Endangering human rights

By K.N. Pandita

Dozens of goons and miscreants attacked and vandalised Hotel Le Meridian in uptown Srinagar on Friday afternoon for alleged immoral activities going on inside the four walls of the hotel. It was yet another show of moralist impudence to take law into hand and deliver quick judgement. A society where a handful of upstarts venture to disrupt law and order just because they are unable to exercise control on their whims and fantasies, is faced with the peril of social disintegration.

No segment of a civil society is empowered by any moral or statutory law and convention to lay claim at correcting public moral or to enforcing a particular code of ethics. It is sheer mismanagement on the part of law and order enforcing apparatus to let them vandalise property and privacy of ordinary citizens.

The police authorities have claimed to have arrested six of the miscreants and have even leaked their name to the press.

The fact of the matter is that there more than what meets the eye in this case. Is it a simple case of vandalism by irritant youth who are given to rampaging? If it were only that then not too serious a view could be taken of the incident. But there is much behind the act, which needs to be unravelled. Reports suggest that the conditions for a raid on the hotel were being created over some weeks and that Friday was fixed as the day for direct action. It is also reported that the Imam of Sarai Bala mosque had delivered fiery speech after the Friday prayers exhorting people to attack the hotel once they dispersed the same day.

The message was well taken and the mobs once out of the mosque rushed direct to the site and began the arson. It will be recalled that the women’s organization called Dokhtaran-i-Millat, has been indulging in such activities for quite some time but with impunity. Its leader was arrested and then let off without filing a case against her and bringing her to book for inciting the people for rampage, vandalising and arson.

Five days prior to this incident, two militant outfits, namely Al Badr and al-Madina, had imposed a ban on cable channels in the valley. This is a clear indication that there is a network of anti – social elements with a clear agenda of abusing human rights and the right to privacy. Authorities are aware of such incidents but usually turn a Nelson’s eye to them.

There is no determination either with the civil or police authorities to take stringent measures of checking the menace of intruding upon the privacy of individuals. At one time the Dokhtaran organization even went to the length of warning the school and college going girls in Srinagar that they would be splashed with acid if they walked without wearing a veil. There could be no blatant violation of human rights than in issuing such warnings to innocent citizens. Even then no legal action was taken against the miscreants who took the cue and widened their anti-social activities.

It is the duty of the police authorities to make a thorough investigation into the episode in order to establish the real culprits, and secondly, to make foolproof arrangement of security probe into this particular incident because there appears much more than just the allegation that the hotel had been in actuality running a brothel. The city police have the full knowledge of immoral places in the town where flesh trade goes on unhindered.

If the police had any clue of such a thing going on within the four walls of Le Meridian for some time, why did it not take proper action and arrest the culprits instead of letting a mob vandalise the property and intimidate peace-loving citizens? And if it had no such information, then it needs to make thorough interrogation of the six miscreants it has arrested in this connection in order to elicit from them the source of their information.

We cannot rule out the possibility of stumbling on a dependable source of information in this case but unless that is brought to light, innocence of the hotel staff and the owner remains unchallenged. However, notwithstanding the allegations, the fact of the matter is that nobody and much less an NGO can take the law into its hands.

By dong what the indoctrinated youth have done, they have helped police frame a criminal case against them. In that sense the law will talkie its own course. The broad day arson of Le Meridian hotel is an eye opener for the government that the law enforcement power of the state is being either hijacked or paralysed by people with vested interest.

The law enforcing apparatus of the state administrative organ would be well advised to take a serious note of this incident and do all it can to nip the evil in the bud. Any slackness in punishing the culprits will breed chaos and confusion and nobody will be inclined to take the government seriously. It is the foremost of constitutional rights of the citizens of India to be provided with security of life and property. Violation of this fundamental right brings a bad name to the democratic dispensation of which we boast so much.

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