Jobs @ MG
Repression is new ‘mantra’
By Saeed Suhrawardy
|Sangh Parivar has accepted the war on
terror as a ‘mantra’ for the suppression of the constitutional rights
of the minorities. The statements of RSS Chief Mr. K.S. Sudarshan and the
promulgation of Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO) are raising a
twin tower of repression.
The RSS chief Mr. K.S. Sudarshan speaking on Vijaydashmi at Nagpur asked
Muslims and Christians to reinterpret their scriptures and change their
leadership. He observed that the leadership of the two communities
remained in the hands of conflict-mongers. If that was not enough, his
reported call to RSS cadres to arm themselves against any threat has
disturbed the minorities, particularly Christians and Muslims.
Reacting to Mr.Sudarshan’s call to RSS cadres to arm themselves with
licensed weapons, the CPI (M) described it as another form of intimidation
and violence. It was further stated that the RSS was repeatedly proving
itself to be an organization inimical to national unity.
The statement of the RSS chief is likely to adversely affect the ongoing
effort to build bridges of understanding between the Christian community
and Sangh Parivar. Archbishop Oswald Gracias, secretary-general of
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) stated that the call of the
RSS chief is "no different from Taliban’s call to arms."
The demand from Muslims and Christians by the RSS chief for
reinterpretation of their scriptures is reiteration of the views of their
"Guruji" Mr. M. S. Golwalkar. He prescribed that "Muslims
and Christians should alter some of their religious principles to be in
tune with the Hindu faith if they were to prove their commitment to Indian
nationalism and be regarded as Indians."
All the three assertions by RSS chief deserve serious examination. The
demand to re-interpret scriptures is direct onslaught on the
constitutional religious rights of the minorities. Such statements
aggravate the chasm between the minority and majority communities. It is a
disservice to the cause of national unity. The RSS chief spoke in the tone
as if he has become the de facto ruler of the country. Why should the
minorities delegate to him the right to nominate leaders for them? There
is certainly an air of arrogance in the tone and language of his
The responsibility for meeting the internal threats to the country vests
with a democratically elected government. If, according to RSS chief the
NDA government, led by Mr. Atal Behari Vajpai is incapable of discharging
the responsibility, it has no moral right to continue in power. If Mr.
Sudarshan is worried about the threat from Pakistan, it appears that he
has no faith in the capability of our armed forces.
Armed RSS cadres may pose a serious threat to the internal security of the
country. Constitutionally they are not qualified for any role in the
internal and external security of the country.
The Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO) promulgated before the winter
session of Parliament is another blatant attack on civil liberties and
fundamental rights. The definition of terrorism as given in the Ordinance
includes acts of violence or disruption of essential services carried out
with "intent to threaten the unity and integrity of India or to
strike terror in any part of the people." It also extends existing
law by making a crime not to provide authorities with "information
relating to any terrorist activity."
If enacted, the ordinance would reinstate a modified version of the
notorious Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act; (TADA)
repealed in 1995. The law was extremely unpopular because it facilitated
tens of thousands of arrests, detentions and acts of torture violation of
international law. It caused widespread protests. It was used to crack
down on political opponents, social activists and human rights defenders.
The minorities have suffered most by the misuse of TADA. There is no
guarantee that new law shall not be similarly misused. In putting forward
the new law, the Indian cabinet rejected the pending criminal law bill,
deeming it "too weak" to provide a legal framework for combating
It is apparent that the fight against terrorism is being used, as a
justification to extend police powers and undermine the rights to liberty
and due process of law available to citizens and non-citizens alike.
Though the ordinance is based on the UK’s Prevention of Terrorist Act,
the Indian government has forgotten that the European Court on human
Rights objected to the four-day custody period. The police have a negative
influence on the society. They protect only the wealthy and the powerful.
There is a provision in the new law that an accused cannot be released on
bail till a prosecutor agrees or a judge says that there is no case
against the accused. How can a judge come to that conclusion? It gives an
unwarranted authority to the public prosecutor. The risk is there that the
powers may be misused and may lead to miscarriage of justice.
The minorities should join hands with the forces committed to secularism
and democracy to defeat the fascist aims of communal organizations.