Flawed Democracy


For many weeks now, Faizan Rafiq a budding youngster from Islamabad (Anantnag) district is in news because of his detention under PSA (Public Safety Act). Here, people of all ages are imprisoned under infamous PSA and many are languishing in jails for years together without being subjected to proper procedure of law. But Faizan’s case is unique in many ways. Faizan’s parents’ plead their son’s innocence and claim; he was only fourteen at the time of his detention. So, his detention under PSA is not only illegal as per the provisions of Public Safety Act, but also inhuman way of caging a human bud. On the other hand authorities claim that Faizan’s age is more than seventeen years and in no way ‘under aged’ for being detained under PSA. Many human rights activists at local and national level pleaded the case of Faizan Rafiq and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was asked about Faizan Rafiq’s improper detention. From District Magistrate to Chief Minister everyone contended the claim of Faizan’s parents and to further strengthen their argument have come out with scientific evidence regarding his age. Recent official statement regarding the matter said, “In view of combined physical, dental and radiological, examination of Faizan Rafiq, his age is more than seventeen years and less than eighteen years”.

Administration is delegated and duty bound to ensure peace within its jurisdiction and is empowered to act as per the law. The justice now seems to be in the cards as CM’s tweet about the child’s release sounds heartening.  But still the whole case raises some fundamental questions about the very system that governs us.

No one can challenge the writ and authority of the government within its jurisdiction as long as it delivers inside the constitutional frame work. But, beyond written rules and constitutional obligations authorities at the helm of affairs are supposed to give due consideration to merit; adopt compassionate approach and above all think over significance of natural justice towards all vital administrative matters, human rights and liberties in particular. Claims and counter claims regarding the age of a young boy making him eligible for imprisonment is shocking and in no way merit consideration in a civilized society. Of course, we are not at all directly associated with this age issue, but Civil Society has a right to bother and what bothers it most? A young boy either less or more than seventeen years of age, is fading away in prison in the company of hardened criminals, bound to be a much hardened criminal following his release after many years of confinement. It is irrelevant whether Faizan Rafiq has attained the age of seventeen at the time of his arrest; what matters is his future, his education and apprehension of his exposure to harsh surroundings at this tender age. This whole issue exposes the capability and earnestness of the administration in handling such sensitive issues of human rights; inflexibility regarding the Faizan’s age has put murkier shadows on reputation of the government.
Instead of sticking to its guns regarding the age of a young boy to qualify for Public Safety Act, authorities should have explored the possibilities of weaning away youngsters of his age from any negative characteristics. Getting ruffled over inconsequential issues is improper of a responsible administration.

We are in a democracy by choice and by constitutional obligation every act of ours must be in conformity with the fundamentals of democracy. Human rights and liberties are soul of democratic system. Denying someone the right of being subjected to procedure of law and confinement without trial makes democracy inappropriate for the civilized society. Any law bereft of considerate approach towards civil liberties is the major obstacle in dissemination of genuine democracy. Public Safety Act (PSA) and many other such acts in state of Jammu and Kashmir in no way qualify for ‘people’s law’ and require a thoughtful consideration by our lawmakers for amendment and ultimate abolition. Such unsympathetic acts are devoid of compassion and fairness of justice. Faizan Rafiq and many other detainees have every right to defend their isolation from the society and imprisonment without assigning any reason. Particularly, in Faizan case, obstinacy of administration regarding age of the detainee makes the situation much shoddier and mortifying.  
Unless, an infallible and absolute legal mechanism of accountability is established within our administrative machinery while handling situation of public safety and order, democracy will always be the victim of misinterpretation, ultimately resulting in misuse of power.
Undoubtedly, no one can deny existence of democratic system in Kashmir after abolition of autocratic rule of erstwhile Maharaja in 1947, but in real sense egalitarianism and justice the essence of democracy is less noticeable on ground. No improved system of authority or any considerate law can ease out sufferings of mankind unless it is practiced and implemented in a sincere manner without malevolence of any sort against anyone. Democracy is people’s governance, for their own betterment and any deviation from set pattern of equality and justice makes people to lose faith in democracy. At our place democracy is in shambles; in the middle of a whirlwind beyond anyone’s control, where its managers are confused and people uncertain about their fate. Our system claims to be absolutely democratic in character and justified in practice, but as a matter of fact we are either in nascent evolutionary phase of democratization or our political masters are unable to conceive the real shape and form of democracy. Six decades is a pretty long period to envisage, implement and follow a justified system of authority for the betterment of people. Faizan Rafiq is a young boy, alleged to be involved in stone pelting and disturbing the peace and calm in the valley. How far it is correct only thorough investigation in this matter will reveal the facts. Instead of investigating such matters, application of arbitrary acts like PSA in a more controversial manner amount to nothing, less than veiled tyranny.     
Recently several lawmakers of our dignified house tried to justify the autocratic governance of erstwhile Maharaja of Kashmir with logic of occasional compassion towards his subjects and comparatively lesser degree of nepotism as compared to the recent popular governments. This act of theirs in no way suggests glorification of autocracy and demonizing democracy, but their experience with damaged democratic setup tempts them to transitory drifting away from democratic system and inopportune adoration of autocracy. Democratic system, at the moment has no alternative to deliver justice and equality in a more civilized manner. Democracy is inevitable for vigorous growth of dynamic social order; but at the same time requires sanitization at all levels of its application and implementation. To strengthen our immense and uninterrupted belief in democratic system, grey patches like Faizan Rafiq case and many other such cases entail proper application of fundamental rules of democracy, compassion and logic of natural justice.

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