It was an agonising experience to read the chief secretary of Kerala justifying without compunction the police action against terrorists. With least sympathy for terrorists of any sort, be it religious or political, I have to say that the proposition mooted by the chief secretary is unacceptable to the core.
The top bureaucrat is not the competent person to lay down the policy of a democratic, nay, left government vis-a-vis the extent of human rights, constitutional privileges and legal protection available to certain sections of society.
It is pedantic to say that those who deny the rights of others are disentitled to enjoy the same rights for themselves. Jesus said all who take the sword will die by the sword, but it was in a different context. Human rights are available to all human beings irrespective of the quality and purity of their conduct. Our Constitution guarantees right to life and personal liberty to all persons. The guaranty is not confined to those who are obedient and law-abiding.
The chief secretary, in his article written by invitation in a prominent newspaper, has displayed much audacity to equate our soldiers fighting our enemies across the border with police forces trying to protect citizens from terrorists who are also citizens. Even in alien battlefields the soldiers are not immunised from the application of and obedience to international law, covenants and conventions. The police personnel, whether in a combative or complacent mood, are obliged to act within the parameters prescribed by the Constitution and other laws.
The police are the protectors of human rights and that protection extends to violators of law, too. Everyone, including the terrorist, is under the protection of procedure established by law. And that is the beauty of the constitutionally guaranteed rule of law.
The ghastly spectrum of an abhorrent police state loomed large as I went with nausea through the macabre essay of Tom Jose. The Orwellian picture of a totalitarian state is haunting me although we are past Nineteen Eighty-Four. In Kuwait, a not so developed democracy such as ours, I saw police warnings of camera monitoring. Here we are always under camera surveillance. Because all are, in the vicious eye of the police, either suspected spies or potential criminals or toxic terrorists. Every precious and inalienable right is ignominiously carpeted in the name of national interest and public safety.
A constitutionally bridled police force is desideratum in a society where rule of law ought to prevail. The core philosophy of our criminal legal system is based on deep suspicion cast on the police. That is why every opportunity is given to the person in the dock to rebut the police story. The basic flaw in the chief secretary’s approach is the blind faith he reposes in his police force.
The article written in the context of four persons being killed in the forests of Agali describes the dead as cadres of a banned and terrorist-designated organisation and the police action as retaliatory firing. Such blatantly prejudiced conclusions on the part of the chief secretary does not behove because he is a crucial part of the administrative system which ensures the good conduct of the security forces.
The chief secretary is part of the authority or the real authority to recommend and sanction prosecution under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. If he is of the view that the entire state is infested with terrorists of different hues how can he segregate people under UAPA or other anti-terrorist laws? Those who stand for democratic proprieties and etiquette are, in the eye of the chief secretary, human face of terrorists, seemingly benign and innocent but actively malignant and vicious.
To describe Kerala as a terrorist-infested state may be in tune with the narrative of the BJP. When the chief secretary says so he is casting a shadow on his own government. The Chief Minister has to explain whether he is in agreement with the view of his chief secretary.
In times of war draconian laws will rule the roost in the name of safety and security. But the head of a democratic administration shall not crave for such a situation, quoting Burke. He may better quote someone else. His duty is to tackle dangerous and difficult situations in a most democratic and constitutional way. Kill or be killed policy, as delineated by the chief secretary, may be reserved for rarest of rare occasions. There are different possibilities in a catch-all situation.
Ajmal Kasab, the Pakistani terrorist who took part in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, was caught alive and executed after a legitimate trial. If the philosophy of Tom Jose is accepted, it was a wasteful expenditure. But that dilatory exercise made all the difference between India and Pakistan. The general public may crave for anything but we, as a state with legitimacy, have to adhere to certain rules and procedure. We are strong not in our deeds alone but in our indulgences also.
What difference will it make between us and the terrorists if we behave reciprocally like a terrorist? State-sponsored terrorism will breed further terrorism. A mature, civilised and democratic society will disarm terrorists with grit and determination, both physically and ideologically. Court-martials and constitutional courts do not justify Tom Jose....