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Modi govt has taken the right action on J-K

By B S Raghavan
November 22, 2019 18:52 IST

'Having dealt with security and insurgency for 15 years, I am fully convinced that the steps taken by the government in regard to J&K and the measures in force there are essential,' says B S Raghavan, the distinguished civil servant.

IMAGE: A security person stands guard in downtown Sringar. Photograph: Umar Ganie for Rediff.com

The National Democratic Alliance government's security precautions while taking action to set right the Constitutional absurdities in respect of Jammu and Kashmir militating against the sovereignty and integrity of India for 70 years have become grist to the mill of the English-educated, elitist liberal intellectuals whom we might call ELIs for short.

They are the ones who preen themselves as the country's guardians and custodians and upholders and enforcers of all the values and virtues governing the conduct of human beings and functioning of institutions.

 

To the extent they serve as the checks and balances against waywardness and arbitrariness of individuals and institutions, they play a welcome role. But this role they must play after due deliberation and with profound discernment and deep and dispassionate understanding of the implications and ramifications of issues they take upon themselves to project.

Otherwise, they become obstructionists standing athwart the country's progress. They may even end up aiding and abetting those who are out to destroy the very foundations of the unity and integrity of the country.

As regards Jammu and Kashmir, the ELIs could not find any scope to quarrel with the substantive part of the government's decision having to do with the negation of Article 370 of India's Constitution and the attendant rescission of Article 35A.

The misguided nature and the mischief potential of Article 370 was evident even at the time the Constitution was being was being made, and that was why Dr B R Ambedkar refused to have anything to do with it.

Jawaharlal Nehru had to invoke the aid of his hatchet man for J&K, N Gopalaswami Ayyangar Iyengar, to sponsor it and implore a most reluctant Sardar Patel to propose it.

There was overwhelming opposition to it in the Constituent Assembly and it could be overcome only because Patel, in a weak moment, obliged Nehru for old times's sake.

Article 35A is a monstrosity both in regard to its indefensible content and in the manner in which it was smuggled into the Constitution by a Presidential Order purported to be authorised by Article 370.

It made J&K a country within a country, with the sovereign right to define and declare the classes of persons who are, or shall be, permanent residents of the state and conferring on such permanent residents any special rights and privileges or imposing upon other persons any restrictions it deemed fit.

Incising a festering sore of 70 years was bound to be a painful operation fraught with possibilities of wanton destruction of life and property instigated by troublemakers, anti-social and anti-national elements, militants and terrorists within the state and from across the border.

It was the bounden duty of any government worth its salt in such a contingency to maintain peace and order and to safeguard the rights and interests of the 12.5 million population of the state.

Britain, the birthplace of the Magna Carta, France, which went through a bloody revolution in the cause of liberty, equality and fraternity, and the US, which conceived the Bill of Rights -- all of them genuine, not paper, democracies -- when faced with threats to their security, did not hesitate to resort to legislative and policy measures drastically curtailing the rights and liberties of citizens.

Following the felling of the twin towers of New York's World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001, the US, which ELIs hold in high esteem, put on the statute book the most draconian law imaginable in the name of 'Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act' (popularly known as the Patriot Act), providing for sweeping powers of wiretaps, surveillance, detention and deportation.

Twenty years down the road, it is still keeping under detention without trial a number of suspected and potential terrorists in Guantanamo Bay.

Indeed, as early as in 1984 itself, the US adopted a preventive detention act allowing federal courts to detain arrestees pending trial for protecting the safety of persons and society. The act was challenged before the US supreme court in United States v Salerno in 1987. The court held that the law did not violate due process.

Since then a number of states in the US had enacted preventive detention laws. Similarly, the Patriot Act also had withstood judicial scrutiny.

India's founding fathers, notwithstanding their experience of British lathis and bayonets and their passion for civil liberties, nevertheless subjected fundamental rights to reasonable restrictions in the interest of security of the State and public order.

It was absolutely imperative for the government to put in place in J&K, ahead of its repeal of Articles 370 and 35A, security measures, including detention of the so-called leaders who were, in effect, siphoning off the state's coffers for their own aggrandisement and who had let militancy and terrorism grow right under their nose.

It was these security precautions that have ensured total peace to reign in J&K in the wake of the momentous and historic decision which no government in the past 70 years had dared to take.

According to the status report placed before the Rajya Sabha on November 20 by Home Minister Amit Anilchandra Shah, the situation was normal in the state and there was no curfew under any of the police stations.

Availability of medicines was adequate, health services are fully functional, and educational institutions have reopened. Communications have been restored except for the ban on the Internet.

The home minister's justification for it on the ground that it will facilitate the death-dealing activities of terrorist elements is not without substance.

According to Shah, the number of detentions made since August 5 was 5,161, of whom only 609 were still in detention; of them, again, 218 were stone-pelters.

The numbers are conspicuously minuscule compared to the total population (12.5 million) of the state and pale into insignificance before more than 100,000 persons detained under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act for 18 months during the Emergency, of whom more than 1,000 were prominent members of political parties detained just because they were in the Opposition.

Thus, the hue and cry of the ELIs and some international organisations that human rights have been thrown into jeopardy in J&K is nothing short of wilful vilification.

ELIs and human rights groups need to understand that in real life, national security imperatives have to take precedence over theoretical postulates on human rights, particularly when, as in J&K, dangerous elements are at large who are responsible for countless deaths and who still are waiting in the wings to pursue their lethal aims.

I consider myself no less libertarian than the ELIs, but having dealt with security and insurgency for 15 years in various capacities, and studied how advanced democracies have dealt with similar situations, I am not only satisfied, but fully convinced that the steps taken by the government in regard to J&K and the measures in force there, are essential in the present juncture.

Indeed, the government could not have done less without opening itself to the charge of being remiss in the performance of its duty.

B S Raghavan is a former member of the Indian Administrative Service who was director, political and security policy planning in the Union ministry of home affairs, and concurrently a member of the Joint Intelligence Committee, when Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi were prime ministers, and the chief secretary of a state.
He handled issues relating to insurgency and national security during the Chinese invasion in 1962, the war with Pakistan in 1965, the Mizo rebellion in 1966 and the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.

B S Raghavan
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