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Your Silence in the Face of Enormous Societal Threat Is Deafening: Former Civil Servants to Modi

Members of the Constitutional Conduct Group said the "frenzy of hate filled destruction" that the country is witnessing is not just targeting minorities, but the constitution itself.

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New Delhi: More than 100 former civil servants have said that the recent instances of “hate violence against [India’s] minority communities, particularly Muslims” represent the “subordination of the fundamental principles of our constitution and of the rule of law to the forces of majoritarianism”, accusing the state of being “fully complicit” in this process.

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the former civil servants – under the banner of the Constitutional Conduct Groupe – said the “frenzy of hate filled destruction” that the country is witnessing is not just targeting minorities, but the constitution itself. Though they criticised the prime minister’s silence on these incidents as ‘deafening’, they hoped that he would “call for an end to the politics of hate that governments under your party’s control are so assiduously practising”.

Former Delhi Lt Governor Najeeb Jung, former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, ex-foreign secretary Sujatha Singh, former home secretary G.K. Pillai and former prime minister Manmohan Singh’s principal secretary T.K.A. Nair are among the 108 signatories to the letter.

“As former civil servants, it is not normally our want to express ourselves in such extreme terms, but the relentless pace at which the constitutional edifice created by our founding fathers is being destroyed compels us to speak out and express our anger and anguish,” the letter said.

The escalation of “hate violence” against the minority communities, particularly Muslims, in the last few years and months across several BJP ruled states like Assam, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand “has acquired a frightening new dimension”, they said.

The open letter comes amid a spate of communal clashes reported across the country and the bulldozing of houses belonging to members of minority communities who are accused of “rioting”. The civil servants also discussed issues such as the hijab ban.

“[The violence] is no longer just the politics of an assertive Hindutva identity, nor the attempt to keep the communal cauldron on the boil – all that has been going for decades and in the last few years had become a part of the new normal. What is alarming now is the subordination of the fundamental principles of our Constitution and of the rule of law to the forces of majoritarianism, in which the state appears to be fully complicit,” the letter says.

The administration of law, instead of being an instrument for maintaining peace and harmony, has become the means by which the minorities can be kept in a state of perpetual fear. “Their constitutional right to practice their own faith, follow their own customs, dress code and personal laws and exercise their own food choices, is threatened not merely by letting vigilante mobs inflict violence on them with impunity but, by twisting the law itself, to circumscribe their freedom of choice and make it convenient for a prejudiced, communal executive to make colourable use of state power,” the former civil servants said.

The former bureaucrats said they believe that the threat is unprecedented and at stake is not just constitutional morality and conduct – “it is that the unique syncretic social fabric, which is our greatest civilisational inheritance and which our constitution is so meticulously designed to conserve, is likely to be torn apart”.

“Your silence, in the face of this enormous societal threat, is deafening,” the letter said.

“We appeal to your conscience, taking heart from your promise of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas’,” the letter said.

“It is our fond hope that in this year of ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’, rising above partisan considerations, you will call for an end to the politics of hate that governments under your party’s control are so assiduously practising,” said the letter.

The full letter and the list of signatories is reproduced below.

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26 April 2022

Dear Prime Minister,

We are witnessing a frenzy of hate filled destruction in the country where at the sacrificial altar are not just Muslims and members of the other minority communities but the Constitution itself. As former civil servants, it is not normally our wont to express ourselves in such extreme terms, but the relentless pace at which the constitutional edifice created by our founding fathers is being destroyed compels us to speak out and express our anger and anguish.

The escalation of hate violence against the minority communities, particularly Muslims, in the last few years and months across several States – Assam, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, all states in which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in power, barring Delhi (where the union government controls the police) – has acquired a frightening new dimension. It is no longer just the politics of an assertive Hindutva identity, nor the attempt to keep the communal cauldron on the boil – all that has been going for decades and in the last few years had become a part of the new normal. What is alarming now is the subordination of the fundamental principles of our Constitution and of the rule of law to the forces of majoritarianism, in which the state appears to be fully complicit.

The hate and malevolence directed against Muslims seems to have embedded itself deep in the recesses of the structures, institutions and processes of governance in the States in which the BJP is in power. The administration of law, instead of being an instrument for maintaining peace and harmony, has become the means by which the minorities can be kept in a state of perpetual fear. Their constitutional right to practice their own faith, follow their own customs, dress code and personal laws and exercise their own food choices, is threatened not merely by letting vigilante mobs inflict violence on them with impunity but, by twisting the law itself, to circumscribe their freedom of choice and make it convenient for a prejudiced, communal executive to make colourable use of state power. State power is thus used not only to facilitate vigilante violence targeted against a community but to make ostensibly legal means available to the administration (e.g., anti-conversion laws, laws proscribing consumption of beef, encroachment removal, prescription of uniform codes in educational institutions) to strike fear in the community, deprive them of their livelihoods and make it evident to them that they have to accept their status as inferior citizens who have to subordinate themselves to majoritarian political power and majoritarian social and cultural norms. The likelihood of our becoming a country that systematically makes sections of its own citizens – minorities, Dalits, the poor and the marginalized – targets of hate and knowingly deprives them of their fundamental rights is now, more than ever, frighteningly real.

While we are not aware if the current spurt in communal frenzy is coordinated and directed by the political leadership, it is evident that the administration at the state and local levels provides a facilitating environment for mischievous lumpen groups to operate without fear. Such facilitation and support is not limited to that offered by the local police and other administrative officials; it appears to have the tacit approval of the highest political levels in the state and central governments, which provide the enabling policy and institutional environment for local level tyranny. While the actual commission of violence may be outsourced to fringe groups, there is little doubt as to how the ground for their operations is made fertile, how each of them follows a master script and shares a common ‘tool kit’ and how the propaganda machinery of a party as well as the state is made available to them to defend their actions.

What distinguishes the incidents that are taking place now from earlier communal conflagrations is not merely that a master design is being unveiled to prepare the grounds for a Hindu Rashtra, but that the constitutional and legal framework designed to prevent such a development from taking place is itself being twisted and perverted to make it an instrument of majoritarian tyranny. No wonder then that the bulldozer has now become the new metaphor for the exercise of political and administrative power, literally and figuratively. The edifice built around the ideas of ‘due process’ and ‘rule of law’ stands demolished. As the Jahangirpuri incident shows, even the orders of the highest court of the land appear to be treated with scant respect by the executive.

Prime Minister, we, the members of the Constitutional Conduct Group – all of us are former civil servants who have spent decades in the service of the Constitution – believe that the threat we are facing is unprecedented and at stake is not just constitutional morality and conduct; it is that the unique syncretic social fabric, which is our greatest civilizational inheritance and which our Constitution is so meticulously designed to conserve, is likely to be torn apart. Your silence, in the face of this enormous societal threat, is deafening.

We appeal to your conscience, taking heart from your promise of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas. It is our fond hope that in this year of ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’, rising above partisan considerations, you will call for an end to the politics of hate that governments under your party’s control are so assiduously practising. The idea of India that our founding fathers had envisioned and fought for needs a climate of fraternity and communal harmony to thrive. Hate will engender hate, rendering the environment too noxious for the idea to survive.

SATYAMEVA JAYATE

Yours sincerely,

Constitutional Conduct Group (108 signatories)

1. Anita Agnihotri IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Social Justice Empowerment, GoI
2. Salahuddin Ahmad IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
3. S.P. Ambrose IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI
4. Anand Arni RAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
5. Aruna Bagchee IAS (Retd.) Former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Mines, GoI
6. Sandeep Bagchee IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
7. G. Balachandhran IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
8. Vappala Balachandran IPS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
9. Gopalan Balagopal IAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
10. Chandrashekar Balakrishnan IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Coal, GoI
11. Rana Banerji RAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
12. T.K. Banerji IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Union Public Service Commission
13. Sharad Behar IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
14. Madhu Bhaduri IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Portugal
15. Meeran C Borwankar IPS (Retd.) Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research and Development, GoI
16. Ravi Budhiraja IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI
17. Sundar Burra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
18. Maneshwar Singh Chahal IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Secretary, Home, Govt. of Punjab
19. R. Chandramohan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Secretary, Transport and Urban Development, Govt. of NCT of Delhi
20. Kalyani Chaudhuri IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
21. Gurjit Singh Cheema IAS (Retd.) Former Financial Commissioner (Revenue), Govt. of Punjab
22. F.T.R. Colaso IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Karnataka & former Director General of Police, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
23. Anna Dani IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
24. Surjit K. Das IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttarakhand
25. Vibha Puri Das IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI
26. P.R. Dasgupta IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI
27. Pradeep K. Deb IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Deptt. Of Sports, GoI
28. M.G. Devasahayam IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana
29. Sushil Dubey IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Sweden
30. A.S. Dulat IPS (Retd.) Former OSD on Kashmir, Prime Minister’s Office, GoI
31. K.P. Fabian IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Italy
32. Prabhu Ghate IAS (Retd.) Former Addl. Director General, Department of Tourism, GoI
33. Suresh K. Goel IFS (Retd.) Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI
34. S.K. Guha IAS (Retd.) Former Joint Secretary, Department of Women & Child Development, GoI
35. H.S. Gujral IFoS (Retd.) Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Govt. of Punjab
36. Meena Gupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI
37. Ravi Vira Gupta IAS (Retd.) Former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India
38. Deepa Hari IRS (Resigned)
39. Sajjad Hassan IAS (Retd.) Former Commissioner (Planning), Govt. of Manipur
40. Siraj Hussain IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Agriculture, GoI
41. Kamal Jaswal IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
42. Najeeb Jung IAS (Retd.) Former Lieutenant Governor, Delhi
43. Brijesh Kumar IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
44. Ish Kumar IPS (Retd.) Former DGP (Vigilance & Enforcement), Govt. of Telangana and former Special Rapporteur, National Human Rights Commission
45. Sudhir Kumar IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Central Administrative Tribunal
46. Subodh Lal IPoS (Resigned) Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI
47. B.B. Mahajan IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Deptt. of Food, GoI
48. Harsh Mander IAS (Retd.) Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
49. Amitabh Mathur IPS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
50. Lalit Mathur IAS (Retd.) Former Director General, National Institute of Rural Development, GoI
51. L.L. Mehrotra IFS (Retd.) Former Special Envoy to the Prime Minister and former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, GoI
52. Aditi Mehta IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
53. Shivshankar Menon IFS (Retd.) Former Foreign Secretary and Former National Security Adviser
54. Sonalini Mirchandani IFS (Resigned) GoI
55. Sunil Mitra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI
56. Noor Mohammad IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, National Disaster Management Authority, Govt. of India
57. Avinash Mohananey IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Sikkim
58. Satya Narayan Mohanty IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission
59. Deb Mukharji IFS (Retd.) Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal
60. Shiv Shankar Mukherjee IFS (Retd.) Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
61. Gautam Mukhopadhaya IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Myanmar
62. Pranab S. Mukhopadhya IAS (Retd.) Former Director, Institute of Port Management, GoI
63. T.K.A. Nair IAS (Retd.) Former Adviser to Prime Minister of India
64. P.A. Nazareth IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Egypt and Mexico
65. P. Joy Oommen IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh
66. Amitabha Pande IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
67. Maxwell Pereira IPS (Retd.) Former Joint Commissioner of Police, Delhi
68. G.K. Pillai IAS (Retd.) Former Home Secretary, GoI
69. R. Poornalingam IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, GoI
70. Rajesh Prasad IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to the Netherlands
71. Sharda Prasad IAS (Retd.) Former Director General (Employment and Training), Ministry of Labour and Employment, GoI
72. R.M. Premkumar IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
73. Rajdeep Puri IRS (Resigned) Former Joint Commissioner of Income Tax, GoI
74. T.R. Raghunandan IAS (Retd.) Former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, GoI
75. N.K. Raghupathy IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI
76. V.P. Raja IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission
77. Satwant Reddy IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Chemicals and Petrochemicals, GoI
78. Vijaya Latha Reddy IFS (Retd.) Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI
79. Julio Ribeiro IPS (Retd.) Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania
80. Aruna Roy IAS (Resigned)
81. A.K. Samanta IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police (Intelligence), Govt. of West Bengal
82. Deepak Sanan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh
83. Shyam Saran IFS (Retd.) Former Foreign Secretary and Former Chairman, National Security Advisory Board
84. S. Satyabhama IAS (Retd.) Former Chairperson, National Seeds Corporation, GoI
85. N.C. Saxena IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI
86. A. Selvaraj IRS (Retd.) Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI
87. Ardhendu Sen IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
88. Abhijit Sengupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI
89. Aftab Seth IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Japan
90. Ashok Kumar Sharma IFoS (Retd.) Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat
91. Ashok Kumar Sharma IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia
92. Navrekha Sharma IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Indonesia
93. Pravesh Sharma IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
94. Raju Sharma IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh
95. Rashmi Shukla Sharma IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
96. Mukteshwar Singh IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission
97. Sujatha Singh IFS (Retd.) Former Foreign Secretary, GoI
98. Tara Ajai Singh IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Karnataka
99. Tirlochan Singh IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI
100. Narendra Sisodia IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI
101. Parveen Talha IRS (Retd.) Former Member, Union Public Service Commission
102. Anup Thakur IAS (Retd.) Former Member, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
103. P.S.S. Thomas IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission
104. Hindal Tyabji IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
105. Jawed Usmani IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh & former Chief Information Commissioner, Uttar Pradesh
106. Ashok Vajpeyi IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Lalit Kala Akademi
107. Ramani Venkatesan IAS (Retd.) Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra
108. Rudi Warjri IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Colombia, Ecuador and Costa Rica