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’The Existing Laws Are Sufficient’

Nagendar SHARMA

Tuesday 15 June 2004, by SHARMA*Nagendar

The Home Minister on POTA, militancy, J&K, Hurriyat, Gujarat riot cases, Ayodhya, tainted-ministers, the law and order in UP and Bihar, and other challenges and priorities for his ministry.


The full transcript of the BBC Hindi special programme Aapki Baat BBC Ke Saath with the Home Minister Shivraj Patil on: Would the new government be able to provide security and justice as promised?

Nagendar Sharma : Would your government be able to ensure security and justice for all as promised by the Congress party, its allies and the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) of the UPA?

Shivraj Patil : Yes, it would be able to do so and this would be our duty in the coming days, for this we would do all that is required from us in the coming days.

Nagendar Sharma : What are your priorities as the Home Minister of the country ?

Shivraj Patil : The first is, the central government through its Home Ministry would try to develop an effective atmosphere of understanding and harmony between the centre and the state governments. Secondly, the country is faced with a challenge of militancy, we would try to tackle this and bring down these activities with all means possible. Thirdly, our effort would be have harmony in the society, and remove obstacles that are created in this regard. We would work for the economic development of the country also.?

BBC listener from Allahabad : Sir, the militants have stepped up their activities in Kashmir warning the new government of the challenges ahead. Your government says that talks with Pakistan would also be on nuclear disarmament—won’t this weaken the internal security of India, and how far can Pakistan be trusted on the entire matter?

Shivraj Patil : There are many questions facing the country at the moment, and I would like to say that it is important to talk. We would try to improve the prevailing situation through talks, and once the situation improves, it should yield good results, this would be our endeavour. If a different path other than that of talks is seen as effective for improvement in the situation, there is no bar on us for that too. But we have chosen the path of talks.

Now whatever any other government or the country is saying on a particular subject, we would react after carefully studying the pros and cons of their statements, and all this should lead to improvement in situation—that is the goal we are trying to achieve.

Nagendar Sharma : Mr Patil, you recently announced that talks with Hurriyat would be held next months. Would your government restrict the dialogue to Hurriyat only or would you extend it to other Kashmiri organisations as well ?

Shivraj Patil : We would talk to Hurriyat, and make efforts to talk to others who would be ready to talk to us. When to talk, what to talk, how to talk and where to talk could be decided after receiving details from those willing for a dialogue.

BBC listener from Lucknow :? Sir, militancy is a main problem facing the country at the moment. Many states face the Naxal problem, insurgency in North East, and the militants of Kashmir have made their intentions clear once again, flexing their muscles on the new government, what do you intend to do?

Shivraj Patil : What we need to understand is with one government going and the other coming in its place, it would not be right to hope that the problem of militancy would be solved overnight, or a drastic reduction would be there in such activities all of a sudden.? I feel it is not correct to form such an opinion. We have to make all possible efforts in all directions to improve the situation. The efforts would include political, economic, social measures, through talks and all other appropriate measures required for improvement. We would continue to work in this direction.

Nagendar Sharma : But Mr Patil with at least four states facing serious Naxalite violence, the new central government has deciding to repeal POTA. Is it correct to take a political decision when faced with such a situation?

Shivraj Patil : In fact, firstly, it is said that this urge of fighting for the cause of militancy takes birth in the human brain and mind, so there should be an effort to remove this. Secondly, the economic reasons are also there for turning to such violence. Such reasons would have to be addressed and an atmosphere created so that such a feeling does not remain, and it is to be ensured that there is justice for all. So to say that this is happening now and so on is like creating an impression as if such activities have started taking place now and were not happening earlier, which is not correct.

I would like to assure the countrymen that if there were to be a spurt in militant activities or a war like situation, within the country or outside, we would try to restore normalcy and in such situations, the dialogue is an effective means. If other steps are required, we would be taking those appropriate steps also, as and when required, depending on the situation, we would be ready.

BBC listener from Dubai :? Sir, reports from Human Rights organisations say out of 248 people arrested under POTA in Gujarat, 247 were Muslims. Similarly, the number of people arrested under previous anti-terrorism law, TADA, the maximum number of those arrested were either Muslims or Sikhs. Are these laws only to harass minorities? Why does the government hesitate in having a regulatory mechanism while enacting such laws? Could we expect anything different from the law which would replace POTA?

Shivraj Patil :? We are saying that POTA was not compulsorily required, as it could neither stop nor bring down militancy, on the other hand there were cases of POTA misuse. It is for this reason only that the previous government also talked about amending POTA, and we are for repealing it. I think nobody should have objection to this. The existing laws which have been in place for more than 100-150 years—the Indian Penal Code, the Evidence Act, the Criminal Procedure Code.,?and similar laws—when they are used effectively, nobody should have objection when these are used.

If someone is saying that in the changing situation a new law would be enacted and then only POTA would be repealed, this is not right.?We are not saying that a new law would replace POTA, what we are saying is clear, that the existing laws are sufficient to deal with the situation today.?In future, if a situation arises, in which we feel, and all others feel, that in the given circumstances, some changes in the existing laws are required or a new law is required, then with unanimity, and with the permission of Parliament, we could proceed in that direction.???????????????

BBC listener from Raipur : Sir, riots in India do not take place, they are made to take place and then it takes months to control the situation, and afterwards the entire talk of victims is restricted to minorities. For example if 90 percent of those killed in Gujarat were Muslims, then 10 percent were Hindus. Why nobody talks about Hindu victims?

Shivraj Patil : Well, a lot has been said in Parliament, in media, and other forums, but if those who have to listen do not listen, then whose fault is it? Remember all the riot victims and sufferers, whether they be Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs or Christians, all of them are our brothers and sisters. It is our blood that has been shed, and we feel the pain in our hearts. But by taking the name of a particular caste or religion, justice cannot be done. Justice has to be done for humanity, but those who wish to listen only what is convenient for them, then there is little that we could do.

Nagendar Sharma : But Mr Patil, the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 and the Gujarat riots are a blot on India’s international image. It take years for riot cases to reach the courts and the guilty are rarely booked in such cases. Is your government willing to make a new beginning?

Shivraj Patil : You are absolutely right. Increasing the number of courts—if that is required, we would look into that feasibility, and also of encouraging the witnesses to come forward and depose. Similarly, to start a new process, we would have to work for a new law. When a case reaches the court of law after investigation, there is an established view in India, and at the world level too, that no innocent should be wrongly convicted. Keeping this view, the Indian system works, and all facts are carefully scrutinised.?

However, if justice is delayed it leads to a loss of faith in the judicial set-up, the government, the courts and law enforcing agencies, and the concerned people—especially the victim and their relatives—lose hope. To restore this faith, first and foremost,?this viewpoint needs to be changed. Our effort is to develop a correct viewpoint. Next, we would try to improve the investigative machinery of the police. Then, these inordinate delays due to certain procedures would have to be cut down, and if an increase in the number of courts is required, and if we could do it, we would certainly do so. Finally, the news and views that reach the people of the country through the media in such situations, should be balanced, not one-sided and politically motivated, this also we would try to do.

BBC listener from Patna : Sir, the past Congress regimes have seen anti-Sikh riots and demolition of Babri Masjid. Would this time be different or the same old Congress regime?

Shivraj Patil : Our perspective of looking at things is that all human beings are equal, and they cannot be divided on the basis of caste and religion. This is our difference with those who say their religion is superior to others’, and that others should follow their religion. Our perspective of treating everybody equally, would help us in having long-lasting peace and harmony in the country.

BBC listener from Ahmedabad :? Sir, the Gujarat state government has not followed the rule of law—it s clear, even human rights activists are being threatened. What would the centre do? After the shifting of Best Bakery trial outside the state, some hope has been raised. Is the centre doing anything to shift all riots cases outside the state and hand over? investigation to CBI for proper justice??

Shivraj Patil : After the Supreme Court decision, there is no need for the central government’s view.? Before naming anyone we would like to have all the facts in front of us. After the court decision, the media’s view and what concerned people like you say—though I think now things are happening in line with what you want—the steps that are necessary in accordance with the law and the Constitution of the country, could be taken.

At the same time it has be seen that those given the responsibility of fulfilling their duty should do it, and they are given time for it in a democracy.? Whether they do it or not, is closely watched by the people, the courts and the government of the country. Whatever is required to be done in accordance with the law and constitution, should be done, and that is precisely what this government would also do.

Nagendar Sharma : Mr Patil would your government stick to the settlement of Ayodhya dispute through court verdict only?

Shivraj Patil : Our stand is that religions should unite the people of the country together and not divide them. Our stand is temples, mosques, churches are all places of binding people with God, they should not be used for dividing people.

This is our viewpoint. Now if there is an issue which has led to demolition, then the solution would have to come from the court of law, before which this issue is there. Whatever be the verdict of the court, it would be legally binding on all, and that would be followed.?

If someone is making efforts to resolve this outside the court, we would not say that do not make such efforts. But for such a solution to be acceptable to the whole country, it would have to be in the form of a decree of the court of law, giving it a legal sanction.? So the solution of this issue thorough any process is a welcome step, however if it is not being resolved, then the right solution is though the court of law only.

BBC listener from Delhi :? Sir, when your party was in opposition, it made noises on corruption of the NDA government. That government has been punished by the people of the country. But now your own government has several charge-sheeted ministers. What is the difference?

Nagendar Sharma : And to this I add there are at least one hundred MPs this time who have charge-sheets against them in criminal matters. Where is Indian parliamentary democracy headed to ?

Shivraj Patil : I would like to say it is for the court of law to see who is guilty and has been convicted, and who is innocent. Let us not forget that those convicted by the courts for major offences, are not allowed to contest the elections. However if the offence is not major, then even the law does not debar such persons from contesting the elections. Those who reach the Parliament are elected by the people—you cannot ignore this; now it is for the court of law to decide. Our effort is to try and stop the criminalisation of politics, or at least bring it down, through whatever process.

But what is dangerous is that if you register a case against someone and then brand them as criminal, then by merely registering a case against everyone, you could say they cannot even fight elections, there would be nobody left to even contest the elections. That is a worry. Look at those trying to raise the voice on this issue today—they are the ones who committed? crimes in broad daylight in the presence of not hundreds, not thousands but lakhs of people. And as a result of their crimes, thousands of innocents lost their lives and properties. But now what they mean to say is that they can remain in the cabinet despite having cases against them, but they are giving us sermons on this issue!

I am repeating this time and again, criminalisation of politics has to be rooted out—the Congress party would continue its efforts on this.

BBC listener from Jamshedpur : Sir, you had recently said that law & order situation in UP is worrying...

Shivraj Patil (interrupts) : May I know who said it?

BBC listener (continues) : Sir it was reported in the newspapers...

Shivraj Patil : Then you should ask that newspaper please; do not ask me. To whom this statement has been attributed in himself wanting to know!

BBC listener (continues) : Sir, what I am asking you is since the ruling party in Bihar is supporting you, nothing is being said by the centre on law and order, so, Sir, why these political statements?

Shivraj Patil :? I am not in favour of any political statements—such questions are asked with a political motive and answers could be political too.? I am not in the business of political statements and this usual spit-spat. If there is a genuine question, I would answer that.

What we want to say is if there is any crime anywhere, if any innocent is being troubled in any part, that should not happen. It could be the government of anyone—it is the duty of governments to provide protection to those being victimised.Whether it be Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan—it could be anywhere. It is the duty of governments, it is their rajdharma - it should be followed and that is our effort.

Nagendar Sharma : But, Mr Patil, though law and order is a state subject,? an impression is there that the law and order in states like UP and Bihar is worse than the rest of the country. Would the centre give some suggestions to these state governments how they could bring improvement??????????????????

Shivraj Patil : It looks as if something is happening everywhere, it is high in some places and low in others, the situation should be under control—that is the effort. The centre would make conscious efforts in this regard, and we hope that the state governments would also take steps. We think they would also take into account those who are expressing their feelings in this regard. If steps are not taken we would discuss with them, the processes which would lead to improvement. Talking to state governments through the media does not help, it just adds a political dimension to the whole thing and does not? lead towards any solution.

Therefore what I am saying is that if some undesirable activities are taking place somewhere, to check those certain corrective measures could be taken such as? police training, improvement in information network, creation of a good social environment and similar other steps which could be helpful for a better life.


in Outlook India, Tuesday, June 15, 2004.

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