JAMMU: Raids by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the most sensational and infamous Jammu and Kashmir Fake Gun Licences case raises a question as to how long shall the scammers holding high positions, succeed in dodging the investigations and enjoy the coziness of the power by managing lucrative and authoritative postings on their asking. The recent raids on the residences of an advisor to Lieutenant Governor speak of the enormity of the scandal. By showing him the door, the administration confirmed the wrongs committed. Lingering on for years, the Centre and the UT administrations must have been privy to the status of the case and still they chose the accused to hold the highest positions in the governance. Similarly, the other accused are occupying coveted posts, some of which are directly connected with internal security. Since the licensing authorities are generally the magistrates; the nexus appears to be deeper and wider with fellow bureaucrats acting as shields, which is why the named officers are not placed under suspension pending investigations. Suspension of a big lot of officers involved would have led to speedy investigations without interference.According to media reports, a whopping number of arms licences being issued during over a decade in the terrorism hit Jammu and Kashmir were also being probed by the Rajasthan Police’s Anti Terror Squad. This means that the licences have landed into the hands of terrorists. This is a grave criminal act involving national security. Proprietary demanded that the unscrupulous officers named and involved in the scam should have been treated as ‘terror sympathisers’ and dealt with accordingly. But such an action is too much to be expected when the shield in terms of higher bureaucracy was very strong. This can be substantiated by the observations of a senior Rajasthan Police official on July 19, 2019 precisely a month after the PDP-BJP government packed up leading to Governor’s Rule on June 19 that the Jammu and Kashmir government did not give lists of former special secretaries, deputy secretaries and under secretaries, saying all records were washed away in the 2014 floods (in Srinagar). This shows the element of connivance. Rajasthan Police had flagged several letters to the Jammu and Kashmir Government in 2018. Ironically, none of the letters was responded to.Now that the government has woken up from deep slumber and removed one of the top functionaries, who is under scanner, the process needs to be expanded and expedited to demonstrate the will that it will not compromise with anything that jeopardizes national security. Many of the licenses have allegedly gone to elements inimical to tranquility and harmony. They have the potential to strike at will. Who is responsible for all the mess? Obviously, the officers posted as authorities to issue licenses. They have, intentionally or unintentionally, committed wrongs which are not condonable. Let the investigation agencies investigate. Till then the government can, on its own, remove the named officers from their positions and suspend them, as they did in the case of an advisor. This will send a terse message to the unscrupulous limbs of the administration to desist from wrong doings. This will also help in speedy investigations, as the element of interference will reduce.The license scam has been deep rooted in J&K. According to sources in the Home Department, 37,824 arms licences were issued during 2015 in several districts of the then State with Kupwara topping the tally at 10,978 licences, followed by 6,345 in Baramulla, 5,910 in Poonch and 4,746 in Kishtwar. Similarly, 30,438 licences were issued in 2016 with Kupwara topping the list with 9,340 licences followed by 4,723 in Baramulla and 3,202 in Ramban.In 2017, 13,834 licences were issued with Udhampur district having the maximum number of 2,838.Aggregately, the maximum arm licenses totaling 31,688 were issued in three districts of north Kashmir – Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipora. Owing to security reasons and the privacy of the individuals, the Home Department, however, did not divulge the details of the licence holders.In September 2017, the Rajasthan Anti-Terrorism Squad had busted a well-knit inter-state racket with roots in J&K, which was engaged in issuance of fake arms licences to the people, including retired army personnel.State Vigilance Organization, Jammu has registered FIR (11/18) against the issuing authorities of various districts owing to malpractices and irregularities in issuance of arms licenses.Registrations of cases or raids are not enough to bring culprits to justice. These have taken years and may get stretched to decades. Till then many of the accused might retire or hold posts of importance due to their clout. To eschew these chances, the government must divest all the accused from the mechanism of governance; put them under suspension pending investigations and devise a fast track mechanism to take the case to logical conclusion.
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