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Since the inception of RTI Act in Jammu and Kashmir State i.e. from 20th March 2009 to till date, almost a decade now, the perception and fear in the minds of the designated Public Information Officers loom in that only they are responsible for providing information to an RTI applicant and in case any delay happens in providing information to the applicant  than they may attract the penalty as enshrined under section 17 of Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act 2009, that calls for a penalty range from  Rs. 250 to 25000 besides disciplinary action under civil services rules as applicable to the PIO.

But this is not the exact case and the designated Public Information officers must visit section 5 of the Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act 2009  thoroughly, of which a part is reproduced here, section 5(3) “ Every Public information officer shall deal with requests from person seeking information and render reasonable assistance to the person seeking such information”  however section 5(4) and 5(5) clearly provides a sigh of relief to the designated Public Information officers as they read as “ The PIO may seek assistance of any other officer as he/she considers it necessary for the proper discharge of his/her duties”  and “Any officer whose assistance is sought is under sub section 4 shall render all assistance to the PIO seeking  the assistance for purpose of contravention of the provisions of the act. Such other officers shall be treated as Public Information officers”.

It is pertinent to mention here that in Jammu and Kashmir state, the Public Information Officers (minimum  equivalent to rank of Under Secretaries ) are designated by the Public Authorities under section 5(1) of the act and they are suppose to provide information to an RTI applicant within stipulated period of time 30 days in general cases and 48 hours in exception cases related to life and liberty clause.

But unfortunately, often there are complaints from the PIOs that they find it quite difficult to provide voluminous and old information to the applicants within stipulated period of time and in case they fail to follow the time line then the applicant move the next higher authorities to file 1st appeal , 2nd appeal or complaints before the state information commission and a sword of penal provision always hung around their necks as under section 17-s , it is for the PIO to prove his innocence and he had acted reasonably and diligently.

The designated PIOs also complaint of non-cooperation from their colleagues as they feel that providing information under RTI act is the sole responsibility of the PIO and the poor PIOs lacking knowledge of law seldom exercise the option available to them under section 5(4) that is to seek assistance of any officer( senior or junior) and in case the officers whose assistance the designated PIO seeks fails to help then he/she would be liable to the same penalties as they were the designated PIOs.

The fear of RTI law amongst PIO is not only because they do not want to share information or the information is not available with their offices but lack of knowledge of the remedies under RTI act make it difficult for them to dispose of RTI applications under stipulated period of time.

The PIOs if properly go through all the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act 2009 surely they would find it much easier to dispose the RTI pleas within reasonable period of time and the innocent citizens would not be compelled to knock the door of higher authorities. Section 5 of RTI act also clearly states that Only PIOs are not responsible for providing information under RTI Act.

Raman Sharma, is an RTI activist and his email id is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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The State of Jammu & Kashmir is always in highlights of National News for some or the other. The recent event was big enough to stay in headlines for weeks and months. The breakup of alliance between BJP & PDP was as shocking as the building up in 2014 Assembly Elections. The ideological differences between the two parties were widening up since a year. Going deeper into the reason, one thing that can be seen clearly is the issue of Ceasefire. Mehbooba was in favour of stopping all military operations and build a space in hearts of people. However, the other hand, the situation didn't go well even in the the Holy Month of Ramazan ceasefire.

As we further go in, we find more & more reasons are getting clear. Before that, let us have a quick glimpse how it all started. In the 2014 Assembly Elections, PDP promoted themselves without any coalition. They campaigned against BJP saying BJP is Pro Hindu and Pro RSS. BJP, under leadership of Prime Minister of Modi promised major reforms - Removing Article 370, Having Uniform Civil Code etc.But everything turned blank when there was no clear majority. These reforms were the major foundations on which the party was founded, which were ignored.

History is witness whenever there is no clear majority, there is forceful alliance of two different ideologies that want to be in power and is never stable. PDP which was spreading hatred against RSS, now merged with BJP to be in power. The contradiction starts here. Its nothing new to PDP, since the beginning, Mufti has joined hands with National Conference and a long time with Congress in the past to get in power.

Here who is at stake - The innocent citizens/voters. They are being offered two different sets of promises of two different ideologies, uncertain which will be fulfilled. Hence the trust of Public with the PDP CM is shaken. PDP has quite neglected the common people of the state. Hence there were moments of celebration for people when the BJP came out of alliance and the PDP CM has to resign. If we just see the CM and State Leadership of J&K, it has been dominated by the incomplete tenures of family vested Leaders and Governors' Rule. Most of the leaders have treated Kashmir as a private limited company.

Common People and Civil Societies were not given much importance in the state, however, recently civil society under Jammu Kashmir Coordination Committee aimed to address the pertaining issues called upon a global humanitarian leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in the state to interact locals. Sri Sri is a big influence all over the globe who has initiated the conflict resolutions in Columbia, Iraq and other major parts of the world. Never before in the history of the state, had about 12000 people of all backgrounds of the state come to listen a spiritual leader.

As against the good response by the common people, radicals & some people from mainstream parties portrayed it as Hindu backing of the RSS and seeing people connect to him so much, they fear their old tactics to be in power may not work.  In the end, more than the rulers of the state, the people should be happy. Presently, people in state are more happy with the Governor Rule as they think their voice will get heard and a better sense of security will prevail. Recently, PM Modi assured that his agenda for Kashmir is Good Governance, Accountability & Development for all. If PM is sincere in his actions, he will surely receive the respect and regard from people of Kashmir as of former cadre of BJP especially Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishan Advani. 

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Aimed to improve sense of connectedness the social media has undoubtedly broken all the barriers of miscommunication with everyone having at least one social media account. Social media interaction takes many different forms including blogs, business networks, enterprise social networks, forums, micro blogs, photo sharing, products/services review, social gaming, social networks, video sharing, and virtual worlds whereas different technologies like the telegraph and telephone are also counted as social media.

In our part of the world, i.e. in Kashmir despite the sporadic internet, the use of social media is considered as only means of entertainment, as a result it has drew a major impact on every individual's life and on corporations, entrepreneurs, nonprofit organizations, social groups, political parties, and government as well. The general political awareness of the Kashmiri youth is very high. They not only access multiple channels of communication to get news but also have set up their own news dissemination sources  in form of news portals, blogs and social media pages particularly on Facebook.

The use of expressing opinion or statement is not only limited to members of public, but also used widely by the leadership. Former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq are among the top leaders who use social media to communicate with people.

Over the years the social media in Kashmir is used as a tool to express the ‘sentiments’ on different occasions. Though the successive government and security agencies left no stone unturned to curb the social media but failed to do so. In 2016 during the public uprising post Burhan Wani killing, the government put a blanket ban on social media sites. The social media ban turned out to be a colossal failure. Most Kashmiri users switched on to Virtual Private Network (VPN) apps to overcome the ban and what came as a real surprise was that the Who’s Who of Kashmir were all leading a busy social media life throughout the ban.

Last month, the Inspector General of Police Kashmir S P Pani during a presser alleged that a Srinagar resident based in Pakistan had started an online campaign against the slain noted journalist, Syed Shujaat Bukhari. "Minutes before his assassination, Shujaat called me from Srinagar and advised me to take care as the campaign against us from fake social media accounts was getting shriller. His voice was wobbly, so I asked him to call later in the night to discuss in detail. Barely 20 minutes later, news of his cold-blooded murder started flashing. Those who had engineered the campaign may not have executed his assassination, but their hands are equally soaked in his blood," journalist Iftikhar Gilani had wrote.

The militant outfits using social media is now common in Kashmir, most recently a scholar turned militant Manan Wani shot an email to a reputed news agency to deliver his message, the ‘message’ was published however police terming it as ‘propaganda material’ registered FIR against the news agency thus forcing him to put down the article.

Pertinently, since the start of militancy in Kashmir Valley, media houses have been carrying the press releases of militant organizations but this is for the first time that police have objected and have decided to initiate legal proceedings, as such journalist fraternity has expressed anguish and described the police action as direct attack on the freedom of press. They have threatened to hit to roads against such curbs.

Moreover, videos capturing atrocities and human rights violations of Kashmiris including crushing of youths by a government forces vehicle in downtown Srinagar at Safa Kadal and Nowhatta, have dominated the narrative this year and using human shield last year proved to be a major headache for the administration. Pertinently, in March this year, Security agencies in Jammu & Kashmir told the central government that social media is the main source used for “radicalisation” of youth.

In nutshell, the people especially youth will continue to express opinions and sentiments on social media, the time demands instead of curbing the social media and attacking on freedom of expression there is high need to address the issues pertaining to Kashmir over the decades which is resulting in large scale destruction of life and properties.