INDIA: Pragmatism It Is

( March 19, 2012, New Delhi, Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) The statement by the External Affairs Minister, Mr S. M. Krishna in the Rajya Sabha, that the country has given up its Nehruvian style foreign polices based on ethics and self-righteousness to pragmatism calls for an analysis. None would agree that the foreign or domestic polices of one among the architects and founding fathers of the country were implacable, or fail proof. History speaks for this. However, replacing ethics and self-righteousness with anything else that suits practicality could run the country into deep trouble, if it has not already.
Krishna’s questionable comment was at the heat of the debates concerning India’s view on the proposed United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on Sri Lanka. India’s views on Sri Lanka are parochial and are based on intentionally flawed assessment of the current regime in Sri Lanka. The most recent proof to this is the statement by the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India, Mr Prasad Kariyawasam, when he said that some parliamentarians from Tamil Nadu should be investigated for supporting Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
The High Commissioner of a country that considers India as its most valued partner making such a statement indicates a few things. The concept of parliamentary debate is dead in Sri Lanka. What rules that country is literally the ‘goonda raj’ of President Mahinda Rajapaksa with the support of his family, and crony street thugs like Mr Mervyn Silva the island nation’s Minister for Public Coordination and Public Affairs. Silva is reportedly in Burma to collect some ‘magic oil’ for his president. The High Commissioner who represents such a regime is expected to speak such foul. Indeed India immediately summoned the High Commissioner, and without shame, he has apologised and soon lied. He said that India’s media misquoted him. Practicality of telling a lie and excusing yourself you see. Perhaps India could emulate the High Commissioner.
Practicality is an excuse used by the government of India on several occasions, to lead its domestic and external policies. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 is an example. This draconian law is criticised by everyone who has thus far studied this law, other than the government. Absolute impunity to state agencies that could and are killing civilians and suspects at will is the overall purpose and architecture of this law. Firing at people to kill based upon mere suspicion in at least two states of India, Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur is the practical policy the government has adopted to deal with anti-state activities under the cover of this law.
Having the suspects arrested, their deeds investigated using modern investigation techniques, prosecuted if found chargeable with a crime, and above all having an investigative and prosecution apparatus that is capable of undertaking such an exercise is costly and time consuming. Instead, deploying a trigger-happy armed unit of the government, in a state, or region within a state that the government considers and the parliament approves as a ‘disturbed area’ and letting the armed units ‘do the cleaning up business’ is a practical way of dealing with the issue at hand. It might lack morality and above all legality. But who bothers?
It is everyone’s knowledge that most institutions in the country are corrupt, most importantly the bureaucracy and the police. The country acknowledges that corruption is a matter of concern, but has failed to do anything about it. This is because, many in the parliament cannot continue as an elected member if the government decides, that it would follow a policy of zero tolerance to corruption. The police or for that matter any other investigation agency, for instance the Central Bureau of Investigation, are equally corrupt and use custodial torture as the most resorted means to impart fear upon the people, and for investigation.
The government has chosen not to deal with torture or corruption, since should they decide to root these evils out, the bureaucracy and the police would turn against the elected representatives that form an important component of the government. So, they have decided to scratch each other’s back and to look the other way whenever required. A very practical way of undertaking business though it is illegal and immoral. Mind it, let pragmatism prevail. Morality, legality and concepts like the rule of law and constitutionalism are impractical.
Elected representatives watched pornography in the Karnataka state assembly when the assembly was in session. The media broadcasted this nationwide. Instead of condemning the despicable conduct of the three members, of which one culprit, Mr. C. C. Patil, who is the Women and Child Welfare Minister of the state, the state legislative assembly wanted to take actions against the media that broadcast the incident. Silencing the whistleblower, whenever you can, assures that crimes and despicable conduct are swept under the carpet. Misinterpreting privileges of the house and that of its members is a very practical solution to such embarrassing exposures.
Thousands of children die from acute malnutrition and hunger in the country each year. Usual statistics keep coming out against which the government expresses shock; the prime minister calls it a national shame regularly and the media talks about it for a while. Nothing is done beyond that. While at the same time, multinational giants are allowed to dig, drain and juice life out of the country and its people for their private profit. There are at least two-dozen such monstrous projects in the country. They are the results of sham and nepotic deals that were concluded in the state and national capitals. The people who lost land and livelihood for these projects were not consulted. Impractical indeed they are, such consultations, adjudication for compensations, resettlement and satisfactory rehabilitation.
So what is at stake here? Concerning the Sri Lankan love affair, India might abstain from voting and lobby against the resolution in the background at the very minimum or may vote against the resolution as a practical solution, given the fact that India might have to face an embarrassing situation should investigations in Sri Lanka lead to the finding that the Sri Lankan army undertook civilian massacre with intelligence and other tactical supports provided by India. Supporting Sri Lanka at all costs is thus a practical way of dealing with it at the moment.
Concerning government policies, to start with, the parliament should immediately consider amending the constitution. This would allow the government to supersede constitutional remits that mandates the government to uphold the rule of law at all costs so that practical solutions as enumerated above could be implemented even more widely.
Basic norms like presumption of innocence and right to silence should be discontinued as already suggested by the infamous Malimod Committee, so that anyone suspected of a crime could be punished unless the suspect chooses to prove innocence, if the person could afford for a defence. Encounter killings should be made a normative procedure in criminal investigation so that money could be saved than maintaining courts, judges and prosecutions. Elections should be abandoned and those who are now elected should be allowed to retain power until they choose to retire, just as they do in China. This will allow the country to undertake the Chinese model of development at breakneck speed and at all costs including fundamental human rights of the people, since now the country’s prospect is limited to superseding China only in its population.
And yes, concerning the undernourished children of the country, the future of India, just like what Ms. Sheela Khanna, the Chairperson of Madhya Pradesh State Commission for Protection of Child Rights said to the AHRC, let there be a “Brahmin priest in each of these centres and require the priest to verify the horoscope of every child brought to the centre. After studying a child’s horoscope if the priest is of the opinion that the child will grow into a good citizen of this country, it must be provided treatment at the centre. For the rest, I would say, let us just leave them to their fate … if not where do we stop?”
Lastly, Satyameva Jayate, the motto of the country should be immediately scrapped. Seeking and attaining truth would be very impractical in India. What is pragmatic would be to adopt a new punch line that would better reflect the country’s policy.

| A statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission 

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Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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