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Doklam Coverage

Doklam Coverage

It’s a commendable feat for one to remain calm in the time of a crisis. On the face of it, the Government of India has shown tremendous character in dealing with China’s People’s Liberation Army and the political leadership in Beijing after the Indian Army stopped the Chinese who overlooked Thimpu’s protestations and started constructing a road inside Bhutan.

However, what is intriguing is the lack of enough reporting on the issue in the Indian media. It is good that TV channels are not indulging in war mongering and creating hysteria among the public and tension in Government. But it is very unlikely that they are doing it out of responsibility.

Except for a section of the print media that has tried to inform the public, the rest of the mass media seems to be skipping proper coverage of the standoff between India and China at the China-Bhutan border. Has this been on orders of the Government of India?

While it is important for a newspaper or a news channel to be extra careful and responsible while reporting on such delicate issues, in a democracy it is equally important to keep the people informed about what is happening. If the Chinese warn India and Bhutan through ambassadors of Britain, France, Russia and the United States, “its patience is running out” and the Indian Army must withdraw from the Sino-Bhutan border, it is the duty of every newspaper and news channel to inform the public in India about it. Blacking it out is not patriotism.

Twitter Diplomacy

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has been described by a commentator as ‘Twitter’s Mother Teresa’ for her role in taking cognisance of tweets from distressed citizens and providing immediate help and relief through the Ministry of External Affairs. One needs to appreciate her for making best use of modern technology to help people who are able to reach out to her through Twitter and Facebook.

However, what got me wondering is the way Swaraj conducted her diplomacy with Pakistan on Twitter recently. In a series of tweets, Swaraj slammed her Pakistan counterpart Sartaj Aziz for not providing a letter of recommendation to every Pakistani seeking medical visas from India for the primary reason that cheaper and better treatment is available in India.

Since its humanitarian grounds that account for allowing Pakistani citizens to avail treatment in India, should not the Government be more accommodating and graceful to the patients? Doesn’t it look petty to drag in the soured ties between the two nations while trying to show humanitarian concerns? Aren’t India’s humanitarian concerns good enough to showcase to the world how it is more considerate and accommodating than Pakistan?  

Citizens In PoK

Staying on the same topic, the Ministry of External Affairs insists on a letter from Pakistan Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz for even people of Pakistan occupied Kashmir and grants them visas to visit India. Is not seeking a letter from Aziz and issuing visas an indirect admission that we do not consider those in PoK as Indians?

Since India insists that the only dispute on Jammu and Kashmir is about Pakistan vacating PoK, shouldn’t the Government of India treat PoK residents as ‘citizens in captivity’? A wiser policy towards PoK citizens seeking medical treatment in India would be to have security tags on them and have them accompanied up and down, so that security is not compromised.

Privacy Is Fundamental Right

Do we need nine judges on a Constitution Bench to debate for days on whether privacy is a Fundamental Right? Who can argue against this basic right without pretending not to know what one seeks continuously every day in one’s life?

Privacy is something everyone in the world looks for. That is why we have curtains over our windows. That is why we sometimes lower our voice while conversing with someone. That is why we do not show or read another person’s mail to most others. That is why we wear clothes. Privacy is the very basic tenet to ensure human dignity.

Politicians who attack rivals sometimes say, “that is a private matter I won’t discuss.” Judges frequently deal with Public Interest Litigation, the qualifying criteria being ‘public interest’ as against ‘private matter.’ Then, why have nine honourable, overworked men to ponder on whether privacy is basic to dignified human existence?

There are exceptions to every right and seeking to link Aadhaar to PAN cards may be one such thing. But to ensure this linking, no one should argue that privacy is not a Fundamental Right. By doing so, Attorney-General K K Venugopal, who echoed his predecessor that privacy is not a Fundamental Right, made himself look like a servile clerk of a dictator.

Not Saudi Arabia

The Indian Penal Code is strong enough to deal with all kinds of offenders. There are enough laws that can be wielded to deal with any kind of offence committed by individuals, groups, governments or other entities. However, law is not enforced and even when done takes a long course to deny justice. To address these issues, process of litigation has to be expedited and have more courts and judges in proportion to the population, apart from making each verdict time-bound.

Unlike the IT Act introduced after the advent of Internet, law and order issues are as old as existence of humankind. There are sufficient laws to deal with each crime.

However, several members of Parliament seem to have walked into a trap unwittingly set by a few well-meaning intellectuals of civil society. A group of activists have worked on a bill that proposes more stringent punishments for lynch mobs.

If their idea was to highlight the alarming trend of lynch mobs that have grown and flourished into an industry in the last two years, then the activists may have succeeded. But if they believe on the necessity of a separate law to deal with lynch mobs, they are unwittingly encouraging a police state.

The anti-rape laws that were made more stringent after the Nirbhaya agitation has not brought down the number of rapes, nor did POTA bring down terrorism.

More specific and more stringent laws recommending death penalty can only create a police state because those who know to manipulate the law will trap innocent people into draconian laws while allowing criminals to go scot free.

To deal effectively with murder, rape, rioting etc., India needs better policing, by increasing the number of police available at short notice to deal with violence and improving the character and quality of police personnel. What India needs is more stringent application of laws, not more stringent laws.

( abey.kay@gmail.com)

(Published on 24th July 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 30)