~By Inderjit Badhwar
The mob violence in Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh on December 3, 2018, instigated and engineered with malicious intent, which led to the cold-blooded murder of a police officer brave enough to step forward single-handedly to pacify the mob, marks the most dangerous turn yet in the direction taken by the politics of hate in recent times. It shows that in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, the fundamental principles of governance, constitutional ethics and humane social conduct stand perverted. The chief minister of the state acts as a high priest of the agenda of bigotry and majoritarian supremacy—an agenda which now seems to take precedence over everything else.
The paragraph above, brimming with barely controlled outrage, was jointly penned by some 80 retired civil servants who have run the Government of India for several decades serving under different political dispensations. Their devotion to their country and its constitutional value system is beyond question. Among them are stalwarts like foreign secretaries Sujatha Singh, Shyam Saran and Shivshankar Menon who was also National Security Advisor; former Delhi Lt Governor Najeeb Jung; former Ambassador to Japan Aftab Seth and former Punjab and Maharashtra police chief Julio Ribeiro. (see box).
Enough is enough, they are saying. They are also correctly pointing out that it is their duty to protect from anarchy, misgovernance, thuggery and government-instigated violence a country which they have cradled, and actively helped to build and guide into progressive modernism.
“This is a critical moment,” they say in their open letter, “and we cannot take it lying down anymore. We call upon all citizens to unite in a crusade against the politics of hate and division— a politics which aims to destroy the fundamental principles on which our Republic is founded. We ask all citizens to whom constitutional values matter to join us in reasserting our sovereignty as citizens.”
Their immediate aim is to press for the resignation of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for his failure to abide by the Constitution to which he has sworn allegiance. “We know that this can happen, if together, we build a groundswell of public opinion by which we hold him accountable for his conduct and compel him to resign.” They are also asking all citizens to:
- Remind the chief secretary, the Director General of Police, the home secretary, and all other members of the higher civil services concerned, of their constitutional duty to fearlessly implement the Rule of Law rather than the perverse dictates of their political masters.
- Request the High Court at Allahabad to take suo motu cognisance of this incident and order a judicial inquiry supervised by them to uncover the true facts, expose the political collusion, fix responsibility and recommend action.
- Work towards a citizen-led national campaign against the politics of hate and violence—in particular, the structural violence directed against Muslims, Adivasis, Dalits and women—violence which finds sustenance in the structures of political power.
- Salute Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh for his bravery in standing up for constitutional values and refusing to yield to political pressure even at the cost of his life and for setting an example to his children and the younger generation that values matter more than career success.
It is indeed perverse and unconscionable that the Yogi who became chief minister has now officially equated the alleged killing of a cow with the killing of a police officer and described this criminality variously as an “accident” and a “conspiracy”.
P Ambrose, IAS (Retd), Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI
L Bajaj, IAS (Retd) Former Chairman, Administrative Reforms and Decentralisation Commission, Govt of Uttar Pradesh
Bala Baskar, IAS (Retd) Former Principal Adviser (Finance), Ministry of External Affairs, GoI
Vappala Balachandran, IPS (Retd) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
Gopalan Balagopal, IAS (Retd) Former Special Secretary, Govt of West Bengal
Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan, IAS (Retd) Former Secretary, Coal, GoI
Meeran C Borwankar, IPS (Retd) Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research and Development, GoI
Ravi Budhiraja, IAS (Retd) Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI
Sundar Burra, IAS (Retd) Former Secretary, Govt of Maharashtra
Kalyani Chaudhuri, IAS (Retd) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt of West Bengal
Anna Dani, IAS (Retd) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt of Maharashtra
Surjit K Das, IAS (Retd) Former Chief Secretary, Govt of Uttarakhand
Vibha Puri Das, IAS (Retd) Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI
R Dasgupta, IAS (Retd) Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI
Nareshwar Dayal, IFS (Retd) Former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs and former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
Pradeep K Deb, IAS (Retd) Former Secretary, Dept of Sports, GoI
Nitin Desai, IES (Retd) Former Secretary and Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI
Keshav Desiraju, IAS (Retd) Former Health Secretary, GoI
G Devasahayam, IAS (Retd) Former Secretary, Govt of Haryana
Sushil Dubey, IFS (Retd) Former Ambassador to Sweden
P Fabian, IFS (Retd) Former Ambassador to Italy
Prabhu Ghate, IAS (Retd) Former Addl Director General, Department of Tourism, GoI
Arif Ghauri, IRS (Retd) Former Commissioner of Income Tax, GoI
Gourisankar Ghosh, IAS (Retd) Former Mission Director, National Drinking Water Mission, GoI
Hirak Ghosh, IAS (Retd) Former Principal Secretary, Govt of West Bengal
Tuktuk Ghosh, IAS (Retd) Former Special Secretary and Financial Adviser, Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, Shipping & Tourism, GoI
Meena Gupta, IAS (Retd) Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI
Ravi Vira Gupta, IAS (Retd) Former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India
Deepa Hari, IRS (Resigned)
Vivek Harinarain, IAS (Retd) Govt of Tamil Nadu
Sajjad Hassan, IAS (Retd) Former Commissioner (Planning), Govt of Manipur
MA Ibrahimi, IAS (Retd) Former Chief Secretary (rank), Govt of Bihar
Kamal Jaswal, IAS (Retd) Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
Jagdish Joshi, IAS (Retd) Former Additional Chief Secretary (Planning), Govt of Maharashtra
Najeeb Jung, IAS (Retd) Former Lieutenant Governor, Delhi
John Koshy, IAS (Retd) Former State Chief Information Commissioner, West Bengal
Ajai Kumar, Indian Forest Service (Retd) Former Director, Ministry of Agriculture, GoI
Arun Kumar, IAS (Retd) Former Chairman, National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, GoI
Brijesh Kumar, IAS (Retd) Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
Harsh Mander, IAS (Retd) Govt of Madhya Pradesh
Aditi Mehta, IAS (Retd) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt of Rajasthan
Shivshankar Menon, IFS (Retd) Former Foreign Secretary and Former National Security Adviser
Sonalini Mirchandani, IFS (Resigned) GoI
Sunil Mitra, IAS (Retd) Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI
Noor Mohammad, IAS (Retd) Former Secretary, National Disaster Management Authority, Govt of India
Deb Mukharji, IFS (Retd) Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal
Shiv Shankar Mukherjee, IFS (Retd) Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
Pranab S Mukhopadhyay, IAS (Retd) Former Director, Institute of Port Management, GoI
Nagalswamy, IAS (Retd) Former Principal Accountant General, Tamil Nadu & Kerala
Amitabha Pande, IAS (Retd) Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
Niranjan Pant, IA&AS (Retd) Former Deputy Comptroller & Auditor General of India
Alok Perti, IAS (Retd) Former Secretary, Ministry of Coal, GoI
R Raghunandan, IAS (Retd) Former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, GoI
K Raghupathy, IAS (Retd) Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI
P Rai, IAS (Retd) Former Director General, National Skills Development Agency, GoI
P Raja, IAS (Retd) Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission
Babu Rajeev, IAS (Retd) Former Secretary, GoI
Y Rao, IAS (Retd)
Julio Ribeiro, IPS (Retd) Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania
Aruna Roy, IAS (Resigned)
Manabendra N Roy, IAS (Retd) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt of West Bengal
Deepak Sanan, IAS (Retd) Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt of Himachal Pradesh
Shyam Saran, IFS (Retd) Former Foreign Secretary and Former Chairman, National Security Advisory Board
C Saxena, IAS (Retd) Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI
Ardhendu Sen, IAS (Retd) Former Chief Secretary, Govt of West Bengal
Aftab Seth, IFS (Retd) Former Ambassador to Japan
Ashok Kumar Sharma, IFS (Retd) Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia
Navrekha Sharma, IFS (Retd) Former Ambassador to Indonesia
Pravesh Sharma, IAS (Retd) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt of Madhya Pradesh
Raju Sharma, IAS (Retd) Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt of Uttar Pradesh
Rashmi Shukla Sharma, IAS (Retd) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt of Madhya Pradesh
Ashok Vardhan Shetty, IAS (Retd) Former Vice Chancellor, Indian Maritime University, GoI
Rajdip Singh, IPS (Retd) Former Special Director General, Border Security Force, GoI
Sujatha Singh, IFS (Retd) Former Foreign Secretary, GoI
Tirlochan Singh, IAS (Retd) Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI
Jawhar Sircar, IAS (Retd) Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI, & former CEO, Prasar Bharati
Narendra Sisodia, IAS (Retd) Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI
Thanksy Thekkekera, IAS (Retd) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Minorities Development, Govt of Maharashtra
SS Thomas, IAS (Retd) Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission
Geetha Thoopal, IRAS (Retd) Former General Manager, Metro Railway, Kolkata
Hindal Tyabji, IAS (Retd) Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt of Jammu & Kashmir
Ramani Venkatesan, IAS (Retd) Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt of Maharashtra
Arvind Verma IPS (Resigned)
Why is this incident such a frightening indicator of the complete collapse of constitutional values? As the letter states: “This is not the first instance of a situation intentionally created to foment communal tension. The history of UP is replete with such instances. This is not the first time that a policeman has been killed by a frenzied mob. This is also not the first time that the politics of cow protection has been used as a means of isolating and cornering the Muslim community and deepening the social divide.
“All this we have seen before but, so far, we had the confidence that whenever a political party actually forms a government, it keeps its partisan political agenda at bay and begins to exercise power with a sense of responsibility so as to gain wider political acceptability. The Bulandshahr episode, which follows a succession of events aimed at isolating and intimidating Muslim communities in UP, shows that, under Yogi Adityanath, that confidence is misplaced and that hooliganism and thuggery have been mainstreamed into governance not just to intimidate minorities but to teach a lesson to anyone, including police personnel and others in the administration, who dare to be even-handed in their approach to minority communities.”
The letter further avers that while it may be premature to come to conclusions about the murder of Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh before the investigations are over, “there is no doubt that there was nothing spontaneous about the violence that led to his killing, nor is there any doubt as to who the political elements were that aided and abetted the violence. This was a deliberate attempt to display majoritarian muscle and send a message to the Muslim communities living in the region that they have to live in fear, accept their subordinate status and conform to the cultural diktats of the majority”.
Ample videographed evidence exists, says the letter, to show that those engaged in violence and their leaders, as well as those who egged them on, are allowed to roam scot-free, while, at the same time, alleged cow killers, against whom not a shred of evidence exists, are taken into custody, just because they are Muslims. Three of the main accused in the mob violence leading to the death of the police officer flaunt their affiliations to the Sangh Parivar and one of them openly declares that the slain police officer was corrupt, friendly with Muslims and anti-Hindu, implying thereby that he deserved his fate.
The world over, in any civilised society, the killing of a policeman is a more serious offence than any other crime because it represents an assault on the very basis of that civilisation, the signatories observe. “It brooks no tolerance and even the most fractious of social and political groups come together to ensure that the perpetrators of such a crime are given exemplary punishment so that no one ever dares to attack the authority of law. In UP, on the other hand, we are witness to the entire administration, presided over by a chief minister who flaunts his bigotry as his badge of identity, preparing the ground not for bringing the perpetrators to book but for protecting them as defenders of faith and culture. This is the Rule of Lawlessness.”
In a bold and frontal attack on serving officers complicit in the crime, the signatories point out that “with honourable exceptions”, their colleagues in service, in the police and the civil administration, appear to have capitulated readily to this “perverted political order. They seem to have forgotten that their primary allegiance is to the Constitution and the Rule of Law, and that their constitutional status provides them an armour of such extraordinary strength that, had they taken steps to check the growing menace of the Hindutva brigade, they could certainly have prevented the outbreak of violence. Instead, they not only allowed these hooligans to grow in confidence and gather political strength, they helped them gain impunity in their lawless actions.
“Our Prime Minister, who is so voluble in his election campaigns and who never tires of telling us of how the Constitution of India is the only holy book he worships, maintains stony silence even as he sees a chief minister handpicked by him treat that same Constitution with sheer contempt. It is evident that for the Sangh Parivar, constitutional morality is of no value and is necessarily subordinate to the ideals of majoritarian supremacy.”
In what is possibly the most authoritative and scathing denunciation of a government and an administration, by some of the most powerful former civil servants who once ran almost every branch of India’s governance, they conclude:
“Never before in recent history has the politics of hate, division and exclusion been so dominant and the poisonous ideology which informs it penetrated so deep into the body politic. Never before has hate been directed with such calculated intent against minority communities, hate which is nursed, aided and abetted by those in power. Violence has been given social and political sanction and perpetrators of violence have been treated with kid gloves while victims have been punished and harassed.
“It is a measure of the rapid erosion of constitutional values that we, as a group, have felt a compelling need to speak out as many as nine times in the last eighteen months. The pace of erosion has been frightening and with each slip we seem to sink further into a lawless abyss.”