Civil society is being demonized and treated like terrorists and insurgents, former civil servants express concern


  • November 29, 2021
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The National Security advisor Ajit Doval, while addressing the passing out parade of IPS probationers at the National Police Academy  in Hyderabad, recently proclaimed, “The new frontiers of war, what you call the fourth-generation warfare, is the civil society.”

 

A group of former civil servants of the All India and Central Services on Sunday wrote an open letter to Indian citizens, expressing their concern and criticizing recent statements made by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other high-ranking government officials about the country’s civil society. The open letter signed by 102 former bureaucrats noted that the civil society is being demonized and held in the same category as terrorists and insurgents. Referring to Ajit Doval’s speech, they wrote, It is pertinent to note that the term ‘fourth-generation warfare’ is normally employed in relation to a conflict where the state is fighting non-state actors, such as terror groups and insurgents. Civil society now finds itself placed in this company. Earlier, the term “Urban Naxal” was being used to denigrate individual human rights activists. Clearly, under the New Doval Doctrine, people like Father Stan Swamy would become the arch enemy of the Indian state and the prime concern and target of its security forces.”

 

Calling the NSA’s clarion call for an onslaught on civil society, a part of the narrative of hate targeting defenders of Constitutional values and human rights, the signatories, under the Constitutional Conduct Group, ended the open letter hoping that the government will realize the pitfalls of demonising dissent and  trying to suppress civil resistance by brute force.

 

Copy of the open letter is attached below.

 

CCG OPEN LETTER TO CITIZENS OF INDIA 

CIVIL SOCIETY: ENEMY OF THE STATE? 

 

28 November 2021 

Dear fellow citizens, 

 

We are a group of former civil servants of the All India and Central Services who have  worked with the Central and State Governments in the course of our careers. As a group, we  have no affiliation with any political party but believe in impartiality, neutrality and  commitment to the Constitution of India. 

 

A disturbing trend in the direction of the country’s governance has become discernible  over the past few years. The foundational values of our republic and the cherished norms of  governance, which we had taken as immutable, have been under the relentless assault of an  arrogant, majoritarian state. The sacrosanct principles of secularism and human rights have  come to acquire a pejorative sense. Civil society activists striving to defend these principles  are subjected to arrest and indefinite detention under draconian laws that blot our statute book.  The establishment does its best to discredit them as anti-national and foreign agents. 

 

Civil society, a diverse mass of formal and informal groups pursuing their own interests,  occupies the vast democratic space outside of government and business. As the locus of  critique, contestation and negotiation, it is an important stakeholder in governance, as well as  a force multiplier and partner in the project of meeting popular aspirations. But civil society is  viewed through an adversarial prism today. Any entity, which dares to highlight deviations  from the norms of Constitutional conduct, or question the arbitrary exercise of executive  authority, runs the risk of being projected as a foreign agent and enemy of the people. At a  systemic level, the financial viability of civil society organisations is being progressively  undermined by tweaking the legal framework governing foreign contributions, deployment of  corporate social responsibility funds and income tax exemptions.

 

Our anxiety with regard to the articulation of the state-civil society interface has been  heightened in recent weeks by statements emanating from high dignitaries of the state. On the  occasion of the Foundation Day of the National Human Rights Commission, its Chair, Justice (retd.) Arun Mishra, asserted that India’s creditable record on human rights was being tarnished  at the behest of international forces. The Prime Minister, on his part, discerned a political  agenda in what he felt was selective perception of human rights violation in certain incidents, while overlooking certain others. And quite shockingly, General Bipin Rawat, Chief of  Defence Staff, gave a fillip to the growing menace of vigilantism by endorsing the killing of  persons believed to be terrorists by lynch mobs in Kashmir.  

 

Taken together, these portents indicate a deliberate strategy to deny civil society the  space and wherewithal for its operation. The contours of this strategy have now been revealed  in the New Doval Doctrine propounded by the National Security Adviser (NSA).  

 

Reviewing the passing out parade of IPS probationers at the National Police Academy  in Hyderabad, Shri Ajit Doval proclaimed:  

The new frontiers of war, what you call the fourth- generation warfare, is the civil society.  Wars have ceased to become an effective instrument for achieving political or military  objectives. They are too expensive and unaffordable and, at the same time, there is uncertainty  about their outcome. But it is the civil society that can be subverted, that can be suborned, that  can be divided, that can be manipulated to hurt the interests of a nation. You are there to see  that they stand fully protected.” 

 

Instead of exhorting the IPS probationers to abide by the values enshrined in the  Constitution to which they had sworn allegiance, the NSA stressed the primacy of the  representatives of the people, and the laws framed by them. 

 

It would be pertinent to recall here that the term “fourth-generation warfare” is normally  employed in relation to a conflict where the state is fighting non-state actors, such as terror  groups and insurgents. Civil society now finds itself placed in this company. Earlier, the term  “Urban Naxal” was being used to denigrate individual human rights activists. Clearly, under  the New Doval Doctrine, people like Father Stan Swamy would become the arch enemy of the  Indian state and the prime concern and target of its security forces. 

 

The NSA’s clarion call for an onslaught on a demonised civil society is of a piece with  the narrative of hate targeting defenders of Constitutional values and human rights that is  regularly purveyed by the high and mighty in the establishment.  

 

The defining traits of the current dispensation are hubris and an utter disregard of  democratic norms. These were manifest in the steamrolling of a discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Act through Parliament, its linkage with the National Register of Citizens, and  the ruthless suppression of the spontaneous protests that erupted in various parts of the country.

 

The same traits were in evidence in the enactment of a set of three farm laws without  public debate, stakeholder consultations or endorsement by alliance partners, and the high handed treatment accorded to the agitated farmers encamped at the gates of Delhi. Their heroic  resistance over fourteen months elicited the choicest of epithets from the establishment.  Dubbed variously as “Andolanjeevis” (professional agitators), “Left-wing extremists” and  “Khalistanis”, they were accused of working at the behest of “Foreign Destructive Ideology”,  in a bizarre word-play with the acronym FDI referring to Foreign Direct Investment. Electoral  compulsions might have led the Prime Minister to announce the decision to repeal the hated  laws, but the damage done to the nation’s polity and social fabric will be hard to repair. 

 

Let us hope that the government will realize the pitfalls of demonising dissent and  trying to suppress civil resistance by brute force. It is also hoped that the alumni of the National  Police Academy, or indeed our security forces in general, will not be swayed by the NSA’s  rhetoric and remember that their primary duty is to uphold Constitutional values, which  override the will of the political executive. Even the laws framed by the legislatures have to be  tested on the touchstone of constitutionality and accepted by the people. If this fundamental  principle is not accepted, we may turn to the well-known satirical poem “The Solution”, written  in a different context by the famous German playwright Bertolt Brecht, which concludes with the following words: 

Would it not in that case be simpler 

for the government 

To dissolve the people 

And elect another? 

 

SATYAMEVA JAYATE 

(102 signatories, at pages 4-8 below)

 

1.  Anita Agnihotri  IAS (Retd.)  Former Secretary, Department of Social Justice  Empowerment, GoI
2.  Salahuddin  

Ahmad

IAS (Retd.)  Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
3.  S.P. Ambrose  IAS (Retd.)  Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping &  Transport, GoI
4.  Anand Arni  RAS (Retd.)  Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
5.  Vappala  

Balachandran 

IPS (Retd.)  Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
6.  Gopalan  

Balagopal 

IAS (Retd.)  Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
7.  Chandrashekhar  Balakrishnan  IAS (Retd.)  Former Secretary, Coal, GoI
8.  T.K. Banerji  IAS (Retd.)  Former Member, Union Public Service Commission
9.  Sharad Behar  IAS (Retd.)  Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
10.  Aurobindo  

Behera

IAS (Retd.)  Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha
11.  Madhu Bhaduri  IFS (Retd.)  Former Ambassador to Portugal
12.  Meeran C  

Borwankar 

IPS (Retd.)  Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research and  Development, GoI
13.  Ravi Budhiraja  IAS (Retd.)  Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI
14.  Sundar Burra  IAS (Retd.)  Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
15.  R.  

Chandramohan

IAS (Retd.)  Former Principal Secretary, Transport and Urban  Development, Govt. of NCT of Delhi
16.  Rachel  

Chatterjee

IAS (Retd.)  Former Special Chief Secretary, Agriculture, Govt. of  Andhra Pradesh
17.  Kalyani  

Chaudhuri 

IAS (Retd.)  Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
18.  Gurjit Singh  

Cheema

IAS (Retd.)  Former Financial Commissioner (Revenue), Govt. of  Punjab
19.  F.T.R. Colaso  IPS (Retd.)  Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Karnataka &  former Director General of Police, Govt. of Jammu &  Kashmir
20.  Anna Dani  IAS (Retd.)  Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
21.  Surjit K. Das  IAS (Retd.)  Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttarakhand
22.  Vibha Puri Das  IAS (Retd.)  Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI

 

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23.  P.R. Dasgupta  IAS (Retd.)  Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI
24.  Pradeep K. Deb  IAS (Retd.)  Former Secretary, Deptt. Of Sports, GoI
25.  Nitin Desai  Former Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance,  GoI
26.  M.G.  

Devasahayam

IAS (Retd.)  Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana
27.  Sushil Dubey  IFS (Retd.)  Former Ambassador to Sweden
28.  A.S. Dulat  IPS (Retd.)  Former OSD on Kashmir, Prime Minister’s Office, GoI
29.  K.P. Fabian  IFS (Retd.)  Former Ambassador to Italy
30.  Prabhu Ghate  IAS (Retd.)  Former Addl. Director General, Department of Tourism,  GoI
31.  Gourisankar  

Ghosh

IAS (Retd.)  Former Mission Director, National Drinking Water  Mission, GoI
32.  Suresh K. Goel  IFS (Retd.)  Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural  Relations, GoI
33.  S. Gopal  IPS (Retd.)  Former Special Secretary, GoI
34.  S.K. Guha  IAS (Retd.)  Former Joint Secretary, Department of Women & Child  Development, GoI
35.  H.S. Gujral  IFoS (Retd.)  Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Govt. of  Punjab
36.  Meena Gupta  IAS (Retd.)  Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests,  GoI
37.  Ravi Vira  

Gupta 

IAS (Retd.)  Former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India
38.  Wajahat  

Habibullah 

IAS (Retd.)  Former Secretary, GoI and former Chief Information  Commissioner
39.  Deepa Hari  IRS  

(Resigned)

40.  Sajjad Hassan  IAS (Retd.)  Former Commissioner (Planning), Govt. of Manipur
41.  Kamal Jaswal  IAS (Retd.)  Former Secretary, Department of Information  Technology, GoI
42.  Brijesh Kumar  IAS (Retd.)  Former Secretary, Department of Information  Technology, GoI
43.  Ish Kumar  IPS (Retd.)  Former DGP (Vigilance & Enforcement), Govt. of  Telangana and former Special Rapporteur, National  Human Rights Commission

 

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44.  Sudhir Kumar  IAS (Retd.)  Former Member, Central Administrative Tribunal
45.  Subodh Lal  IPoS  

(Resigned)

Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of  Communications, GoI
46.  Harsh Mander  IAS (Retd.)  Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
47.  Amitabh  

Mathur

IPS (Retd.)  Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
48.  L.L. Mehrotra  IFS (Retd.)  Former Special Envoy to the Prime Minister and former  Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, GoI
49.  Aditi Mehta  IAS (Retd.)  Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
50.  Shivshankar  

Menon

IFS (Retd.)  Former Foreign Secretary and Former National Security  Adviser
51.  Sonalini  

Mirchandani

IFS  

(Resigned)

GoI
52.  Malay Mishra  IFS (Retd.)  Former Ambassador to Hungary
53.  Sunil Mitra  IAS (Retd.)  Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI
54.  Noor  

Mohammad

IAS (Retd.)  Former Secretary, National Disaster Management  Authority, GoI
55.  Avinash  

Mohananey

IPS (Retd.)  Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Sikkim
56.  Satya Narayan  Mohanty IAS (Retd.)  Former Secretary General, National Human Rights  Commission
57.  Deb Mukharji  IFS (Retd.)  Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former  Ambassador to Nepal
58.  Shiv Shankar  

Mukherjee

IFS (Retd.)  Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
59.  Gautam  

Mukhopadhaya

IFS (Retd.)  Former Ambassador to Myanmar
60.  Pranab S.  

Mukhopadhyay

IAS (Retd.)  Former Director, Institute of Port Management, GoI
61.  Nagalsamy  IA&AS  

(Retd.)

Former Principal Accountant General, Tamil Nadu &  Kerala
62.  Sobha  

Nambisan 

IAS (Retd.)  Former Principal Secretary (Planning), Govt. of  Karnataka
63.  P.A. Nazareth  IFS (Retd.)  Former Ambassador to Egypt and Mexico
64.  P. Joy Oommen  IAS (Retd.)  Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh

 

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65.  Amitabha  

Pande 

IAS (Retd.)  Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
66.  Mira Pande  IAS (Retd.)  Former State Election Commissioner, West Bengal
67.  Maxwell  

Pereira

IPS (Retd.)  Former Joint Commissioner of Police, Delhi
68.  Alok Perti  IAS (Retd.)  Former Secretary, Ministry of Coal, GoI
69.  R.  

Poornalingam

IAS (Retd.)  Former Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, GoI
70.  Rajesh Prasad  IFS (Retd.)  Former Ambassador to the Netherlands
71.  R.M.  

Premkumar

IAS (Retd.)  Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
72.  N.K.  

Raghupathy 

IAS (Retd.)  Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI
73.  V.P. Raja  IAS (Retd.)  Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory  Commission
74.  K. Sujatha Rao  IAS (Retd.)  Former Health Secretary, GoI
75.  M.Y. Rao  IAS (Retd.)
76.  Prasadranjan  

Ray

IAS (Retd.)  Former Chairperson, West Bengal Electricity Regulatory  Commission
77.  Satwant Reddy  IAS (Retd.)  Former Secretary, Chemicals and Petrochemicals, GoI
78.  Vijaya Latha  

Reddy

IFS (Retd.)  Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI
79.  Julio Ribeiro  IPS (Retd.)  Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former  Ambassador to Romania
80.  Aruna Roy  IAS  

(Resigned)

81.  Manabendra N.  Roy  IAS (Retd.)  Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
82.  A.K. Samanta  IPS (Retd.)  Former Director General of Police (Intelligence), Govt. of  West Bengal
83.  Deepak Sanan  IAS (Retd.)  Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt.  of Himachal Pradesh
84.  G. Sankaran  IC&CES  

(Retd.)

Former President, Customs, Excise and Gold (Control)  Appellate Tribunal
85.  S. Satyabhama  IAS (Retd.)  Former Chairperson, National Seeds Corporation, GoI
86.  N.C. Saxena  IAS (Retd.)  Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI

 

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87.  A. Selvaraj  IRS (Retd.)  Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI
88.  Ardhendu Sen  IAS (Retd.)  Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
89.  Abhijit  

Sengupta

IAS (Retd.)  Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI
90.  Aftab Seth  IFS (Retd.)  Former Ambassador to Japan
91.  Ashok Kumar  Sharma IFoS (Retd.)  Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation,  Govt. of Gujarat
92.  Ashok Kumar  Sharma IFS (Retd.)  Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia
93.  Navrekha  

Sharma 

IFS (Retd.)  Former Ambassador to Indonesia
94.  Raju Sharma  IAS (Retd.)  Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar  Pradesh
95.  Tara Ajai Singh  IAS (Retd.)  Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Karnataka
96.  Tirlochan Singh  IAS (Retd.)  Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities,  GoI
97.  Parveen Talha  IRS (Retd.)  Former Member, Union Public Service Commission
98.  P.S.S. Thomas  IAS (Retd.)  Former Secretary General, National Human Rights  Commission
99.  Hindal Tyabji  IAS (Retd.)  Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
100.  Ashok Vajpeyi  IAS (Retd.)  Former Chairman, Lalit Kala Akademi
101.  Ramani  

Venkatesan 

IAS (Retd.)  Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of  Maharashtra
102.  Rudi Warjri  IFS (Retd.)  Former Ambassador to Colombia, Ecuador and Costa  Rica

 

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