Madhu Kishwar responds to arrest warrant against her for criticising pro-separatist elements in Kashmir

Madhu Kishwar, social activist, professor and the founder of Women’s Rights organization Manushi, has been served with non-bailable arrest warrants reportedly for speaking against a journalist, whom she had accused of having a pro-Pakistan tilt in reportage of the newspaper he edits. She has issued a statement about the same.

The journalist in question is a person named Shujaat Bukhari, who is currently the editor of a newspaper called Rising Kashmir. Earlier he was reported to be with the left-leaning newspaper The Hindu, and Ms. Kishwar terms him someone who finds favour with the leftists as he pretends to stand for Human Rights, albeit only those of the terrorists.

She alleges that even though Bukhari took money from various State and Central government agencies via ads and DAVP (Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity), he continued to parrot the Pakistani script around the unrest in Kashmir valley.

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This reportedly irked Bukhari and he filed a criminal defamation suit against Ms. Kishwar in December last year. Kishwar, in her statement, has alleged that when it comes to the court proceedings, she has been meted out an exceptionally harsh treatment, possibly because of the people she was speaking against.

She informs that Shujaat’s brother Basharat Bukhari is a senior cabinet minister in the Jammu & Kashmir government and his family is part of the power establishment of Kashmir. Not only that, he is well connected with the separatist groups.

On 3rd Dec 2016, the Criminal defamation against her was listed as the first case in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Srinagar and CJM Masarat Shaheen issued a bailable warrants against her on the same day. She argues that as per the IPC and the Ranbir penal Code operative in Kashmir, she should at best have been issued summons.

She also argues that it was not required of her to personally appear in the case as per a precedent set by the Supreme Court, which says that personal appearance can be exempted when the accused is a woman and/or living far away in another city or state and/or is a senior citizen and/or is in poor health. She meets these criteria.

Apart from that, she lists another reason for not appearing in the court; her safety would have been in danger had she visited the valley. But on 20th March this year, the CJM ended up disposing off her application seeking permanent exemption and directed her to appear before court on or before 3rd April. Kishwar decided not to comply due to the aforementioned reasons and fears, and now the CJM has served non-bailable arrest warrants against her.

She has pointed out that Bukhari has not denied her charge that his paper was pro-separatist and followed the Pak agenda. She also asked as to who paid for his multiple trips abroad and helped him set up three newspapers. She says that Manushi keep a transparent record of donations and earnings, and thus she expects Bukhari to do the same.

Ms. Kishwar now has option of petitioning the J&K High Court for a stay order against the arrest warrants and a plea to transfer the cases away from the state as she fears not only for her safety, but a lack of fair trial to her given how the CJM had behaved.

As she rightly points out, the incident has not attracted any outrage from those who claim to be for freedom of expression and free speech. The lot that screams at top of their voices when a left-leaning or anti-Hindutva person faces heat of the law is now keeping a strategic silence. In fact, “Emergency” and “attack on free speech” was claimed when a case related to financial misdeeds was registered against anti-Modi activist Teesta Setalvad, but the same lot is now busy looking other way.

Her case only reinforces who and what is the real establishment in India.

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