Deputy Commissioner Kishtwar , Angrez Singh Rana, imposed restrictions on ET correspondent Asif Iqbal Naik to prevent him from entering government offices particularly Mini Secretariat Kishtwar, under section 144 Cr. P. C., vide order number of 45 of 2018, dated 27-8-2018, citing “extortion of money” from govt. officials as the reason.
The DC Kishtwar , while issuing the order imposing restrictions on Asif Iqbal has cited two FIR’s registered against the said correspondent as the reason for this drastic step along with complaints “pouring from different district officers/ officials regarding unnecessary harassment/ threatening”. The order further piles on reasons to justify the action taken by the DC including that “the public in general and govt. officers/ officials in particular are suffering badly due to bad activities of Asif Iqbal Naik” , whom Angrez Rana chooses to address as “notorious” and the “so called journalist”.
The crux of the order is that Asif Iqbal Naik, a journalist by profession, is blackmailing “selected” govt. officers and hence he stands banned indefinitely from entering any govt. office in distt. Kishtwar. The first and the foremost question is that who are these “selected” govt. officers slash officials who are getting blackmailed and why are they getting blackmailed as the order indicates payment of “handsome amount” because of the threats of ” being highlighted for corrupt practices”.
A pertinent question arises – what corrupt practices have these officers slash officials indulged in , what ommisions slash commissions ( pun intended) have they committed and are hiding, that a journalist is able to threaten them of exposing.
It will serve us all good to remember that blackmail is a two-way street and like in case of corruption where you need a ‘bribe giver’ along with ‘bribe receiver’, in blackmail too you need two parties – one, a party that has committed some wrong knowingly or unknowingly, which enables the other party, two, to threaten or extract money. Now that the DC has decided to go public with the name of the blackmailing party and imposed restrictions on his movement, will the DC care to inform the general public about the officers who were blackmailed or threatened. And it would be interesting to notice whether the DC will punish the officers/ officials too or would he choose to at least initiate an inquiry into the matter and try to find out how and why the said journalist was able to blackmail these people. Why did these innocent officers slash officials pay “handsome amount” to a ” notorious TYPE OF correspondent”, rather than informing the appropriate authorities and getting him caught red handed. Curiously, none of these officers/ officials reported the matter well in time to any govt. agency enabling action, instead choose to report the matter against the ” so called ” journalist after making payments and exchanging pleasantries punctuated by sweet little nothing talks.
On careful perusal of the order issued by Angrez Rana against senior correspondent Asif Naik, one discovers that the two FIRs mentioned by the DC already stand challenged in the High Court of Jammu and Kashimir and the court has stayed these FIRs. The matter being sub-judice, it’s not advisable to comment on the merits or demerits of these FIRs and let the honourable High Court decide that part, but then, could Angrez Rana in his capacity as District Magistrate Kishtwar, which is much lower in protocol hierarchy compared to High court, have technically issued this order making the two FIRs as ground which have been already stayed by the higher court and are pending before it for a verdict. No doubt, Angrez adds one more point to the list of charges that complaints are pouring in against Asif Naik, then again it logically should have resulted in launching of an FIR against the accused instead of imposing a blanket ban which is morally, logically and even legally repugnant.
Journalists and journalism, in other words press, has been christened as the fourth pillar of the democracy and the indefinite blanket ban amounts to scutling the freedom of this very institution. The matter turns a shade uglier and graver when Asif Iqbal Naik claims that there is more than what meets the eye and his life is in danger. Talking to paigaam.in, Asif said that , ” I have been exposing the corrupt practices and lacunae of the local administration, bringing out the hidden truths and presenting them before the public. I am professionally bound to report without any bias or nepotism and for it if they even kill me, they will only be placing me in august company of voices like Gauri Lankesh and making a martyr out of me “.
Asif went on to say that , ” This is not the first time he ( DC) has chosen to act blatantly and inexplicably, rather he has been busy raking up controversies from the very day he joined as DC Kishtwar by going through a spree of incidents where he jumped from harassing employees to asking forgiveness from them, to insulting general public to asking forgiveness from them. He misbehaved with one Mr. Bittu, working as GRS, in full public view, the video of which went viral triggering massive protests by the employees and general public forcing Angrez to apologize to the said GRS. Then he decided to act in the same manner with Deputy CEO, Kishtwar resulting in huge protests by the entire teachers community. After this Mr. Angrez tried his antics on general public who had come with their grievances for redressal and shunned them out of his office and as expected the result was the same – late night protest inside DC office. All this did not seem to have dampened his spirits for controversies and he went on to misbehave with two junior KAS officers, an incident that backfired on him like other incidents. Cherry on the top would be the incident of him being civil arrested and locked up inside an hut for hours by angry protesters after he showed disrespect towards Buddhist spiritual leaders.”
According to the affected journalist, Asif Naik , this order was the direct result of his questioning the role of Angrez Singh in Pakal-Dool controversy and the Machail Mata air ticket fiasco which saw a sudden and humongous spike in the prices of chopper tickets meant for yatries this year .
, prominent lawyer and former govt. advocate while speaking to paigaam.in, termed the order passed by Angrez Rana as a classic case of over-reach and opined that , “It is violation of basic rights and rights guaranteed under constitution of India. If he ( Asif Naik) is involved in any offence then there are appropriate laws to deal with it . But stopping somebody to visit govt. offices and depriving him of his legitimate rights is unconstitutional.”
Adv. Ahtsham Bhat, who is counted amongst the top legal brains in the state of J&K did not forget to mention that one should go through the 22 November 1985 judgement passed by honourable Supreme Court of India in Bhim Singh Vs State of J&k and others case.
The order passed by the DC Kishtwar not only restricts the rights of a journalist/ press, in other words freedom of speech is curbed, but also infringes upon the Constitutional, legal and statutory rights of Asif Naik as a citizen of this country, and local resident oh Kishtwar town. Again we will leave it to the wisdom of the honourable High Court to decide which all rights have been infringed upon as the matter is under Court’s consideration, however, one can not stop but ponder that an individual might need to visit a govt. hospital in case of a medical emergency, might need to visit other govt. offices for documents and certificates like Adhar card , ration card etc. Hence the question arises that can one impose an indefinite blanket ban on a person from entering all govt. offices.
Syed Junaid Hashmi, Editor in chief of JK Newspoint, while interacting with paigaam.in said that , ” It has become a trend to brand journalists who have the courage to report on diseases afflicting the system as blackmailers, thugs and goons. The fraternity ( journalists) must stand together at this critical juncture.”
Hashmi, who is one of the leading journalists pledged his allegiance to Asif Naik and announced that, ” I firmly stand with Asif Iqbal Naik, an acclaimed journalist who also happens to be a self made man and we do not need a certificate about his credentials and credibility from anyone, specially from someone who is holding a public office and position for which he is ineligible”.
Paigaam.in also stands firmly by the side of a fellow journalist who seems to be getting a rough treatment from DC Kishtwar. However , just to play devil’s advocate – if we look carefully at the order issued by the said authority, it has umpteen number of syntax errors in every line of every paragraph. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the said order has been composed by someone at the clerical level and the DC has signed it without reading it.
Does this theory absolve the DC of his omissions? No, but it attempts to tell us where the whopping number of mistakes and errors could have crept from…..
(The author can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org)