PUCL Bulletin, March 2003

Open letter to Shri Arun Jaitley, formerly spokesperson Of The BJP
(Excerpts from a letter to Shri Arun Jaitley when he was spokesperson of the BJP)

A democratic state is governed by the laws
-- By M.A. Rane, Mumbai, 15.11.2002

My dear Arun,
I am taking the liberty of addressing this open letter in your first name. I am no stranger to you. ... Unfortunately due to heart ailment I am not free to leave Mumbai and personally interact with friends like you in Delhi and elsewhere...
I was deeply pained by some of your observations during the panel discussion on Star TV on November 9, 2002 on the subject of Human Rights and the Ansal Plaza incident of alleged encounter deaths of two persons by firing by the Delhi Police. You referred to the human rights activists as "the over ground face of the underground".

Writing in the Mid-Day of 13.11.2002 Rajdeep Sardeai who conducted the discussion as the Managing Editor NDTV, says, "Every time, Jaitley who was one of the participants in the show angrily referred to human rights activists speaking the language of the terrorists, he was loudly cheered by the audience. Mostly middle class Delhites, many of whom could have been in the Ansal Plaza that night".

Do you really believe in your assertion that the human rights activists are the "over ground faces of the underground"? You intimately know a large number of leading lights of the human rights movements like V.M. Tarkunde, Justice Krishna Iyer, Dr Rajani Kothari, Kuldip Nayar, Rajindar Sachar, Asghar Ali Engineer, Swami Agnivesh, Kannabiran, and several others. I believe as a student you also participated in the JP Movement. We the activists of the PUCL welcome this development since the field of promotion and protection of human rights is too vast.

Did you find JP or any other human rights activists, whom you knew, advocating violence by terrorists or other organizations, through their acts, speeches or in journals like PUCL Bulletin or the Radical Humanist? Even the International Human Rights Organization like the Amnesty or the World Human Rights Watch condemn violence by terrorists in killing innocent persons. Killing by terrorists is per se violation of human rights.

You must be aware that when terrorism by Kashmiri youths was at its height in early nineties, V.M. Tarkunde with a group of members of the CFD and PUCL moved in the valley without police protection, met the terrorists and persuaded them to give up violence and told them by resorting to the gun they are defeating their own cause. Today most of the Kashmiri youths like Yasin Malik who once wielded guns have given up guns and say so openly. Most of them are now in the Hurriyat Conference. They demand Azadi and in a free country it is no crime to do so.

The Human Rights activists have all along been urging that State terrorism is no effective answer to private terrorism. On the contrary it provokes more private terrorists. A democratic State and its organs are governed by the Constitution and the laws. They have no right to resort to extra-legal killings, even in respect of self-proclaimed terrorists. But killing in exercise of right of private defence is permitted in defined fields under the Indian Penal Code for more than hundred years. That right can be exercised not only by the police and security forces but also by private individuals.

Our sad experience is most of the so-called police encounter deaths are fake and stage-managed. In Mumbai after an encounter death, the police file a stereotyped FIR and issue such handouts to the effect that on being challenged by the police to surrender the gangster whipped out a gun and fired at the police, whereupon the police fired at them and killed them in exercise of their private defence. In one case the police filed a solemn FIR stating that one of the gangsters showered a "rain of bullets" with an AK-46 in broad daylight at an intersection of two busy roads. Surprisingly not one policeman nor one of the public was injured or killed. Are we not to question such encounter deaths which are on the face of them fake? In fact in every extra-legal killing there must be a fair and impartial inquiry and the police are accountable to explain.

The Ansal Plaza encounters are raising more questions than answers; forget the eyewitness whose credibility is in doubt. Are we not to ask questions and are not the police to answer them satisfactorily? And a person of your intelligence accuse us of being "the over ground faces of the underground". Does it square with your conscience? I am sorry it amounts to hitting us below the belt.
Please rest assured this open letter is written to you not in anger, malice or ill will against you. I still covet your friendship and remain your dear friend.

Yours sincerely.



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