Violent terrorism must certainly be combatted politically, legally and administratively. However, the practice of outright banning organisations clearly violates the fundamental liberties and democratic principles guaranteed by the Constitution, various thinkers and analysts tell Mohd Naushad Khan.
Various political parties, socio-cultural organisations, and alleged extremist groups have been subject to bans in different time frames since Independence by various governments. It is said some of these organisations may have been inspired by religious fanaticism, others are home to strong beliefs that are thought to be at war with the State.
However, practice of outright banning organisations clearly violates the fundamental liberties and democratic principles that are guaranteed by the Constitution. Banning organisations cannot be a panacea for all threat perceptions. But more so it appears to be a manifestation of a “Deep State.”
According to Ravi Nair, Executive Director, South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre, “Freedom of Association is at the core of human rights adherence. Without it, democracy is meaningless. Yet across the world today, in the name of fighting terrorism, it is circumscribed. The recent Indian experience has been instructive. The Hindutva government now and the Congress governments earlier both danced to the diktats of the Deep State.”
Nair added, “Violent Terrorism must certainly be combatted politically, legally and administratively. However, the Deep State in India being Hindutva since Independence did not play fair when combatting terrorism. I shall not go into history. In 2008, the UAPA Tribunal overturned the banning of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). The Government promptly got a stay order from the Supreme Court. Fresh bans on SIMI have since been imposed. So hangs a tale about the rule of law.”
“The recent ban on the Popular Front of India (PFI) is a case in point. It certainly has a radical point of view. So, have the clutch of Hindutva organisations. The Indian state and other political forces’ failure to oppose them with mass political education and campaigns have only exposed their political, organisational and ideological bankruptcy. A few criminal acts by a few members could have been dealt with by the criminal law of the land,” he argued.
“The Hindutva organisations and individuals involved in the Ajmer Sharif blasts, the Mecca Masjid, Malegaon and Samjhauta Express blasts are all having their criminal cases being diluted where investigation and prosecution will not be possible. None of the Hindutva organisations are banned. The government of India is mercifully engaged in formal talks with the Muivah group of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN). It was earlier a banned organisation. It has not formally given up armed struggle and it still bears arms in its Camp Hebron near Dimapur,” opined Nair.
“The moral of the story is that banning only suppresses symptoms. It provided no cures. An open democratic political engagement, transparent in its procedure, strengthens democratic polity. Banning only strengthens the creepy crawlies of the Deep State,” Nair stated.
Noted social and human rights activist, John Dayal said, “As an activist, I oppose all bans on government, on any organisation as ultimately such practices rebound on civil society, and the common man’s freedoms under the constitution. That is why I have consistently refrained from asking for a ban on the RSS and its sister organisations such as the Bajrang Dal, the Mahasabha and the groups working in tribal areas. They have collectively been guilty of acts of terrorism and mass violence amounting to attempted genocide. In any country, they would have long been banned, and their leaders, who now shout about, put in jail.
“The situation is really bad where the RSS is concerned. Over the years, it has penetrated not just civil society, but also various government organisations. Its international wing is very strong, and very rich, and is able to reach out to governments, members of parliament and officials in many western countries. We do call upon foreign governments to keep an eye on these groups which are guilty of attempted genocide and acts of terror against religious and ethnic minorities”.
Taslim Rahmani, national president of the Muslim Political Council of India, while sharing his perspective on ban culture, said, “Banning socio-cultural and political organisations in India is as old a practice as our Independence. RSS was the first organisation banned in 1948 for Mahatma Gandhi assassination. Since then hundreds of organisations were banned and reinstated. RSS alone was banned thrice and as balancing act Jamaat-e Islami Hind too was banned twice. But what is the outcome? RSS now enjoys status of mentor of the ruling party and penetrated in all the democratic institutions of the country. So many other organisations are still flourishing.”
Rahmani added, “Every time a group was banned for the reasons of anti-national activities and indulgence in violence, accusing them as a threat to national security; but fortunately, India as a nation too is thriving well and flourishing. That shows that politics of ban is actually politically motivated to eke out some temporary political brownies in the name of national security.”
On whether ban culture has served any purpose, he said, “As on today, more than 50 organisations are banned in the country. They mostly belong to Kashmiri, Punjabi, and North Eastern State Organisations and some Left liberal armed groups attached to Naxalites. But what is the outcome? Neither we saw peace in Kashmir nor Khalistan movement is rooted out nor north eastern unrest could be resolved. Moreover, we have seen our Ministry of Home Affairs directly establishing dialogue with those NE militant outfits and signing MoUs with them. Then what purpose is achieved through such long bans on organisations?”
On the impact of ban culture and implementation of draconian laws, Rahmani said, “Promulgation of draconian laws in various territories could never yield results like in Manipur, Nagaland and Kashmir such laws were promulgated for half a century. In Kashmir, it is still enforced for no visible achievement. This blatant failure shows faulty and biased attitude towards opposition voices and groups and issues of our general citizenry, denying democracy to work for the welfare of people. It’s more a political gimmick, arbitrary attitude, curbing and throttling opposition voices most of the times.”
Rahmani added, “While national security is a major and foremost concern for any sovereign nation but this cannot be used as a pretext and weapon against democratic processes and genuine public concerns.”
“To educate and organise was a prominent saying of Ambedkar. Healthy democracy demands strong organisation. India’s past marks a testimony to the fact that all its stalwarts started their civil rights movements in the form of organisation. The today’s totalitarian regime in the country is well aware of the fact that civil rights organisations will hamper their agenda. For that matter they are hell bent on curbing them. As a member of civil society, it is an inevitable demand of our democracy that we should strive for strong organisations,” said Dr. Maskoor Ahmad Usmani, former President, AMUSU, and now leader of Indian National Congress.