Of crimson cloaks and high-tech daggers, and the missing fig leaf
By Pushpesh Pant | Published: 14th July 2013 12:00 AM |
At the moment a right royal battle is raging between the agency headed by a self-confessed ‘caged parrot’ and aviary that houses predatory hawks whose beaks and talons are seldom seen. They swoop frequently not to conquer but to fall flat on face with feathers badly ruffled and bloodied. The CBI in a belated bid to redeem its honour and claim ‘autonomy’ has only succeeded in inflicting irreparable damage on IB. Thank heavens, the RAW and NIA have escaped fatalities in friendly fire. The wayward frisbee let loose by him can yet behead high and mighty if the dangerous toy doesn’t boomerang on him.
But, first things first—lest we are misunderstood. Any democracy worth its salt has to live by the rule of law. Neither the state nor the Central government—regardless of the ruling party—has any business interfering with the probe or to try vitiating the judicial process. Even alleged terrorists can’t be deprived of life and liberty without due process. Be it Ishrat Jahan and other unfortunate victims of the Gujarat Police or over 135 fake encounters in Uttar Pradesh, a state ruled by an ultra-secular party that also happens to provide a crucial crutch to UPA II for which Modi and Gujarat Police can’t presumably be held responsible.
This brings us to the second, equally significant, point. No state can brook challenges to its sovereignty. The rights of the individual citizen can’t override or curtail sovereignty of the state. India isn’t the only democracy plagued by this problem. The great US, the champion of individual rights and unfettered freedoms, has repeatedly been caught with more than its pants down. WikiLeaks unleashed by Julian Asange and the Snowden affair are only the latest in an inglorious series. The UK, France, Germany, Russia and China all accord higher priority to state (and citizen’s) security over fundamental rights safeguarded in the Constitution. It is worth re-emphasising that while perpetrators of fake encounters must be brought to book, this doesn’t imply that to accomplish this you systematically wreck the entire intelligence apparatus in the country. The rule of law is supreme, but there is a provision for in-camera trial. The highest court in the land can surely be trusted with evidence—in any case, the apex court is the final arbiter of quality of evidence and interpreter of law, guardian of fundamental rights. Alleging complicity, identifying high officials and tainting them with innuendo can’t be accepted as due process of law.
But how can anyone trust the UPA and Congress with protection of state security? Its greatest priority appears survival by hook or crook till the General Elections and hoping against hope to improve its chances at the polls. Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are tormented by violent Maoist rebellion. Oblivious of the threat to the republic, the Congress is shamelessly busy ‘forging alliances’ with Hemant Soren in Ranchi and foisting trusted retainer Ajit Jogi in Raipur. There was a time when Doc Manmohan termed Maoist menace a greater threat than terrorism. Circumstances and internal compulsions of the party seem to have contributed to a change of heart and mind. Not to forget innocent citizens being ‘eliminated with extreme prejudice’ by rogue spooks and criminals in khaki in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and Assam. Congress spokespersons never tire of lecturing the BJP not to ‘communalise politics’ and ‘politicise communal relations’ but what isn’t hidden from anyone any longer is that the Congress itself is guilty of this and more. Salman Khurshid and Digvijaya Singh can best be likened to loose canons. Verbal sophistry and reasonable tone cannot sugar-quote the poisonous pills they purvey. And what about Akhilesh Yadav and SP who recommended blanket withdrawal of cases against hundreds of terror accused belonging to a particular community? Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra are states not ruled by the BJP. These too have been in news for fake encounters. Ishrat must get justice and soon. At the same time others guilty of similar crimes should also be punished. Threats to the unity and integrity of our nation are lurking everywhere—West Bengal, Bihar and Odisha not excluded.
The UPA seems to have perfected the strategy of brazenly stonewalling all legitimate criticism and bulldozing a divided Opposition into submission. The aviator glasses may be missing but Vijay Bahuguna has been flying on empty ever since he assumed office. People in Uttarakhand consider him a greater calamity than the natural disaster. Food security ordinance was forced down our throats on the eve of the Monsoon Session of Parliament.
Will the PM, always weak and meek, and the great game changer—PM-in-waiting—now stop contemplating in sphinx-like fashion the ‘hump on the back of the camel’ but ponder the riddle, “Can the flowing dark or crimson cloaks and long high-tech daggers replace the tattered fig leaf that all can see has gone missing?”
(Pushpesh Pant is a former professor of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)