By Special Correspondent
New Delhi: Taking strong exception to National Security Advisor Ajit Doval’s ’demonisation’‘of the civil society at the passing out parade of IPS probationers at the National Police Academy in Hyderabad, a group of former top civil servants on Sunday said under the ‘New Doval Doctrine’, activists and human rights defenders would become the ‘arch enemy of the Indian state and the prime concern and target of its security forces’. Referring the statements of General Bipin Rawat and National Human Rights commission chairman Justice(retd.) Aruan Mishra, they said it is a disturbing trend which indicate a deliberate strategy to deny civil society the space and wherewithal for its operation.
In an open letter to the fellow citizens, the civil servants group asserted that they have no affiliation with any political party but believe in impartiality, neutrality and commitment to the Constitution of India.
“A disturbing trend in the direction of the country’s governance has become discernible over the past few years. The foundational values of our republic and the cherished norms of governance, which we had taken as immutable, have been under the relentless assault of an arrogant, majoritarian state. The sacrosanct principles of secularism and human rights have come to acquire a pejorative sense.” the letter reads.
Civil society activists, they said, striving to defend these principles are subjected to arrest and indefinite detention under draconian laws that blot our statute book and the establishment does its best to discredit them as anti-national and foreign agents.
Civil society, a diverse mass of formal and informal groups pursuing their own interests, occupies the vast democratic space outside of government and business.
As the locus of critique, contestation and negotiation, it is an important stakeholder in governance, as well as a force multiplier and partner in the project of meeting popular aspirations.
The group said today civil society is viewed through an adversarial prism.
“Any entity, which dares to highlight deviations from the norms of Constitutional conduct, or question the arbitrary exercise of executive authority, runs the risk of being projected as a foreign agent and enemy of the people.”
At a systemic level, the financial viability of civil society organisations is being progressively undermined by tweaking the legal framework governing foreign contributions, deployment of corporate social responsibility funds and income tax exemptions.
Our anxiety with regard to the articulation of the state-civil society interface has been heightened in recent weeks by statements emanating from high dignitaries of the state, the group said.
On the occasion of the Foundation Day of the National Human Rights Commission, its Chair, Justice (retd.) Arun Mishra, asserted that India’s creditable record on human rights was being tarnished at the behest of international forces.
The Prime Minister, on his part, discerned a political agenda in what he felt was selective perception of human rights violation in certain incidents, while overlooking certain others. And quite shockingly, General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Defence Staff, gave a fillip to the growing menace of vigilantism by endorsing the killing of persons believed to be terrorists by lynch mobs in Kashmir.
Taken together, these portents indicate a deliberate strategy to deny civil society the space and wherewithal for its operation, the group said and added that the contours of this strategy have now been revealed in the New Doval Doctrine propounded by the National Security Adviser.
Reviewing the passing out parade of IPS probationers at the National Police Academy in Hyderabad, Ajit Doval proclaimed: Wars have ceased to become an effective instrument for achieving political or military objectives. They are too expensive and unaffordable and, at the same time, there is uncertainty about their outcome. But it is the civil society that can be subverted, that can be suborned, that can be divided, that can be manipulated to hurt the interests of a nation. You are there to see that they stand fully protected.”
Instead of exhorting the IPS probationers to abide by the values enshrined in the Constitution to which they had sworn allegiance, the NSA stressed the primacy of the representatives of the people, and the laws framed by them, the group stated in the letter.
It would be pertinent to recall here that the term “fourth-generation warfare” is normally employed in relation to a conflict where the state is fighting non-state actors, such as terror groups and insurgents.
Civil society now finds itself placed in this company. Earlier, the term “Urban Naxal” was being used to denigrate individual human rights activists.
“Clearly, under the New Doval Doctrine, people like Father Stan Swamy would become the arch enemy of the Indian state and the prime concern and target of its security forces,” the group warned .
“The NSA’s clarion call for an onslaught on a demonised civil society is of a piece with the narrative of hate targeting defenders of Constitutional values and human rights that is regularly purveyed by the high and mighty in the establishment.”
They alleged that the defining traits of the current dispensation are hubris and an utter disregard of democratic norms. “These were manifest in the steamrolling of a discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Act through Parliament, its linkage with the National Register of Citizens, and the ruthless suppression of the spontaneous protests that erupted in various parts of the country.”
The same traits were in evidence in the enactment of a set of three farm laws without public debate, stakeholder consultations or endorsement by alliance partners, and the high-handed treatment accorded to the agitated farmers encamped at the gates of Delhi.
Their heroic resistance over fourteen months elicited the choicest of epithets from the establishment. Dubbed variously as “Andolanjeevis” (professional agitators), “Left-wing extremists” and “Khalistanis”, they were accused of working at the behest of “Foreign Destructive Ideology”, in a bizarre word-play with the acronym FDI referring to Foreign Direct Investment.
Retired civil servants said electoral compulsions might have led the Prime Minister to announce the decision to repeal the hated laws, but the damage done to the nation’s polity and social fabric will be hard to repair.
“Let us hope that the government will realize the pitfalls of demonising dissent and trying to suppress civil resistance by brute force. It is also hoped that the alumni of the National Police Academy, or indeed our security forces in general, will not be swayed by the NSA’s rhetoric and remember that their primary duty is to uphold Constitutional values, which override the will of the political executive.” Even the laws framed by the legislatures have to be tested on the touchstone of constitutionality and accepted by the people. If this fundamental principle is not accepted, we may turn to the well-known satirical poem “The Solution”, written in a different context by the famous German playwright Bertolt Brecht, which concludes with the following words:
Would it not in that case be simpler for the government to dissolve the people and elect another?
The letter was signed by Anita Agnihotri IAS (Retd.);Salahuddin Ahmad IAS (Retd.);S.P. Ambrose IAS (Retd.); Anand Arni;Vappala Balachandran IPS(Retd.); Gopalan Balagopal IAS (Retd.); Chandrashekhar BalakrishnanIAS (Retd.);T.K. Banerji IAS (Retd.) ;Sharad BeharIAS (Retd.); Aurobindo Behera IAS (Retd.); Madhu Bhaduri IFS (Retd.); Meeran C Borwankar IPS (Retd.); Ravi Budhiraja IAS (Retd.);Sundar Burra IAS (Retd.);R. Chandramohan IAS (Retd.); Rachel Chatterjee IAS (Retd.); Kalyani Chaudhuri IAS (Retd.); Gurjit Singh Cheema IAS (Retd.); F.T.R. Colaso IPS (Retd.);Anna Dani IAS (Retd.);Surjit K. Das IAS (Retd.); Vibha Puri Das IAS (Retd.);P.R. Dasgupta IAS (Retd.); Pradeep K. Deb IAS (Retd.); Nitin Desai M.G. Devasahayam IAS (Retd.);Sushil Dubey IFS (Retd.); A.S. Dulat IPS (Retd.) Former OSD on Kashmir, Prime Minister’s Office, K.P. Fabian IFS (Retd.); Prabhu Ghate IAS (Retd.) ;Gourisankar Ghosh IAS (Retd.); Suresh K. Goel IFS (Retd.); S. Gopal IPS (Retd.); S.K. Guha IAS (Retd.); H.S. Gujral IFoS (Retd.); Meena Gupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary; Ravi Vira Gupta IAS (Retd.); Wajahat Habibullah IAS (Retd.); Deepa Hari IRS (Resigned); Sajjad HassanIAS (Retd.);Kamal Jaswal IAS (Retd.); Brijesh Kumar IAS (Retd.);Ish Kumar IPS (Retd.); Sudhir Kumar IAS (Retd.) Subodh Lal IPoS (Resigned); Harsh Mander IAS (Retd.); Amitabh Mathur IPS (Retd.) ; L.L. Mehrotra IFS (Retd.); Aditi Mehta IAS (Retd.); Shivshankar Menon IFS (Retd.); Sonalini Mirchandani IFS (Resigned); Malay MishraIFS (Retd.); Sunil Mitra IAS (Retd.); Noor Mohammad IAS (Retd.); Avinash Mohananey IPS (Retd.) ;Satya Narayan Mohanty IAS (Retd.); Deb Mukharji IFS (Retd.); Shankar Mukherjee IFS (Retd.); Gautam Mukhopadhaya IFS (Retd.); Pranab S. Mukhopadhyay IAS (Retd.) and others.