Political parties in Jammu and Kashmir say the police's recent warning to people against commenting and posting about the new domicile law is an infringement of the fundamental right to freedom of expression enshrined in the Indian constitution.
“It would appear that along with everything else we also lost the fundamental right to free speech and right to dissent,” said a National Conference spokesman.
“Jammu and Kashmir may not be a ‘state’ but we risk becoming a police state”, the NC spokesman added.
What has angered political parties in the union territory is the directions of Jammu and Kashmir Police that says its cyber wing has been asked to identify and arrest social media users who are trying to incite people over the newly introduced domicile law.
The IGP Kashmir, Vijay Kumar said certain elements were trying to incite people over the new domicile law and many ‘anti-social elements’ were using various social networking platforms to instigate people.
On March 30 night, the government came with new law defining domicile for those who have resided for a period of 15 years in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir or have studied for a period of seven years and appeared in Class 10th /12th examination in educational institutions located there.
The Centre also amended the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services (Decentralisation and Recruitment) in which a clause for domicile category was introduced to reserve jobs up to Group-4 in the government for residents.
In Jammu, some sections have taken to the twitter and other platforms to criticise the law and describe it as anti-youth in terms of recruitment, after which the police issued its controversial instructions on social media usage.
Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, newly formed Apni Party leader Altaf Bukhari and others criticised the domicile law as well.
Jammu and Kashmir Panthers Party Leader, Harsh Dev Singh protested against the law and described it as "an obnoxious piece of superimposed legislation.” He accused the BJP government at the Centre of having betrayed the trust of the people.
"By throwing open the J&K employment avenues, except a part of Class-IV jobs, to the outside states, the BJP-led government has caused the greatest disappointment to the educated unemployed,” Singh said.
While reacting against the police's warning, the CPI (M) said the attempt to muzzle genuine voices of people was extremely unfortunate. “Government seems more comfortable in silencing dissent," a CPI (M) spokesman said.
“Government of India is changing legislation to arm the authorities and disarm the population. The situation in Jammu & Kashmir can only be salvaged by restoring democracy. The administration should allow the people to speak up and end the reign of forced silence. If the unprecedented subversion of democracy did not end, it would only benefit those who want uncertainty and disturbance to prevail in J&K," he said
There was a complete ban on social media following the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution on August 5, 2019. However, the government has now restored the internet and there is no official ban on social media. In view of this, the police warning people with this directive that they are under surveillance and could be arrest is seen as a move to have control over “narrative” in Jammu and Kashmir.
On Wednesday, the Directorate of Health issued a similar order stating an action will be taken against doctors and paramedical staff who would talk to media or take to social media to air their concerns. This comes after doctors and paramedics in government-run hospitals in Kashmir raised concerns about the lack of proper and adequate personnel protection gears and safety equipment like N95 masks, PVC coated gowns and goggles.