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Millennium Post

IB sticks to bitter pill policy

Ishrat Jahan Raza, 19, was killed in 2004 along with three other men on a lonely stretch of road between Gandhi Nagar and Ahmedabad. The actual act of killing was carried out by the crime branch of the Gujarat police. There were suspicions since inception of the news of these killings, that they were actually ‘extra-judicial murders.’ These suspicions received greater fillip when the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a chargesheet on 3 July 2013, in an Ahmedabad court, calling the murders to be ‘staged encounters.’ They implicated a large number of Gujarat police officials. The wheels of justice were moving on a predictable path upto this action.

The problem arose when the CBI, a centrally administered, semi-autonomous investigation agency of the Indian state, accused that another central organ of the same state, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) may have been involved in the murders, as abettors. This raised some fundamental questions about the nature of the IB, its relations with the state police forces the Indian state it upheld and its charter. The IB is 135 years old and part of the so-called ‘steel frame’ that independent India inherited from the British. It was tasked back then, just as in the present for the prolongation of a state system that could be abhorrent at some point in time. This was the liberal logic of those who believed that liberal democracy which the founders of the Indian nationhood had sought to forge, is a panacea for all ills.

However, that may not be the case. Though the country is pre-capitalist in its present condition, it seeks a capitalist status created on the basis of a consensus amongst the members of the Indian state. This may be at cross purposes to the Constitution of the country considering that ‘socialism’ has been given the status of a bedrock. It is included in the ‘basic structure’ of the document and a part of the preamble. But the ruling elite of the country who constitute the state want it to be so. So assuming in the Marxist sense that Indian state is capitalist, one can argue that it is fundamentally repressive and coercive and IB is a part of that package.

Also, it still remains to be acknowledged that as an institution the IB is the bulwark in the ‘work-in-progress’ that is the Indian capitalist nation. In this sense it needs to be guided by some laws that have governed some of the post-European enlightenment nation-building exercises. These were based on the principles of ideologues of Jean Jacques Rousseau and Max Weber in the of such in the 19th and early 20th century respectively. Weber, of course, expostulated that the ‘monopoly over legitimate violence is of the state.’ The qualifier ‘legitimate’ is a word that frames the precept in terms of sanction by the legitimate ‘state.’ In this context, were the IB’s actions that have been revealed till now, in the news pages on Ishrat’s and her three co-travellers murders, ‘legitimate?’ A wisp of evidence is what remains of that legitimacy i.e. a recorded conversation of the then joint director of the IB in Ahmedabad, Rajendra Kumar. In this audio, he demands that the gung-ho Gujarat police deputy inspector general, DG Vanzara consult the political leadership of the state’s minister of state for home (Kaali Dhadee, Vanzara’s words) Amitbhai Shah and the chief minister (safed dhadee), Narendrabhai Modi. This act of intervention, when otherwise being an abettor or even more possibly, being the key protagonist as the one generating the main intelligence about Ishrat and her companions being LeT terrorists brings Rajendra Kumar under the scanner. It further gives us an inkling of how the Indian state leaves its ‘dirty’ jobs to the ‘nod-and-wink’ deniability, without any legislative or judicial basis. If the Ishrat case has done anything, it has raised the question to the fore as how various forces have become inimical to the roles of the IB that includes being at the frontlines of a continuous series of attrition with foreign-sponsored Islamist attackers; internal Maoist vigilantism; and separatist forces in the north-eastern part of the country. But Rajendra Kumar’s small act of urging Vanzara to get back to the real masters give one an inkling what could actually provide the Weberian legitimacy: a legislative oversight on all areas of functionalities of state agencies like the IB and R&AW; and an ‘executive order’ from the prime minister of the day, for each act of cowboy justice they indulge. There cannot any longer be a silent complicity that the political players indulge in while the ‘encounter’ stories remain as statistics for the people at large.

Ishrat’s murder has given us a direction towards what Rousseau had regarded in his high-mindedness a ‘social contract’ where, ‘the general will is always in the right and inclines toward the public good but it does not follow that the deliberations of the people always have the same rectitude. People always desire what is good but they do not always see what is good. You can never corrupt the people but you can often fool them and that is the only time that people appear to will something bad’.

In representational democracy, it is the peoples’ representatives who should take upon themselves the task of judging any act to be an expression of ‘general will.’

The author is a senior journalist

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