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Posted Online on Saturday 11, February 2006 22:45 IST

Muslim Islamic NewsEt Tu UPA?

Do Depredated Minorities Not Count among the "Public" of this "Nation"? 

By Sampathkumar Iyangar

The Milli Gazette Online

11 February 2006

Justice Nanavati of the Nanavati-Shah Commission inquiring into the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat has an extremely difficult, nay impossible, task of dispensing justice to more than 2000 people who perished in the state-sponsored pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat in January/February 2002. The Commission, set up in March 2002, has received four extensions already, the latest one for six months till May 5, 2006. It may not make much headway by then as very powerful personalities in the country are keen that justice not be done.

First, it was the secretariat of the first citizen of the Republic, President APJ Abdul Kalam, which nonchalantly refused to cooperate with the process. The Commission had appealed to the current President to cooperate with it when it requested Rashtrapati Bhavan to make available certain correspondence between his predecessor K R Narayanan and the then Prime Minister A B Vajpayee. These documents may establish criminal acts of commission and omission on the part of the State and the Central government and fundamentalist politicians of the country.

The President's secretariat wrote back to the Commission bluntly refusing to make the correspondence available for scrutiny. It claimed "privilege" over the correspondence on the basis of article 74(2) of the constitution. This article bars any inquiry by any court into whatever advice is tendered by the council of ministers to the President. Kalam's secretariat claimed the exchange between President Narayanan and Vajpayee's cabinet was in the course of his discharge of his functions as head of state comes under the article's purview. This was apparently an attempt by a grateful Kalam, who owes his appointment to the ceremonial office to Vajpayee's Bharatiya Janata Party, to put a screen over the role of Vajpayee government in Gujarat pogrom.

The Genocide Probe Commission saw through the design and rejected the arguments advanced by the President's secretariat. Taking cognizance of the "high position of the President", the Commission made a "request" to the President's secretariat instead of issuing a "directive" to produce the letters written in the month of March 2002 by Narayanan to Vajpayee. The commission noted in its "request" of May 2005 that these letters were relevant to the inquiry and added that the information contained in the correspondence was not likely to adversely affect security or the interest of the State. [See "Will PM Manmohan Talk Tough to His President on Gujarat Massacre?" < http://www.satribune.com/archives/200509/P1_iyan2.htm > reproduced in Milli Gazette in October 2005.]

K R Narayanan had told a Malayalam periodical that the Vajpayee government had not heeded to his advice to give shoot at sight orders to the army to control the riots. The army had been called out on Feb 28, 2002 but the State government did not deploy it for quite some time and allowed a free hand to ruffians to ransack establishments belonging to Muslims. [See Ex-President Narayanan Reveals Zealots' Role in Ethnic Cleansing of 2002]

Yet another quarter that is keen to deny justice for the hounded minorities, ironically, is the UPA government at the Centre with the supposedly secular Congress Party at the head of the coalition.

No kidding this.

The UPA government has chosen to toe exactly the same line chosen by the Rashtrapati Bhavan. In October 2005, the UPA government formally refused to hand over to the Nanavati-Shah Commission the letters written by former President K R Narayanan to the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on the 2002 Godhra riots. The Central government stated that their disclosure was against public interest!

In a letter to the Commission, handed over to the Commission by a nondescript babu named Jugal Kishore who is an Under Secretary in the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, the Congress-led UPA government said the Union Government had "carefully read the commission's order dated May 11, 2005 and is of the view that the documents are unpublished official record relating to the affairs of the state and the documents contain communications made in strict official confidence." It pleaded that the documents cannot be handed over as "disclosure of the letters would cause injury to public interest."

The commission could not believe that the Central government would take such a casual approach and let an ordinary Under Secretary make submissions of a far-reaching nature.

Is it not in "public interest" that the truth comes out fully and promptly?

The Central government headed by Manmohan Singh, who incidentally belongs to the minority community that suffered devastating damages during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots engineered by Congress ruffians, has virtually admitted that public interest in India does not necessarily include the interests of the hounded minorities. A fresh affidavit was filed on February 8, 2006 before the Commission by Additional Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran to this effect on behalf of Pratyush Sinha, Secretary, Department of Personnel & Training. The UPA government's counsel refused to budge on the earlier stance taken by the Under Secretary on K R Narayanan's correspondence. It reiterated the claim of privilege to the correspondence.

In the affidavit, Sinha says these were disclosures in relation to "privileged class of documents viz cabinet papers in the form of advice and opinion of the highest constitutional authority viz the President and the Prime Minister" qualifying for immunity under article 74 (2) of the constitution. He adds that he had "carefully examined, read and understood" the contents of the letters /documents exchanged between Narayanan and Vajpayee and that much of the documents contain "several important contents which if produced will would seriously prejudice and affect public interest in a variety of ways, consequently affecting the national interest as well."

The Commission noted that Parasaran had not even cared to mention specific dates of correspondence between KRN and Vajpayee in the affidavit. When the Commission specifically questioned Parasaran on this, he said there were several letters written by the President between Feb 27 and Mar 31 of 2002. He termed these documents in the nature of "high level interdepartmental communications by the highest constitutional authority."

Justice Nanavati queried Parasaran as to how a revelation which had been made by the President himself in a Media interview, whose authenticity he did confirm to the Commission in a letter, could harm national interests . He said these were critical documents "which will throw a flood of light on whether there was negligence on the part of the government."

Justice Nanavati's comments on the Central government's affidavit raise some interesting questions:

Who gains by hushing up the contents of President Narayanan's correspondence with the BJP-led government as hapless Muslims were being massacred in Gujarat? If letting the truth come out prejudice public interest and national interest, do depredated minorities not count among the "public" of this "nation" ?

It is high time the Central government takes the proceedings of the Judicial Commission seriously and stops deputing callous officers of uninterested ministries to muddle in the matter. In order to prevent another genocide for "ethnic cleansing" of the region, which fundamentalist politicians are keen upon, the interests of minorities must be recognized as in public interest and national interest.

Sampathkumar Iyangar is a writer and activist based in Ahmedabad. He may be contacted at <sampathkumariyangar@yahoo.com> & <samexotic@gmail.com>

 

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