PUCL Bulletin, July 2002

Gujarat is burning
A Letter to the President by P.S. Appu, Rtd. IAS

I have been agonising over Gujarat for the last ten weeks. We are facing the worst crisis since Independence. The situation is fraught with disastrous consequences. The only authority who can stem the rot is the President. Here is a copy of a letter I wrote to the President on April 28:

Dear Mr. President,
Today l hang my head in shame as an Indian, as a Hindu and as a former member of the Indian Administrative Service. In the short span of eight weeks the evil men who rule Gujarat, shielded by their patrons in Delhi, have succeeded in besmirching beyond repair India's reputation as the classic land of tolerance and moderation. Hinduism, despite its built-in iniquities, has been noted for its catholic and eclectic beliefs. By sustained, ill-conceived, diabolic indoctrination spread over several years the Sangh Parivar has achieved a measure of success in converting the mild mannered Gujarati into a violent, reckless fanatic. As a result of persistent, insidious propaganda the simple Adivasis have been turned into mindless tools of the saffron brigade. The poison has spread wide and deep posing a permanent threat to public peace and social harmony. The most ominous development has been the blatant misuse of the state machinery for carrying out well- planned plunder, mayhem and murder.

After visiting many places in the State, Julio Ribeiro, a retired police officer of outstanding ability and impeccable integrity has observed that the state not only sat back and allowed the massacres, but had also actively encouraged and participated in the mayhem. In his article published in The Time of India of April 24, Mr. Ribeiro has given several details which confirm the gross misuse of the official machinery. To the eternal shame of the permanent services, the majority of IAS and IPS officers collaborated with their political masters. The few who discharged their duties conscientiously and acted in accordance with the Constitution and the law were subsequently transferred. It is difficult to imagine greater perversity and cynicism in the management of public affairs.

As one who had spent over three decades in the IAS and held several important posts including that of Chief Secretary, I feel ashamed that the great majority of senior administrators and police officers failed to stand by the Constitution and fearlessly uphold the rule of law.

Mr. President, Gujarat has been burning for eight weeks. Even the presence of a strong contingent of the Army has failed to restore peace. It is obvious to any impartial observer familiar with Indian administration that there can be no hope of peace as long as Narendra Modi stays as Chief Minister. His replacement by another leader from the same party will serve no useful purpose. The need of the hour is to dismiss the State Government, dissolve the Assembly and enforce President's rule. A tough and impartial Governor of outstanding ability should run the administration for a considerable period. Then only there be any hope of restoring peace putting the State back on the rail.

When the Prime Minister reminded Chief Minister of Raj Dharma there was a glimmer of hope that thing might improve. But Mr. Vajpayee's pronouncements at Panjim soon belied that hope. Now it is abundantly clear that the Prime Minister will not recommend the imposition of President's rule. He has taken the fatal decision to defend the indefensible.

Since the commencement of the Constitution there have been over one hundred occasions when Article 356 was invoked to impose President's rule. There is much stronger justification now to impose President's rule in Gujarat than on any one of those occasions.

In the present situation the President of India is not as helpless as some people are inclined to believe. Under Article 75(1) the President appoints the Prime Minister. The power to appoint includes the power to dismiss. Under Article 78 the Prime Minister is required to furnish information that the President may call for. I am sure that the Prime Minister must have discussed Gujarat affairs with the President on a few occasions. However, guided by narrow partisan considerations, the Prime Minister is in no mood to recommend the imposition of President's rule. The situation calls for immediate, effective intervention by President.

May I request you, Sir, to recall the oath you had taken before assuming the office of President? You had solemnly affirmed that you would preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. The President is the sole guardian of our Constitution. The time has come for you to act in accordance with that oath. Under our Constitution the President can act only on the advise of the Prime Minister. But if the incumbent Prime Minister connives at the continuing violation of the Constitution, the President has power to appoint another Prime Minister willing to give him the right advice. It was, indeed, very thoughtful on the part of founding fathers to have made the President of India the Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces.

Mr. President, our country is facing most serious crisis since independence. The long-suffering people expect you to rise to the occasion and widely and resolutely exercise the authority vested in you under our Constitution. Your countrymen support any drastic step you decide to take to defend the Constitution.

Pardon me, Sir, if this letter sounds a little presumptuous. I would crave your indulgence, as it is the outpouring of an anguished soul.

Home | Index