Open Letter regarding violence and discrimination against minorities in India
There is something about the Narendra Modi government that its minority-welfare record keeps attracting scrutiny. After multiple round of protests from various quarters since 2015, a large group of former senior bureaucrats has flagged the incessant violence going on in the country, especially against the minorities.
These former bureaucrats have written an open letter to PM Modi, also flagging the “lackadaisical response of the law enforcement machinery”. They have sought an immediate and a clear response from the prime minister. The letter is a stinging indictment of the government and has come at a critical juncture, with several key assembly elections lined up this year and the Lok Sabha polls just a year away.
The signatories, 67 in all, include names like Wajahat Habibullah, Harsh Mander, Aruna Roy, N.C. Saxena, Jawahar Sircar and many other former Secretaries to the union government, former ambassadors to various nations and former top-cops.
Here is the full letter:
We, retired civil servants belonging to different Services and batches, wish to register our deep concern at the continuing incidents of mindless violence in the country, especially those targeting the minorities, and the lackadaisical response of the law enforcement machinery to these attacks.
The killing of Mohammed Afrazul, a migrant worker from West Bengal in Rajsamand, Rajasthan, on the 25th Anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid has deeply shaken each of us. The recording of the brutal act on video and the circulation of the justification for the killing over the internet cuts at the roots of an inclusive and pluralistic society drawing its inspiration from the teachings of Buddha, Mahavira, Ashoka, Akbar, the Sikh Gurus, Hindu Sages and Gandhi. The violent incidents in Udaipur in support of the alleged killer are a pointer to how deep the sectarian poison has spread among the population of this country.
In the last nine months, we have seen the death of Pehlu Khan on 3rd April after he was attacked by a crowd of so-called Gau Rakshaks near Behror, Alwar, on 1st of April. The killers named by him have not been arrested so far. However, seven others have been arrested and subsequently let off on bail.
The second killing on 16th of June of Zafar Khan was in the name of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The Municipal Chairman and other Safai Karmacharis in Pratapgarh reportedly beat him to death while he was opposing the naming and shaming process for making Pratapgarh open defecation- free. There is no arrest so far with the police claiming that Zafar Khan died of a heart attack.
The third killing in June 2017, was that of 16-year-old Junaid Khan on a train returning after Eid shopping in Delhi following a dispute over seats on the train when following abuses and insults he was stabbed and thrown out of the train at Asoti station, where he bled to death.
Following an outcry against this incident both within and outside India, the Prime Minister made a statement that “killing people in the name of ‘Gau bhakti’ is unacceptable”. He repeated this once again a day before the Parliamentary session started on 15th of July, 2017, at an all India meeting of the BJP, where he placed the onus on taking stringent action in these cases on the State governments. However, the killings continue without any check.
The fourth killing happened on 27th August 2017, when Anwar Hussain and Hafizul Sheikh, both 19 years of age, who were transporting cattle purchased from Dhupguri in West Bengal to Tufangunj in Cooch Behar. As they got lost on the way, a mob accosted them in the early hours and when they could not pay the 50,000 rupees demanded of them, beat them both to death. Though three persons were arrested for the lynching, efforts to identify others in the mob have not produced any result so far.
The fifth killing happened on 10th of November 2017, when Umair Khan and his friends transporting cows were fired on by so-called Gau Rakshaks in Govindgarh Tehsil in Alwar district. Umair Khan was killed and his body was carried to the railway track in an attempt to destroy all evidence. Of the seven killers, only two were arrested. However, two of the victims, Tahir and Jawed, were placed behind bars.
The Indian Express of December 25 quotes a BJP MLA from Rajasthan – Gyan Dev Ahuja of Ramgarh – who said that “if one engages in cow smuggling or slaughters a cow, he will be killed.” Such language is an open incitement to violence, acts of which are slowly poisoning the body politic and examples of which are listed above. Such words and actions have no place in a civilized society and fly in the face of established jurisprudence. Vigilantism is let loose upon a hapless group with all its tragic consequences.
Apart from the murders, we are deeply concerned to see the acceleration of a process of ghettoization through organized resistance to the sale of properties to Muslims, or refusal by owners to have them as tenants. A recent case reported in the media relates to prevention of a Muslim buyer to take possession of a house in the Maliwara locality of Meerut that he had paid for. The daily indignities that the Muslims face in this and many other ways is bound to lead to an atmosphere of resentment in that religious community that will further vitiate an already poisoned environment. The “love-jihad” campaigns of right-wing Hindu groups are again symptomatic of the efforts by extremist elements of the majority religion to interfere in the basic constitutional rights of citizens to enter into marriage with a partner of their choice.
In the past few weeks in December, we are witness to increasing targeting of Christians around the observation of Christmas. On 15th of December, police detained groups singing carols in Satna. When a group of priests went to make enquiries, they were also reportedly detained by the police. In Uttar Pradesh, the Hindu Jagran Manch warned Christian schools in Aligarh against observing Christmas. In Rajasthan, members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad allegedly stormed a Christmas function on the grounds that this was an attempt at forced conversion.
We seek now and without delay a clear response from the Hon’ble Prime Minister and his government on these issues, along with immediate and firm action against the perpetrators of such hate crimes against minorities in this country by the respective law enforcement authorities.
These recent incidents undermine our Constitutional values and weaken the rule of law to create a new normal in society. Our existing laws provide adequate protection if they are implemented with the necessary will and determination. Legal protection alone, however, is not a solution when the communal virus has already spread far and wide in the society. It is essential for each of us as individuals to reflect on the repercussions of a situation where the present trends could threaten the peace and cohesion that is a fundamental pre-requisite for our growth and development. And for all of us, most of all for those who belong to the majority community, to go beyond mere reflection, to stand up, oppose and publicly condemn the communalization of our society and our country.
1. S.P. Ambrose IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI
2. Ishrat Aziz IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Brazil & Saudi Arabia
3. Vappala Balachandran IPS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
4. Meeran C Borwankar IPS (Retd.) Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research and Development, GoI
5. Sundar Burra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
6. Som Chaturvedi IRTS (Retd.) Former Additional Member, Railway Board, GoI
7. Javid Chaudhuri IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, GoI
8. Kalyani Chaudhuri IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
9. Anna Dani IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
10. Surjit K. Das IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttarakhand
11. Vibha Puri Das IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI
12. Nareshwar Dayal IFS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs and High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
13. Keshav Desiraju IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, GoI
14. Sushil Dubey IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Sweden
15. K.P. Fabian IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Italy
16. Bhaskar Ghose IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, GoI
17. Hirak Ghosh IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
18. Balagopal Gopalan IAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
19. R. Govindarajan IPS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Joint Intelligence Committee, Cabinet Secretariat (in the rank of Secretary to GoI)
20. Meena Gupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI
21. Ravi Vira Gupta IAS (Retd.) Former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India
22. Wajahat Habibullah IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, GoI and Chief Information Commissioner.
23. Deepa Hari IRS (Resigned)
24. Sajjad Hassan IAS (Retd.) Former Commissioner (Planning), Govt. of Manipur
25. Gurbachan Jagat IPS (Retd.) Former DGP, J&K; DG, BSF; Chairman, UPSC; Governor of Manipur
26. Kamal Jaswal IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
27. K. John Koshy IAS (Retd.) Former State Chief Information Commissioner, West Bengal
28. Ajai Kumar Indian Forest Service (Retd.) Former Director, Ministry of Agriculture, GoI
29. Arun Kumar IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, GoI
30. Brijesh Kumar IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
31. Chaman Lal IPS (Retd.) Former DGP, Nagaland.
32. P.M.S. Malik IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Myanmar & Special Secretary, MEA, GoI
33. Harsh Mander IAS (Retd.) Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
34. Aditi Mehta IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
35. Dalip Mehta IFS (Retd.) Former Secretary to GoI & Dean, Foreign Service Institute
36. Sonalini Mirchandani IFS (Resigned)
37. Dr. L. Mishra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Labour, GoI
38. Sunil Mitra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI
39. Ruchira Mukerjee IP&TFAS (Retd.) Former Adviser, Telecom Commission, GoI
40. Anup Mukerji IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Bihar
41. Deb Mukharji IFS (Retd.) Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and Ambassador to Nepal
42. Pranab S. Mukhopadhyay IAS (Retd.) Former Director, Indian Institute of Port management, Kolkata, GoI
43. Sobha Nambisan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Secretary (Planning), Govt. of Karnataka
44. Sivakami Palanimuthu IAS (Retd.) Former Special Commissioner, Stationery & Printing Department, Govt. of Tamil Nadu
45. Niranjan Pant IA & AS (Retd.) Former Deputy Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
46. P. R. Parthasarathy IPS (Retd.) Former Director, Anti-Corruption Bureau, Govt. of Maharashtra
47. K. Sujatha Rao IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, GoI
48. M.Y. Rao IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Orissa State Electricity Board, Govt. of Orissa
49. N.K. Raghupathy IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI
50. Satwant Reddy IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary to GoI, Ministry of Chemicals and Petrochemicals
51. Julio Ribeiro IPS (Retd.) Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & Ambassador to Romania
52. Sayeed Rizvi IAS (Retd.) Former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI
53. Aruna Roy IAS (Resigned)
54. Manabendra N. Roy IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
55. ManMohan Sagar IPS (Retd.) Former CMD, Assam Police Housing Corporation
56. Umrao Salodia IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Rajasthan Road Transport Corporation, Govt. of Rajasthan
57. Deepak Sanan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh
58. Deepak Sandhu Indian Information Service (Retd.) Former Chief Information Commissioner, Central Information Commission
59. E. A.S. Sarma IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, GoI
60. N.C. Saxena IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI
61. A. Selvaraj IRS (Retd.) Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI
62. Ardhendu Sen IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
63. Aftab Seth IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Japan
64. Har Mander Singh IAS (Retd.) Former Director General, ESI Corporation, GoI
65. Jawhar Sircar IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI, & CEO, Prasar Bharati
66. Geetha Thoopal IRAS (Retd.) Former General Manager, Metro Railway, Kolkata
67. Ramani Venkatesan IAS (Retd.) Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. Of Maharashtra