PUCL Bulletin,

June 1997

Civil liberties and security of VVIPs
by R. M. Pal

We, ordinary human mortals, must remain grateful for small mercies - - in the instant case it concerns Mr. Martin Massey whose life has been spared. What more can we expect from law enforcing agencies and the Establishment in general?

Mr. Massey, a business executive in a private sector firm in Delhi was on his way home on 9 May 97. He was knocked down by a police vehicle. About 15 policemen dragged him to a dark and isolated point behind the Humayun Tomb in Delhi. He was beaten up with riffle butts and lathis. When some of the policemen realised that he was bleeding profusely from the nose and mouth, they took him to Nizamuddin police station and then to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. After treatment he was brought back to the police station around 2 AM and forced to put his thumb impression on sheets of blank paper. On his return home he was not able to speak - he could barely suck liquids through a straw. After the stitches in his mouth heal, he will have to undergo dental surgery.

What was his fault? Mr. Massey has accidentally strayed onto the Prime Minister's route in Delhi on 9 May. According to the police, he had moved before traffic was given clearance. What a crime!

This bring us to the question of security of VVIPs. I may quote, rather extensively, from what I wrote in 1994 (see, PUCL Bulletin, October 1994, "Security for VIPs and VVIPs - - at the cost of citizens' rights and dignity" pp.9-10) : Have the security measures employed for VIPS and VVIPS in Delhi and other cities in the country anything to do with the security of the country? Are they commensurate with the human rights and civil liberties of ordinary human mortals? It is an insult, to put it in mildly, to the citizen of India, that notwithstanding the fundamental rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution they are treated as potential, it not actual, criminals.

"What is surprising is that our intellectuals, columnists, editors, and human rights activists and groups who are 'concerned' about everything under the sun, are indifferent to the indignity and insult that is heaped on the common citizen almost every day, now here, now there, by the 'security measures' for VVIP/VIPs in the move or in residence. For instance traffic is stopped for 15 to 20minutes, sometimes because the VVIP is on her way in her motorcade to the beauty parlour or is attending a reception. The 'insignificant' inconveniences like missing a train, looking at you menacingly, as if you are a potential threat to the country. You and I can't help for we have been taught since the time the brown sahibs took over from the white ones that the state's power over us cannot be questioned, and we must be put down mercilessly as enemies of the state if we question the whims and fancies of the brown sahibs, for they are the state. The whole thing is obnoxious and sickening.

"… The simple test is whether even the maddest terrorist will waste a bullet on many of the VVIPs enjoying high category of security cover at the tax payer's expense. No. So it is a status symbol. They would like to flaunt bullet-proof vests as much as they can and as long as they can. It does not cost them a pie. We pay for the inconvenience, indignity, and humiliation. Even persons charged with murder and rape have access to the status by virtue of their relationship with persons in power or in the recent past. [we trust the present Prime Minister and the Home Minister would not like to be in such company].

"… Meanwhile, since it is a straightforward question of dignity, civil liberties and human rights, we, ordinary human mortals, expect the NHRC (see PUCL Bulletin, July 1994, p.9). The NHRC admitted the case and asked for a report from the Home Ministry. The result: The NHRC received a reply from the police after about 2 years - - with the verdict, no policeman is guilty! And the mater ended there. The NHRC would perhaps realise now, in the light of what happened to Mr. Massey, that they should have gone into the matter of this security menace in greater depth rather than relying on a police report.

I ended the above article, "Will the NHRC put its foot down?". Will it? - we may repeat.

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