Utt’khand Eviction Drive
Three cheers to the Supreme Court. It may have killed two birds with one stone. One, it rightly stayed the Uttarakhand High Court order for removal of encroachments from Railways land in Haldwani saying it was ‘a human issue’ and ‘50,000 people can’t be uprooted in seven days.’ Two, the case and order should make other States wary of ordering eviction without a rehabilitation plan in place. Thursday last order considered residents’ claim they have title to the land and that a ‘practical way’ must be found by Railways and State government. The HC had on December 20 ordered demolition of constructions over alleged encroached railway land, 29 acres, and given a week’s notice to 4,365 encroachers at Banbhoolpura in Haldwani. Of the 50,000 people, majority are Muslims, and the petitioners argued the HC ought to have given due consideration to documents such as municipal records showing house tax being paid regularly instead of making allegations of ‘vote bank politics’ against State. While accepting the Railways needs, the top court observed there ‘are multiple angles arising from the nature of land, ownership, of rights conferred…,” and advised “a workable arrangement to segregate people who may have no rights in the land… coupled with rehabilitation schemes which may already exist…” The State’s response by February 7 is worth a watch. Will it offer a practical solution given there are religious places, schools, business establishments and residences in the said area or drag on the issue? The SC says the aim should be to settle it ‘one way or the other.’ Rightly, as other States may be on the same track, waiting for a signal.
Jammu & Arunachal Concern
The Centre seems to be woken up from its slumber in Jammu and Arunachal Pradesh. Security situation in both States is a serious cause of worry. Jammu’s Rajouri and Poonch districts have caught North block on the wrong foot. With Union Home Ministry concentrating on Kashmir Valley, terrorists have set their eyes on the Jammu region. A nagging fear now lurks among the people in the district, who are seen protesting after twin terror attacks in the two border districts claimed six lives, including two children, and with 11 injured. On Wednesday authorities decided to enhance security and increased the number of CRPF companies to 18, approximately 1800 personnel in the minority areas in the region. The L-G office has announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakhs and a government job to the family of those killed in the firing incident. But the people yearn for a sense of security, which was promised after abrogation of Article 370. Development is far on the agenda.
Likewise, Defence Ministry should be working overtime, given the recent clashes on the LAC in the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh. On Tuesday last, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visited Boleng in the northeast State to inaugurate a Border Roads Organisation bridge. There he asserted that Indian Army has every capability to thwart challenges along the border to protect the country’s territory. In the same breath he added that India never encourages war, and always wants to maintain cordial relations with its neighbours… but the country has every capability to face any kind of situation if provoked.” Many defence experts would question the statement, as India doesn’t seem to respond with equal vigour to the provocations. Worse, it is silent on reports of China developing model villages along the LAC. However, it is now attaching top priority in developing infrastructure to strengthen the border with five in the State and enhance ‘operational preparedness’ of Armed forces, and ensure socio-economic development of far-flung regions. Is it enough?
Gujarat Police Empowered
BJP government in Gujarat has empowered its police force to take action against protestors by removing what it calls ‘impediments’. The Code of Criminal Procedure (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2021, passed by State Assembly last March, got the President’s assent on Wednesday last. The bill facilitates registration of criminal cases against persons who stage protests in violation of Section 144 of the CrPC without informing local courts in writing, which was the case thus far under section 195 of the CrPC. It makes any violation of prohibitory orders a cognisable offence under IPC Section 188 (disobedience to an order duly promulgated by a public servant). The Bills’ statement and objects say: ‘Gujarat government, police commissioners and DMs are empowered to issue prohibitory orders, directing any person to abstain from a certain act or to take certain order to prevent disturbance of public tranquillity or a riot or an affray to maintain public order on various occasions.’ The police officers, deployed on such duties come across incidents of violation and need to take appropriate legal action, but taking permission in writing from courts turns out be an impediment and therefore done way with. Given that maximum punishment under IPC Section 188 is 6-month imprisonment, protestors need to think twice as police officers have got a license to register cases. And with time it could be with impunity!
Andhra’s GO Row
Public safety or is politics being played out, is a question doing the rounds in Andhra Pradesh. It arises after TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu and his convoy was stopped from entering his Kuppam constituency on Wednesday last, with the police citing Government Order issued on Monday prohibiting public meetings and rallies from being held on roads, including national highways, quoting public safety. This after 8 persons died in a stampede at Naidu’s a rally on December 28. However, Chief Minister Jaganmohan Reddy maybe edgy over his rival getting a resounding response during his tours, where he’s defiant and critical. The government is “muzzling not just the Opposition’s voice but the people’s voice itself. We will fight it out,” he vows. Expectedly, a slugfest is in the offing, as authorities can consider permitting public meetings ‘only in rare and exceptional circumstances, with reasons recorded in writing.’ Double standards can’t be ruled out.
Jain Community Wins
The Jain community no longer needs to protest across cities. The Centre has come to its aid in opposition-ruled Jharkhand and assured sanctity of its biggest pilgrimage centre remains. On Thursday last, Union Environment Ministry stayed all tourism activities at the Parasnath Hill where the Jain religious site ‘Sammed Shikharji’ is located. Through an office memorandum it directed the Hemant Soren-led UPA government to immediately take all steps necessary. This after members of Jain community have been protesting the State government’s 2019 notification designating the Hills as a tourist place. Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav met its representatives and gave full assurance. Promptly, Soren issued a statement saying he had written to Yadav to do away with said notification issued by previous BJP government in 2019, following which the Ministry notified an ‘eco-sensitive zone’ around the Parasnath Sanctuary and ‘approved eco-tourism activities.’ The U-turn seems right now as it stays ‘implementation of provisions of clause 3 of said notification, including amongst others all tourism and eco-tourism activities.’ The Jain community should be pleased as its protest has yielded results. Who did it, should be immaterial. — INFA