, Sofi, who led a group of five-six members of a civil society group, told advisor Baseer Ahmad Khan that people could have expectations from local officials like him and seek answers from them. (Express Photo by Shuaib Masoodi)

AN activist who led a delegation to a public hearing held by one of the advisors of Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha has spent the past four days in custody for apparently rubbing Ganderbal Deputy Commissioner Krittika Jyotsna the wrong way.

The Lt Governor has initiated these public hearings or durbars across Kashmir to reach out to people. Top officers, including advisors to Sinha, attend the hearings and listen to the grievances and demands of public. However, Sajad Ahmad Sofi may be paying a price for speaking his mind.

At the durbar held at Safapora village in Ganderbal on June 10, Sofi, who led a group of five-six members of a civil society group, told advisor Baseer Ahmad Khan that people could have expectations from local officials like him and seek answers from them. On the other hand, what could he hope from officers who belong to outside the region, Sofi told Khan.

Jyotsna, an IAS officer of Uttar Pradesh-cadre who was posted to the Union territory recently and was present at the hearing, strongly objected to what Sofi said.

Soon after the hearing , Sofi, who belongs to Safapora, was booked under Section 153A (promoting enmity between the groups) and jailed. After he was given bail by a local court on June 12, police held him under preventive detention for being a “threat to peace”:

In its report submitted to the court and arguing against bail to Sofi, police said, “If the accused is released on bail at this time, he can harass the witnesses and can hinder the investigation in the case. Since the accused is impudent, he can coax the witnesses.”

Giving an account of what happened on June 10, police in its report said, “During the meeting, a civil society group put forward its demands before the Advisor (Khan) sahib. The group… was led by Sajad Ahmad Sofi… While putting forward his demands before the Advisor sahib, he used the following words: ‘Mein aapse umeed rakhta hoon. Chunki aap ik Kashmiri hain aur samajh sakte hain, aur mein aap ka gareban pakad sakta hoon aur aapse jawab-talab kar sakta hoon. Magar gair-riyasati afsaron se kya umeed rakh sakta hoon (I can have expectations from you because you are a Kashmiri and you can understand us. I can grab you by the collar and seek answers. But what expectations can I have from officers who are outsiders)?’.”

The police report added that Jyotsna “stood up from her seat and strongly objected”. “The circumstances of the incident and from the statements, a crime under 153A of the IPC is made… The accused has been arrested and his family has been informed. He is on police remand at the police station Safapora,” the report said.

Section 153A of the IPC deals with ‘promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language etc’ and ‘doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony’.

Justifying use of Section 153A, and Sofi’s re-arrest following bail, for being a “threat to peace”, Ganderbal SSP Suhail Munawar told The Indian Express: “He (Sofi) did tell the Honb’le Advisor all these things (that are mentioned in the police report). This is discrimination and falls well within the ambit of 153A… We subsequently re-arrested him because there was reasonable apprehension that he will create a law and order situation. So he was arrested under (Section) 107 and 105 etc. It is routine preventive action.”

Only Sofi among the delegation had been arrested, Munawar stressed.

Khan had met several delegations that day, including those of transporters, traders, civil society members, Block Development Council members and religious leaders. When the meeting was about to end and Khan was preparing to leave, Sofi made the remarks that apparently angered the Deputy Commissioner.

Jyotsna, who was posted to J&K in February this year in an inter-cadre transfer, didn’t respond to frequent calls and text messages.

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