By Sarita Rani
Compulsive public interest litigator ML Sharma can be a pain. But he has on occasion and perhaps by accident been of service to the legal community and it is to be hoped that his Christmas-eve PIL against the MHA surveillance order is taken seriously by the Supreme Court.
The Indian government’s charter to 10 security agencies to snoop on its own citizens is not only illegal and bad in law, it offends the senses. All six of them.
It is a malicious notification that should have been aborted at the very moment of conception. By this government and the previous one.
What is especially worrying, India’s Intelligence Bureau, which tops the list of agencies authorised to snoop into the private communication of citizens, has no charter under Indian law post-independence.
That is a fact, not a claim.
The IB was born not long after the British East India company faced its first great revolt in 1857. Its mandate: to keep the colonial government “fully informed of everything affecting the public peace and order, which can be be made the subject of observation.”
For those who don’t remember, 1857 was bloody – over a 100,000 people died; it was widespread; it started in superstition but eventually spread across caste, class, and religion; and it lasted over a year.
It is known as India’s first war of independence in which a Hindu soldier lit the fire and a Mughal emperor became the rallying figure behind whom everyone was prepared to unite.
The last fact and the brutality of the Siege of Cawnpore led the British empire to dissolve the East India Company and directly take over its colony by the Government of India Act of 1858.
India became an official Crown vassal state and the Queen appointed her first Secretary of State to India.
She also soon became “Empress” of India and her loyal servant, the Right Honourable Richard Asheton 1st Viscount Cross, came to be the 8th Secretary of State on August 3, 1886.
Unlike most of his predecessors who barely lasted months on the job, Cross would flourish in his new position. As Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli’s home secretary for six years (1874 to 1880), he had been specifically chosen for this job.
Within six months of taking over, Cross wrote a letter, dated March 25, 1887, Secret Dispatch No 11, to the Viceroy’s Camp in India.
He asked that a system be set up for “collection of secret and political intelligence in India.” Specifically, any observation “with particular reference to the expedience of employing especially qualified natives in those parts of the Empire, notably the Punjab and Hyderabad, which are exceptionally exposed to political intrigues or dangers.”
The Viceroy of India at the time was the much-traveled Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, also known as the first Marques of Dufferin.
He’d come from Egypt and Lebanon, would move from India to Canada, his end would be ignominiously ignoble as his mining company would dissolve in a cheating scandal, but he would remain forever beloved. A British Columbia island would be named after him.
On November 15, 1887, though, Dufferin wrote back to Cross saying he had come up with a scheme to collect Intelligence on the natives
Dufferin enclosed copies of reports from two officers – Colonel Henderson and D.E. McCracken. The plan was two-fold, based on the kind of territories in India at the time.
(a) In British controlled provinces, Dufferin planned to use the services of the police force.
(b) In native ruled princely states, he planned to use “the existing means at the disposal of Political Offices, for the collection of intelligence on political, social and religious movements¸ the nature of which is fully explained in the accompanying papers.”
Dufferin believed that Indians would object to the creation of a large British detective force stomping all over the place.
Besides, it would defeat the very purpose of stealth. His plan was to ask local governments to collect intelligence for their own purpose and report relevant information to the Government of India.
Dufferin planned to have the fewest possible of his own men at the local and central level to receive and analyse this information.
And where necessary to inquire and act on it.
Remarkably, this continues to be the Intelligence Bureau structure and mandate.
To be entirely specific, the Intelligence Bureau’s mandate is:
– To collect intelligence on political, social and religious movements in the country on behalf of the state. Translation : For the party in power at the centre.The subject group includes all politicians of all political parties, dissident political and non-political groups (violent or non-violent) and religious groups that the state wants to keep an eye on.
In today’s English, the IB’s formal and legal mandate is Oppo Research, Spying on Dissidents and Profiling.
The first eight directors of the Intelligence Bureau (DIBs) in Independent India: (clockwise from top left) T.G. Sanjevi Pillai, BholaNathMullik, S.P. Verma, M.M.L. Hooja, A. Jayaram, S.N. Mathur, T.V. Rajeswar, R.K. Kapoor. Credit: Assembled by The Wire from police publications.
How does it do that? A complicated structure of information gathering, evaluation and action have been in place for the last century.
The Central IB has its own units in various states called Subsidiary IBs. In the British Era these were called the Provincial Special Branch. This is a lean staff. It works largely through the local police and State Intelligence branches (not to be confused with the Subsidiary IB)
The distinction between the Subsidiary IBs and the State IBs is important.
Subsidiary IBs report to the Centre while State IBs report to the State government. If the political parties in power are different at both places, trouble can ensue.
Especially given the vicious political environment in which the country has been operating in the last two decades
Since there is no legal mandate anyway for the Intelligence Bureau and no oversight – intelligence sharing and information withholding, depends entirely on a system of back channels. An attempt to pass a security services bill in 2011 actually tried to formalize the back-channel sytem as a “security measure.”
State IB reporting to Party B, may not be able to share information with SubIBs or with each other, if they are not alliance partners. Or if the alliance has soured. The souring of relations between AP and Centre is a case in point. To complicate matters, Andhra may want to spy on Telangana or vice versa. Or Bihar way want to spy on Orissa.
After all, a significant part of the intelligence agenda is political by mandate.
So what do they do? They walk all over each other’s’ legs and come in each other’s way.
But if all this is so obviously murky and stupid and a real dingbat idea, how and why does it happen at all?
Surely, there is someone in 70 years of Independence who saw through this whole scam, came to power and said this should stop? After all, no one stays in power in all the states, all the time.
The party that wields an intelligence bureau today, knows that it will be at the receiving end of it a few years later. So why does this go on?
In 1888, when McCracken became the first director of the Intelligence Bureau in India he was officially the assistant general superintendent, Thagi and Dakaiti Department.
From this vantage point, he would frequent the lavish living rooms of kings, viceroys, nizams and maharajas with as much ease as he roamed the backrooms of dingy police stations.
In People’s Maharaja the authorised biography of Amrinder Singh, Khushwant Singh makes a passing mention of McCracken as a tale-tattler and gossip monger, writing to a deputy secretary about the Maharaja of Patiala’s private marriage to the Irish Florry Bryan.
This is pretty much how the IB has continued to function post Independence.
With no direct recruits really, it draws from and deputes to, the Indian Police Service, the Indian Postal Service, the Indian Administrative Service, the Indian Revenue Service – basically from anywhere it sees “talent” and to anywhere it sees the need.
The next eight DIBs: (clockwise from top left): H.A. Barari, M.K. Narayanan (he served a second term as DIB after R.P. Joshi), R.P. Joshi, V.G.Vaidya, D.C. Pathak, Abhijit Mitra, ArunBhagat, Shyamal Dutta. Credit: Assembled by The Wire from police publications.
The British era Thagi and Dakaiti department has been replaced by anti-Naxal departments, the anti-terrorist cells, the anti-smuggling departments, counter-intelligence department, anti-FICN department etc. Basically, any department you might notice with extraordinary legal powers that necessarily abrogate Schedule III of the constitution.
Since the Indian social system, of which the judicial system is but a part, is quick to chuck its fundamental rights and freedoms in the gutter at the mere mention of a possible physical threat – fear is the key. If a real cause for fear does not exist, manufacturing fear is really easy.
But the story doesn’t end there. While McCracken was answering to his British masters, a good question to ask is: Who does the IB answer to today?
Technically, it is listed as answerable to the Minister of Home Affairs. But – and this is true – “there is no act of the Indian parliament nor executive order relating to the functioning of the IB.” None.
Despite a budget of Rs 1500 crores, this organisation is not a legal entity under Indian law. Worse, this is not unknown to the judiciary.
In 2012, a former IB officer filed a PIL, asking the organisation to explain its constitutional or statutory sanction. Senior IB Officer RN Kulkarni told the court, “all that the IB has to explain for its evolution over the past 125 years is the British order issued in 1887. Neither the Indian Independence nor the adoption of a Constitution nor even regulatory statutes for Central police organisations like the CRPF nor CISF ever accorded any legal status to the IB, which exists in a constitutional vacuum.”
When the court asked the Centre to explain its position, it responded saying:
“the IB is a civilian organisation which does not enjoy police powers.”
The retired IB Officer, R.N. Kulkarni, went on to write a book called Sins of National Conscience, which is not available at any bookstore.
In 2015, in the Priya Pillai lookout notice case, counsel for the Greenpeace activist Indira Jaising successfully argued that the IB had no authority to issue a LO circular. Justice Rajiv Shakdher found merit in Jaising’s argument that a home ministry’s office memo of 2010 was not a valid legal mandate and ruled it “unsustainable, as it cannot be described as law.”
In 2017-2018, the home ministry continued to acknowledge the lack of legal mandate for IB when the 8 PPMDS and 26 PMMS medals for the IB had to be categorised under the Union Home Ministry, instead of a legal intelligence body.
The past eight DIBs: (clockwise from left to right): K.P. Singh, A.K. Doval, E.S.L. Narasimhan, P.C. Haldar, S.N. Mathur, S.A. Ibrahim, Nehchal Sandhu, Dineshwar Sharma. Credit: Assembled by The Wire from police publications
Yet, this hasn’t deterred intelligence officials from pursuing their own mandate. In 2012, the same year as India celebrated its 65th Independence anniversary, the Intelligence Bureau celebrated its 125th year of founding. It even brought out a special issue to mark the occasion.
The IB sees itself as coming from an older tradition than Independent India. At its very core, it pays homage to a set of values that are not compatible with the idea of freedom and liberty. In its very founding, history and traditions, it is anti-freedom.
How could it be different? It was founded to suppress voices against empire.
A hundred and twenty-five years of traditions of empire – whichever one they choose to serve for the moment – may modernise such organisations. But no amount of time changes the essentially status quoist nature of such organisations with such a strong culture.
To give private organisations with no police authority overt sweeping powers to snoop and surveil citizens of India is to enter Gulag territory.
Yes, we always knew some people were always under surveillance. Yes, having nothing to hide is a good thing. But no this isn’t as small an issue as everyone want to believe it is.
In an era when criticism can get you thrown into jail on charges of sedition or under the National Security Act; when the system of checks and balances has failed; when the social contract does not exist; then all free thought is a possible trespass. Because freedom itself is a violation of the status quo.
The contours of contest ahead
By Mahesh Rangarajan
This summer will see a carnival of democracy in the general election. Much has changed in just five years. The elan of Narendra Modi’s party is more muted this time. Last weekend, key opponents, the Samajwadi Party and the BahujanSamaj Party, joined forces in Uttar Pradesh, making the contest real and not a walkover. The Index of Opposition Unity cannot predict outcomes but no one can afford to ignore it.
The Congress’s victories in the Assembly elections in three north Indian States have given it a shot in the arm. Equally important, the older party is firming up alliances in the southern States. The 131 Lok Sabha seats in five States (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana) and two Union Territories (Lakshadweep and Puducherry) have been critical to it in times of trouble.
The Telangana poll outcome was sobering for both the large national parties. Regional nationalism is not new to Indian politics: Jammu and Kashmir and Tamil Nadu were precursors. Regional formations have long governed West Bengal, Odisha and now Telangana. They may well hold the keys to power in New Delhi.
In 2014, it was the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that led in securing allies. Between then and now, BJP president Amit Shah has helped expand its footprint. Not only does it have more MLAs than the Congress, but its cadre fights every election like there is no tomorrow.
The challenge lies elsewhere. The Congress may have lost in 2014 and come down to a historic low of less than one in five votes cast. Yet, only a decade age, in May 2009, the roles had been in reverse. It was Congress that had then polled 29% and the BJP just 19% of the popular vote.
This time is different. It is 1971 that will be the textbook case for the ruling party. When the Grand Alliance said it would oust Indira Gandhi, she replied she wished to banish poverty. She won hands down.
Mrs. Gandhi did not have to contend with a powerful Dalit-led formation in the Ganga valley which commands 20% of the vote. Many of today’s regional parties were yet to be formed. She captured the public imagination. It was a gamble and she won hands down. Mr. Modi too will fight to the last voter. He will try to be the issue. He has sounded the tocsin against dynasty, caste and corruption. Hence the record in getting visible benefits to the individual and the family. The gas cylinder, the light bulb, that rural road: each will, he hopes, add to his appeal.
History has another instance too. The 2004 general election was held early. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was confident that ‘India was Shining’. The dream came apart on counting day. Rather than a unified Opposition (for there was none in the all-important State of Uttar Pradesh), ground-level discontent denied the ruling alliance another chance.
And yet, there is the cloud of the horizon. Even in 2004, the Congress was only a whisker ahead of the BJP — just seven seats more in the Lok Sabha. The Congress had 145 seats to the BJP’s 138. The key was on the ground, where the mood had shifted. The economic upturn began in 2003, but voters did not see gains early enough for the ruling bloc to reap an electoral harvest.
In 2014, the challenger drew on the tiredness with a decade of a Congress-led government and promised a fresh start. Runaway inflation and the spectre of corruption undercut the appeal of the Congress. This time the issues have changed. It is the squeeze on farm incomes and rural debt that are the key poll planks. Similarly, the issue of jobs is more pressing than ever. Cultivators across all strata and young people seeking productive employment want answers.
Two States are key. Maharashtra, a State critical in the histories of both the Congress and the BJP, is not only seeing a coming together of Opposition forces; it is undergoing drought and rural distress. Ominously, key farmer-led allies have walked across. Uttar Pradesh, a bastion of the BJP, has rival Dalit- and Mandal-led parties coalesce for the first time in a quarter century. Both States have something in common. In both, sugarcane cultivation is a determinant of electoral fortunes.
Cane (not caste) and jobs (not community slogans) may hold the key. Ganna and Naukri, not reservations or the emotive Mandir issue. What matters more: bread or identity? Even when both count what takes precedence?
Government policy has had a key role in this denouement. By according priority to consumers in cities (who want low prices for cereals, oil seeds and pulses), the government did not have to pay heed to rural residents who need to earn more. The latter, as producers, are larger in number and percentage than in any other democracy.
India still lives and votes in its villages. Under Mr. Shah, the cadre, organisation and outreach have made the BJP a vastly larger party than any other. But economic policies can strain such organisational gains.
Democracy is about more than development. In a polity where people can throw their rulers out, it is centrally about politics. Since 1999, there has been a bi-nodal system, and the choice is not simply between Mr. Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
We have effectively a one-party government with a firm hand on the wheel (but with the danger of an over-centralisation of power).
Against this, is ranged a looser coalition in which regional forces and rural interests have more play. Needless to add, the latter will be rockier, more contentious and tough to manage in a coherent fashion.
The Modi government is driven by ideology and not pragmatism on a range of issues. This is the first ever BJP government with a view of culture, history and politics that seeks to remake history as much as the future. Is this the party’s agenda or the country’s? This is a question in the background: if the Ram temple issue comes to the fore, it will be a major choice for the voter.
The pluralism and Hindutva debate have another dimension more so than ever, namely the federal question. Across the Northeast (including Sikkim), far more important to the country than its 25 Lok Sabha seats indicate, the idea of citizenship is at variance with the new Citizenship Bill passed by the Lok Sabha. Across the country, State-level parties see an accretion of powers in the federal government unseen since the 1980s.
True, Mr. Modi has a wider mass appeal than any one since Mrs. Gandhi. But history is witness that such appeal can also have limits if voters decide that enough is enough. Has that point been reached? We simply do not know.
More central is the question of questions. Are you better off than you were five years ago, and if not, why not? If so, and even if not, do you think we are moving in the right direction?
In 2014, The Economist observed that if India had the per capita wealth of Gujarat, the country would rank with Spain. Has that dream come true or it is unravelling and fast? How voters answer that will show who they stand with.
(The writer is Professor of History and Environmental Studies at Ashoka University, Haryana. Source: The Hindu)
Headwinds rock Rahul, Modi
By Jawed Naqvi
Recent headlines have offered clues about the way the wind is blowing before the general elections in India. A make-or-break element in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s re-election bid in May lies in Uttar Pradesh. It was here that he swept the 2014 polls on the back of anti-Muslim blood and gore set off in Muzaffarnagar, what some in the prime minister’s choral media have praised as ‘Modi Magic’. Spurring his win in the country’s most populous state was a palpably disharmonious opposition. That may have changed this year — or has it?
Let’s quickly scour the headlines. My first story refers to the Congress party’s bizarre plan to contest all 80 parliamentary seats in UP on its own. What then becomes of the promised coalition?
The second story seemed facetious at first but it describes a crippling fallout on the BJP of its ban on slaughter of cattle in UP. The alarmed party must now contain unwanted cattle in their post-productive state when they become a load on the farmers. Will the revered holy cow be artificially inseminated to produce more cows than bulls, as the animal husbandry minister says? How serious is the looming crisis in a political season?
A fourth story is The Hindu’s damning report by a former Indian supreme court judge, which gathered dust in the vaults of the apex court for over a year, on fake encounter deaths in Gujarat. Will it haunt the BJP together with an equally strong concern expressed by UN rights officials about allegations of widespread killings in Yogi Adityanath-ruled Uttar Pradesh?
And finally, the party’s national convention addressed by Modi where he offered himself as the only choice to lead India, which needs a ‘mazbootsarkar’, a strong government. The opposition alliance can only produce a ‘majboorsarkar’, says he, a government weakened by its own political compromises.
Two of the stories should suffice to indicate the headwinds ahead. The Congress party’s announcement of fighting all seats in UP, came not surprisingly a day after the backward caste Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Dalit BahujanSamaj Party (BSP), once bitter rivals,
declared a joint campaign in 76 constituencies, leaving four for Congress, presumably. In the last vote count, BSP (22.23 per cent) and the SP (28.07pc) totalled more than BJP (41.35pc) and Congress put together. Congress is an insignificant player in UP, and its irresponsible claim to contest all seats makes it a laughing stock given the high stakes in May.
What lies behind the absurdity? The fact is that Congress, perennially described a family enterprise of the Gandhis, is actually a coalition of powerful satraps, usually but not always shored up by Mumbai businessmen.
The business clubs have a chronic allergy to the Gandhis, though they are not averse to backing a Narasimha Rao or a Manmohan Singh in Congress. The allergens are old and damning. Nehru had jailed their leading businessman for corruption, Indira Gandhi had shut their banks, and Rajiv Gandhi ordered them to get off the backs of Congress workers. The tycoons came back hard at him with the Bofors smear though.
In the recent elections in Madhya Pradesh, a local Congress chieftain deemed close to a particular business family, opposed and subverted an alliance with Mayawati’s Dalit party. Congress won but not cleanly and it needs the BSP to sustain a majority. In Uttar Pradesh, the SP has strong ties with key business families, including the one that Rahul Gandhi has named in the Rafael warplanes scandal.
Given the state of play, the young Gandhi should ideally decide whether he wants to be a compromised representative of disparate, even contrary interests as prime minister, something his satraps would like him to be. Or should he be nudging the opposition parties, bereft of common ambition, with a Nehruvian vision to forge a truly durable secular polity?
The left had done this successfully with Indira Gandhi. The model can only strengthen Congress and its essentially left-leaning mass base. See it as a Tony Blair-Jeremy Corbyn moment within the Indian equivalent of the Labour Party. Else, the system in India, a tycoon-run deep state, would continue to harness Congress satraps and the BJP in a bind that undermines the constitution’s fair promise.
Signs of disarray in the opposition should comfort the BJP, but evidently the party for the first time is looking mortally afraid of losing. From ‘Congress-free India’, Modi is now talking about ‘a weak opposition government’. There’s more evidence of panic in Omar Rashid’s story in The Hindu about a cattle market that has collapsed, about stray cows raiding UP farms as impoverished farmers abandon their hungry animals.
Explaining the dilemma, BJP’s minister for animal husbandry said: “UP is a state of small and minor farmers, with two crop seasons. For 15 days of ploughing, a farmer no longer wants to feed two bullocks all year round.” To solve the problem the government has started a sex-sorted scheme under which the chances of a cow producing a female calf would be as high as 90pc to 95pc. Simultaneously, the BJP government is imposing a 0.5pc gaukalyan (cow welfare) cess on liquor and road toll collections, besides doubling an existing 1pc levy on the incomes of wholesale produce markets. The proceeds will fund construction and maintenance of new cow pens.
While the kitten entangles itself in the ball of wool, the opposition should be taking control of the narrative. But Congress, far from offering a vision, which only it could, is saddled with its recent promise to make cow urine economically viable while discussing the grade of the Brahminical thread Rahul Gandhi wears, neither of which is part of the winning calculation for the SP and the BSP.
The social fibre is in disarray
By Tawfeeq Irshad Mir
Kashmir lost its claim to heaven a long time ago but the debate today is not about ‘why’ but ‘who’ caused the paradise to fly away, leaving behind its miserable and yet romantic claimants.Say Kashmir, and the sweet aroma of pine takes over the mind fluttering among images of valley flowers,
While the valley is brewing to shivered cold, resorting to bone ache, and suddenly you get to hear the act, that tender your muscles and your brain starts oscillating in agony. While I was on the way to home, and as usual my phone keeps on beeping with variable feeds, and at a moment my eyes stuck to a feed, mentioning that a baby was thrown outside in a cartoon enveloped in polythene, across the road from the city’s maternity hospital Lal Ded. Not the first time, I got to hear such inhuman act, previously such incidents have filled the social networking sites with tetra byte data.
Kashmir, a Conservative populace with rigid religious beliefs, where such incidents dwindle the heart, to the core and ionise in the surroundings within fraction of the second.
,,, “oh foetid soul, you aren’t a burden,
Your cravings, your presence, is sacred,
” unworthy are those, who abandon you,
,,, “you are born to take nap at the realm of GOD,
This mischievous act is on surge in Kashmir citing numerous incidents in the past, Now concerning the aetiology of this social chaos, : over the years there has been a paradigm shift in the psychological, behavioural, living style of the people inhabiting valley, leading to variant changes, pertaining to psychosexual onslaught, Now we see pre-marital sexual relations, a non-serious concern leading to apathy in the ethos of society, the ramifications of this are vivid and perturbing, the couple especially in their teen ages, moved by their sudden hormonal changes engage in sexual relationships, and in certain cases, unaware of its complications, maybe due to lack of knowledge, debarring the use of protective devices, the female counterpart conceives and remains unaware for most of the time, as fear of surroundings, the societal rejection, the client fears to express the event to parents, till she develops such symptoms, and in reaction, either they go for illegal termination of pregnancy or wait for the term to deliver remaining in isolation carried out in privacy, and later the baby is abandoned.
In certain cases, the baby delivered from legal couple, go for termination, if it’s unwanted, or a female,, called female infanticide “in Kashmir such incidents are on record where foetus laden with blood were found in toilets, on the footsteps of shrines, some years back, an abandoned baby, caught by mob of dogs was noticed outside Lal Ded hospital, such incident shocked the consciousness of people,.
Congenital defects :Every single creation of God is not futile, but I can say, a sheer ignorance, the babies who are born with genetic defects have every right to continue life, even Stephen Hawkins was born with hereditary defect, still he rose to prominence, even normal human couldn’t think ever, contributes to the cause of abandoning babies, recently a horrendous incident captivated the conscious minds of valley where a father tried to Bury his live baby, citing the reasons of poverty, that he can’t afford the care of baby born with genetic defect.
Now describing the risk factors, loosening bondages from religious acuity, problems in socialisation, faults in upbringing, difficulties in coping up with puberty, lack of education, accelerate such incidents.
The treatment is more of a belief than literal.The old age adage holds true everywhere, we should focus on preventive strategies, we should be more religious, because not a single religion advocates such horrendous act, be more conscious when you go for such a relationship, we should profoundly act on such incidents, awareness schedule should be set up,
We need to develop legal resolutions for those abandoned, because we have many childless couples, so as to create balance.
Certainly at the end, those who abandon live births, are abandoning the humanity, the moment they opt for such gigantic mischief, they turn into wilds, and their ability to be human seizes.
(The writer is perusing graduation in Nursing at GMC, Srinagar. He can be reached at: [email protected])