PUCL Bulletin, June 2004

Civil liberties issues for the new government

-- By K.G. Kannabiran

Dr. Y.S. Rajashekara Reddy
Indian National Congress
Gandhi Bhavan, Hyderabad

Dear Y.S. Rajashekara Reddy, These are some of the demands that Peoples Union of Civil Liberties would like to make if a Non NDA front is likely to come to power: at the Center and if you are going to lead the Congress and form the Government with or without the TRS. First I would like you at the State level to establish democratic governance and at the center insist that your party restores democratic governance while it is likely to be the major party in the coalition of parties forming the Government.

The Government’s attitude to Terrorism and Globalization and the World Bank’s hegemony over policy formulations by the state and central governments. need radical review. TDP did not just lose the elections; it was a total collapse of his politics tethered to the World Bank directives. There is a lesson to learn for your Party. It is not just the farmers lobby that brought you back to power after a long interval, but the poor who are in large numbers who have been condemned to deprivation for around fifty years after the Constitution. Unless this social and economic deprivation is attended to stability and peace may elude you and very soon as your party has earlier done come to rely on a repressive legal structure.

Terrorism is not something totally unconnected to politics working for the elimination deprivation and for eliminating the iniquitous systems and conditions prevalent in the State. Politics of Naxalism is not a problem. Its continued existence tells you what you have not addressed to till now. It tells you about a reality which you can just wish away or sweep it under the carpet WE have pointed this out quite bluntly to three four successive Chief Ministers with no effect and you are the fifth Chief Minister (I am sure you will be chosen as one as you are the architect of this landslide victory. No Chief Minister hailing from Rayalaseema worked so hard and worked with such determination as you have) and I would be surprised if you make an attempt to heed to our advice. Our abundant optimism goads us to place before you the following which need your urgent and continued attention. The Prevention of Terrorist Act came into force on 24th. October 2001. The Act was passed by the Parliament on 28th March 2002, but it was brought into force retrospectively from 24th October to cover the period of the Ordinance. The Act is for a limited period of three years. The Act expires on 23rd October 2004. All the political parties ranged against BJP combine are parties, which opposed the passage of Prevention of Terrorism Act 2002. We are sure these parties will remember the debate at the joint session of Parliament when it was passed.

This Act should not be renewed and should be allowed to expire. The ban imposed on the organizations should be should be lifted immediately on the formation of the Non NDA Government. We are convinced that the ban of these organizations have not led to any reduction of violence, and on the contrary has led to extensive impunity of the state. We do believe that terrorism has its political roots and the causes that lead to this violence has to be addressed. Experts on terrorism were never tired of pointing out. that legislation is a magical cure all is of dubious worth - a conceptual palliative more than a pragmatic solution. To address the consequences of terrorism and leave untouched its causes, is not only to ensure high levels of punishment but also increased sophistication in terrorist crimes [1]. They warn against the dangers of extrapolating terrorism from its social milieu. It loses its meaning and political resolution may be difficult. The naxalite movement is a political movement. It was crafted by a section of the communist movement which held that the revolution which held that the revolution which is their goal cannot be achieved by parliamentary means. It may be that no policy initiative of the Government will alter this belief. But the movement does not function in the realm of pure political theory or belief. Being a political movement, it lives and function, amidst the section of the people who support it. These people, like all people who support extra-constitutional movements, have suffered immensely for their support to the naxalites. If nevertheless they have supported it and continue to support it, it can only be because of some serious material or social deprivation they are suffering in society as it is now constituted, and the relief that they find in the activity and the promises of naxalite politics.

A meaningful and effective policy of handling the naxalite phenomenon can only be a policy that will address this deprivation. It is true that the political establishment in Andhra Pradesh has never had such a policy, it is even more true that the dispensation of Chandra Babu Naidu has taken things farther back. The deprivation that the masses suffer from is because of lack of access to material resources, and social opportunities for gaining such access. A variety of economic and social policy steps are needed to create such access and opportunities, even in a gradualist perspective. If there was five percent of actual action and ninety five percent of mere rhetoric in this regard in the past, Chandra Babu Naidu has declared that even that five percent of actual direct action is out of bounds of Governance, for what Governance does is only to facilitate access to markets and not provision of sustenance, or resources necessary for sustenance. Such a policy perspective has some thing for classes that already have access to resources, the more access the better, but nothing for those who have little or nothing. But it is precisely those who have little or noting who have constituted the support base of the naxalite movement. Soon after becoming Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Chandra Babu Naidu produced a document titled Vision 2020, supposedly his vision for the State in the coming two decades.

Its contours have been filled in by the various other policy decisions announced and canvassed in individual spheres of administration such as land use, irrigation, agriculture education, health and labour welfare. If one puts oneself in the position of a person suffering economic deprivation and social discrimination, one can see little in all this to enthuse. It is well known that the market fundamentalism of the World Bank in the socio economic philosophy of Chandra Babu Naidu, and that he has received ample support from the World Bank in his effort to give effect to it. One of the consequences of this fundamentalism is that resources such as land, forests, water, and nature in general are to be put at the disposal of those who can invest and add further and greater value to the produce there from, and not those who merely live off the resources. In a country like India where vast numbers of people live directly on nature and need access to natural resources for sustenance, this can have a disastrous effect on livelihood opportunities. Distribution of land under the control of the Government was one of the means by which livelihood resources were put within the reach of the poor in the past. Very little in comparison with total arable land in the country was in fact distributed to the landless, but the trickle kept hopes alive. In Chandra Babu Naidu’s dispensation such land is earmarked for being leased to investors in agri-business, tourism etc and out of bounds for the poor. In districts like Visakhapatnam singled out form tourism development, whole tracts of land are being put out of bounds for people whose livelihood activity is liable to destroy the attractiveness of the habitat for tourism.

Access to forest resources was the principal source of livelihood for the tribal communities and other forest dwellers. While there has been legal restraint amounting to prohibition on this ever since the Forest Conservancy Act was enacted in year 1980, in practice some access was permitted on the sly. This is being tightened up today and the forest dwellers are being coerced into schemes of joint of community management of forests which privilege cultivation of commercially valuable species of flora and do not assure a regular income to the people. Public or community irrigation works – not necessarily large scale – were the preferred mode of providing water for crops from the remote to the recent past. Chandra Babu Naidu has systematically devalued such works and has very actively canvassed ground water conservation as the fulcrum of his Government’s irrigation policy, whose concomitant is private provision of irrigation through energized wells at costs profitable to the private power producers who are proliferating in the State. Indeed, privatization of power production and distribution together with debunking of public irrigation works has had the effect of shutting out the possibility of viable irrigation for farmers of the rain scarce districts of Telangana and Rayalaseema. The way education and health have been permitted to become flourishing businesses is a particularly vulgar instance of Chandra Babu Naidu’s policy preferences.

Vision 2020 goes to the ridiculous extent of identifying these two as areas of investment that can act as growth engines for the State’s economy. No thought was apparently been given to the effect the identification of such absolutely essential life requirements as ‘growth engines’ for achieving a high growth rate for the economy can have on the livelihood rights of the people. The effect could however be seen in the monsoon months of 2003 when a new form of brain fever identified as meningo-encephalitis broke out as an epidemic in the rural areas of Warangal and Karimnagar districts. Hundreds of children of school going age succumbed for want of immediate health care. Everyone agreed that proper hospitalization within twenty four hours could have saved the lives, but because of utter neglect of public health, there were just no hospitals available close to most of the villages affected, and the proliferating clinics in the district head-quarters cater to paying diseases – there are specially obesity clinics in a small town like Karimnagar – but none to treat such epidemics that ravage the poor. The World Bank’s health policy prescription, on the other hand, says that Government’s responsibility should be confined to primary health care, the rest to be left to private initiative.

This was being toed by Chandra Babu Naidu’s Government. In the matter of employment, Chandra Babu Naidu’s ‘vision’ declares that self-employment is the best thing, and even for that the Government cannot give much by way of help excepting gratuitous marketing advice: because the main problem is want of capital, and public financial institutions are today no longer in a policy mood to give risky loans to unemployed youth. That is another piece of the World Bank’s wisdom adopted unquestioningly by our country’s rulers. Government employment is being drastically pruned. The World Bank has been promised that public employment will be reduced systematically from one year to the next, and consequently posts that fall vacant in the Government are not being filled, except in the police department. Governance is being reduced to the minimum, and what work is required for that is being taken from contract/casual labour. But the moment these contract/casual labour reach a stage where they may seek regularization of their services, they are being retrenched, and the Courts are reluctant to come in the way of Government’s discretion in the matter. Exemptions from labour welfare laws are being given with ease: all Information Technology establishments in Andhra Pradesh have been exempted from the need to follow any fair procedure in terminating the services of their employees, and the Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad has been exempted from the obligation to pay minimum wages to the women contract labour engaged by it to sweep and clean the city’s roads. The relevance of all this to police impunity vis-à-vis the naxalite movement is that a Government that follows such socio-economic policies cannot have any answer to the political challenge posed by the naxalites.

It can only endow the police with arbitrary powers clothed in lawless impunity, or arbitrary laws such as POTA. That the naxalites, more particularly the Peoples War, believe only in paying back in kind makes matters worse. Killing cadre of the naxalite parties and declaring that they have died in an ‘encounter’ with the police has been a common practice in Andhra Pradesh for more than thirty years now. Not only actual cadre but even suspected cadre and sympathizers have been killed. However, never before Chandra Babu’s government did this killing attain the figure of two hundred victims per year. Even during the Emergency period of 1975-77, when fundamental rights were officially suspended, and the number did not cross a hundred and fifty. But what is even more remarkable is that it is in this regime that such extra-judicial execution has been generalized to other classes of undesirable persons, too. There are now at least three such classes who are liable to be killed rather than taken to a Court of Law if apprehended by the police. One is the foot soldiers in the big game of violent faction conflicts in the Rayalaseema districts of Kurnool, Cuddapah and Ananthapur. The leaders of these factions, who thrive financially and politically on the systematic use of muscle and gun power, are legislators of the ruling Telugu Desam party and its main rival the Congress Party. Most of them belong to the dominant Reddy community. The police provide them with escort and protection. But the foot soldiers in this brutal game, belonging to backward and tribal communities, are liquidated in custody without the benefit of any trial. The second class or category are persons who take to violence against Telugu Desam Party leaders. They were straight away hunted down and killed by the police.

The third category are persons accused of being part of professional robbers or dacoits gangs. Most of these gangs are composed of men from nomadic communities low down in the caste hierarchy with little social sympathy. In Chandra Babu Naidu’s regime they were being killed not only before being produced in a Court of law, but also after being remanded to judicial custody by a competent Court. They are liable to be killed on the way to Court from prison to obtain extension of remand or to face trial. Impunity in the form of administrative liquidation has reached this level in Chandra Babu Naidu’s regime. It is no longer a secret that this Government is encouraging policemen in these unlawful acts of brutality by rewarding them in various ways. The major incentive was out-of-turn promotions to trigger-happy policemen. This was after a couple of years struck down by the Courts as unconstitutional. But special cash rewards, provision of unaudited and unaccounted funds, preferred postings, etc are the other means of encouraging police brutality. The police of Andhra Pradesh regularly practice torture of very severe kinds. It began with naxalite cadre/sympathizers, but has now become a general habit. The living quarters of policemen and police guesthouses are used as special torture chambers for unlike police stations, these locations are out of bounds to the public. Giving electric shocks to sensitive parts of the body is a routine form of torture used in the course of police interrogation in A.P.

While the practice of custodial torture and extra-judicial was at least not invented by the Chandra Babu Naidu Government, even if it has been ‘perfected’ by his regime, the practice of tempting the vulnerable among the cadre of the naxalite parties to turn into counter-insurgents and permitting them to live on crime and extortion under the wings of the police is a policy given effects to on a significant scale by this regime. Armed gangs of former naxalites turned into agents of the police even while still ostensibly working in their party, and came out with their weapons after killing their own ‘comrades’. If two of them had not died, one (Sammi Reddy) killed by rival and the other (Kat hula Sammaiah) in a fortuitous accident, the situation would have been worse. Jadala Nagaraju, one of the first of these counter-insurgents belongs to Ramakishtapur in Manthani Mutharam Mandal of Karimnagar district. He was a member of an armed squad of the People’s War on the intervening night of 11th and 12th April 1998, he shot dead the District Committee Secretary of that Party and escaped to join the police. The Government gave him a handsome reward of Rs.10 Lakhs, and the police saved him from the law by ‘investigating’ his offence and concluding that it was done in self defence. He now continues his criminal career. He got elected to a local body post (Mandal Parishad Territorial Constituency member) in the Panchayat elections to the middle tier neighboring village of Khammampalli.. At the time of elections to the middle tier Panchayat post of President of Mandal Praja Parishad in the year 2001, he abducted some of the electors and forced postponement of the elections. He has a gang of tough-looking young men with him, who move around in fast vehicles and terrorise any one in the villages suspected of having sympathies for the naxalites. But when a case was filed questioning the grant of award to him, the police have been pretending that the are not aware of his whereabouts. Nayeemuddin of Bhongir in Nalgonda district was once upon a time a People’s War member.

He is named as the main accused in the killing of senior police officer Vyas in a daring day light murder in Hyderabad’s Fateh Maidan. The officer was shot dead while taking his morning jog. Nayeemuddin was later arrested, and after spending some time in jail he developed differences with the Peoples’ War leadership and surrendered to the Government from inside jail. His bail was allowed unopposed and he now lives in Bhongir in Nalgonda district. He holds press conferences publicly declaring his enmity with the People’s War and his resolve to kill that party’s leaders if they cross his path. He, however, has a police escort for the reason that he is threatened by the people’s War. He moves around in not less than ten vehicles at a time accompanied by his gang and the police escort. It is estimated that his gang’s monthly expenditure runs to about Rs.5 lakhs, and the police pays much of it. It was he who killed Purushotham, Joint Secretary of Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC), in the year 2001, and it was he who abducted and tortured that organization’s President Dr. G. Lakshman at Hyderabad on the night of November 2003. We are told hat he has been accorded the status unofficially of IGP! It is necessary to check the ever expanding impunity to the law enforcing forces including the authority given to them to hire and retain surrendered militants criminally disposed to be employed to kill human rights activists, harass other sympathizers of more particularly members of APCLC and Virasam. You should straight away direct your police chief to disband this private army maintained by the department at the expense of the Public Exchequer.

You should also put an end to the system of rewards for apprehending naxalites alive or dead. This has given rise to very brutal and grotesque practices. The example of Jadala Nagaraju will explain the brutality involved. Being in the movement and later surrendering has become profitable. You join as a militant and after one or two year stint the outlawed party you surrender with quite a fanfare to the District or State Police Authorities and collect a few lakhs of rupees and if you are willing you can lend your services to the police for liquidating your erstwhile colleague/s It is important to give the Constitution its due place. It is necessary to recognize that the Constitution spells out an economic program. These are set out in the Preamble and the Directives contained in Part IV of the Constitution, It does spell out a programme for social change. The State is not a mere security guard for the Market. In China economic reform did not result in displacement and large-scale unemployment. Globalization has created chaos in this country increasing the wealth disparities to vulgar levels Radical movements arise in such circumstances and repressive legal structure is no answer. What is demanded is to conform to what is contained in the Directives dealing with poverty, right to livelihood, public health, health of the working class and not necessarily the uniform civil code. If the government takes care to implement the Directives terrorist violence may abate. Impunity cannot be exempted from the operation of criminal law.

Such grant of impunity would lead to the inference that the crimes committed by the law enforcing agencies are under the sanction of the political government and that would be unconstitutional governance. Unfaltering practice of democracy and Rule of Law is the best way to propagate democracy and Rule of Law. We do hope you will give the unfortunate people of the State an opportunity to experience what democracy is all about. You owe it to them for it is their sense of democracy, which brought you into power!
1 Article of Prof. Irving Louis Horowitz, Professor of Sociology and Political Science at Rutgers University. Published in Terrorism: Interdisciplinary Perspectives.


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