The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Celebrate stick from Omar

Srinagar, Jan. 25: Join the official Republic Day celebrations or face action, the new Omar Abdullah administration has told its five lakh government employees.

“Heads of the departments and chief executives of PSUs stationed at Srinagar may ensure their own participation and participation of the employees subordinate to them at the (Republic Day) function,” says the order issued by the general administration department.

Previous governments have issued such orders but this one comes weeks after a successful Assembly election and betrays Omar’s fear of low attendance at the January 26 programmes despite a huge turnout in the polls.

The order says failure to attend Monday’s event at Srinagar’s Bakshi stadium here will be construed as “dereliction of duty and disobedience of government instructions”.

Official sources said people’s absence from last year’s Independence Day programme had made the new government apprehensive and prompted it to issue the order.

The I-Day event was held amid a pro-Independence agitation in the aftermath of the Amarnath land row. A cultural show and a parade had to be cancelled after students refused to participate.

Many mainstream politicians didn’t turn up, forcing the programme to be curtailed. Despite the indifference, no such order was issued last year, possibly because of a feeling among the authorities that the employees would not have paid heed.

Lawyers doubt whether such directives will work. G.N. Shaheen, secretary of the High Court Bar Association, said the government couldn’t force the employees to the event. “This is coercive nationalism and the new government is adopting the same old tricks.”

Calls by separatists to observe Independence and Republic Days as “black days” are common and many in the Valley still respond to them.

Security forces were often asked to turn up in civvies in an apparent attempt to disguise abysmal local participation in the initial years of militancy in the early 1990s.

The Mufti Mohammad Sayeed government had made it a prestige issue to ensure participation in such events. Villagers were bussed to Srinagar on at least one occasion.

Officials said they expected a large number of students this time. “We have roped in students from some schools for the cultural programme,” an official said

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