We should listen to Prashant Bhushan
If there’s anyone more misconstrued than veteran lawyer and senior AAP leader Prashant Bhushan, the person must be living under a rock. Bhushan’s comments on holding a referendum on the issue of having the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Kashmir, since it has been a merciless instrument of crude governmental power disrupting ordinary civic life for the locals, have not only been taken out of context and made to look like an argument in favour of Kashmiri separatism, but also the pleas have been abused as an example of how the nascent Aam Aadmi Party ‘lacks’ a national policy. Even Arvind Kejriwal, the anti-corruption crusader and Delhi’s young chief minister, has been compelled to distance himself from Bhushan’s opinion, which has been presented as anarchic and against the sanctity of the Union of India. However, it makes sense to dip into what Bhushan has really said and understand the multilayered implications of his opinion on AFSPA, especially when clubbed with his more recent comments on deploying central paramilitary forces in Naxal-affected areas. According to Bhushan, deployment of Army or special forces should only be deemed necessary when there is an over threat to the national security and proven infiltration through the borders, or when there is a definite potentiality of a communal riot sparking off or spreading, and putting lives of civilians in peril. But in cases where normal civil security is to be provided, the consent of people living in that area must be acquired and imposing a curfew regimen without the locals’ nod would be tantamount to a definite breach of their civil liberties and freedom of movement. Bhushan further claims that most of the times, the paramilitary forces ostensibly in place to look after regular safety issues have served the interests of private corporations and mining giants with whom the state is usually hand in glove at the expense of the locals, mostly tribals, who end up being displaced if they do not turn to Maoist violence to fight for their livelihood and land.
So all Bhushan has actually underlined is that the consent of people is a must when the claims of providing civil security are being made to deploy armed and special forces in sensitive areas. What is so wrong in pointing out the obvious human rights violations and routine atrocities carried out in the name of national security? Moreover, Bhushan’s invitation to the Maoists to join AAP and adopt a transformed politics of participation is former home minister and now finance minister P Chidambaram’s one-time overtures taken to a whole new level. Bhushan and his AAP have already changed the game of how to do both ground level and electoral politics with heightened civil involvement and it wouldn’t be a wild dream, at least now, to hope that a successful dialogue with Naxals might be around the corner. As a plain-speaking top journalist says, Bhushan isn’t a people pleaser, perhaps unlike some of his brethren in AAP, but a brave commando of an alternative politics of non-discrimination and non-majoritarianism. Moreover, it is obvious that despite joining the political theatre, Bhushan has not ended up becoming an ineffectual moderate keeping the critical chaos alive in these issues. He wants a pro-people solution.