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PUCL: The Road Ahead

First of all I want to pay my tributes to my predecessor Mr. Prabhakar Sinha for his outstanding contribution in building up of PUCL to achieve its Aims and Objects. The PUCL Constitution is very short. Mr Sinha has very appropriately been saying that we should act according to the Constitution. But there is nothing mentioned therein as to how various functionaries mentioned in the Constitution have to function. Mr. Sinha has done tremendous and innovative work in explaining how it has to be interpreted by telling us, even in the absence of specific provisions in the Constitution, that the PUCL can proceed and go ahead to achieve its aims and objects. He has spoken about them in his various addresses and meetings of the PUCL, written articles and letters to the members. In his recently published book, UNDERSTANDING PUCL he also addresses those issues. None of his predecessors did so much work for the PUCL as he has done. His devotion to the PUCL has been and continues to be absolute. In a letter dated 23rd March 2012 addressed to the members of the PUCL he said: “so far we have not been able to involve you and seek your co-operation, but it is never too late to do what is right”. He further said in that letter: “To be vigilant and critically examine whether the organization at different levels follows the letter and the spirit of its Constitution or not, and to strive for course correction, if any deviation is noticed, can be your most valuable contribution”.

After about seven months of Narendra Modi becoming the Prime Minister of India, at the opening session of the 12th PUCL Convention held in Patna on 6th December 2014, Shri Sinha in his Presidential speech titled, ‘Take human rights to the masses’ very aptly remarked that ‘The PUCL is in the thirty-fifth year of its fruitful existence. We have been continuously working since its inception. It appears to me that the time has come when we should take stock of the fruits of our labour. Have we made a significant difference to the human rights scenario in the country, enlarged the base of its support and made human rights part of the consciousness of society? Have we been employing the most effective strategy to achieve the goals enumerated in the Constitution of the PUCL? If there was some inadequacy, how should we remove it? These are the questions we should ask ourselves to decide the future course of action.’ In the concluding part of this speech, Mr. Sinha said “Human rights cannot be protected without going to the masses, arousing them and inspiring them to fight for their rights. Our role is of a very potent catalyst.”

Now after about 3 years of that speech, this National Council meeting is taking place in a grimmer situation in which there is a vile attack being mounted at the very concept of Indian Nationhood that subsumes an unprecedented range of diversity: religious, linguistic, cultural, ethnic, regional etc. Now after 3 years of the Modi government at the Centre, Yogi Adityanath, the Hindu icon has been installed as the Chief Minister of UP. Of the 403 seats, the BJP secured a majority of 325 members in the UP Legislative Assembly.

Yogi has the reputation of being a hard core Hindu leader. His elevation to the position of the UP Chief Minister shows that Hindutva is sweeping the country. It also shows that secularism has not yet taken roots in our country. Now we have to look into the questions raised by Sinha sahib more thoughtfully in the light of such developments in the last three years.

After the abovementioned 2014 Patna PUCL Convention, the National Council of PUCL met in Allahabad on 19th and 20th September 2015 in which the PUCL decided to launch three National level campaigns involving all state units across India starting from 1st January 2016. The three nationwide campaigns which were to be launched include

I) a nationwide campaign for securing the dignity of the individual in practice,

II) A campaign against great threat posed by the divisive and fascist politics of the RSS and BJP and

III) a meaningful and effective reform of the criminal justice system.

It is obvious that the decision to launch these three campaigns at the national level involving all state units was taken as a result of the debate started by Shri Sinha on 6th December 2014, after putting some questions to us, and concluding by saying “These are the questions we should ask ourselves to decide the future course of action.” Thereafter, a National Executive meeting of the PUCL was held in Jaipur on 14-15 May 2016 in which Prabhakar Sinha ji reminded us that for reasons beyond our control the campaigns could not be launched and our top most priority now is to implement the decision of the national council.

Thereafter the PUCL held a National Council meeting in Delhi on 17-18 September 2016 in which again we noticed that the three main campaigns accepted earlier were on the agenda of PUCL activities. But no discussion took place about the progress made in the implementation of the decision to launch the three programs. This situation continued even at the time of the National Convention held at Raipur on 16-18 December 2016, in which I reminded the members present at my Presidential address what Prabhakar Sinha Ji had reminded us during the National Executive meeting at Jaipur on 14-15 May 2016. There we had decided to launch the three campaigns and that for reasons beyond our control the campaigns could not be launched and the topmost priority now is to implement the decision of the National Council to launch these three campaigns. No discussion took place as to how the three campaigns had to be launched.

After the Raipur National Convention of December 2016, a meeting of the National Executive was held in Jaipur on the 1st and 2nd July 2017. Shri Prabhakar Sinha in his mail sent to Dr. Suresh on 23rd May 2017 made the following suggestion: “The first item on the agenda should be a “Review of the Progress made in the implementation of the decision made to secure recognition of the principle of `Dignity of the Individual’, the threat to democracy from majoritarian politics and the criminal justice system”. But unfortunately we have not been able to make any progress in the implementation of the launching of the three campaigns.

We have to find answers to the question as to what are the reasons that we have not been able to initiate the launching of the three campaigns, in spite of a very appropriate observation of Shri Prabhakhar Sinha in 13-14 May 2016 Jaipur Executive meeting; “and our top most priority now is to implement the decision of the national council.” Some reasons are mentioned in the presidential address of Shri Sinha at the National Council meeting of 17-18 December 2016 wherein he noted, “Engagement with the people has become minimal. At the level of the state some engagement may be taking place, but there has been no national campaign for many years though a few seminars have been organized. It has been a major omission. The people in general are not aware that we, or the human rights movements, are relevant for them. The masses are almost cut off and others have a distorted view that human rights are for a select group of people and not for all. ‘A cause which has no public support has almost no chance of success’.

One more reason, in this context that Mr. Prabhakar Sinha provided, is contained in what he has observed at page 65 of his recently published book UNDERSTANDING PUCL: “The human rights organisations including PUCL have ignored the common man who alone can save democratic way of life and protect human rights”.

With great respect to all, and most humbly, I submit that the cause for the emergence of the aforesaid situation described by Shri Sinha at the National Council meeting of 17-18 December, 2016 that there has not been any engagement with the people, the masses are cut off etc. and that a cause has almost no chance of success for want of public support, is that the Constitution of PUCL is being misread and there is a misconception that the Constitution of PUCL does not include economic and social rights. In this context I quote what has been stated on page 11 of the recently published book of Shri Prabhakar Sinha, UNDERSTANDING PUCL.

To many it is intriguing that its aims and objects do not specifically include economic and social rights. There were very sound reasons for their non-inclusion. One was the obvious fact that economic and social well-being of the people was the main concern and agenda of the political parties, which compete with one other to capture power and use the power of the state for the economic and social betterment of the people according to their respective ideologies. The framers of the PUCL Constitution, who were eminent persons from different fields including political parties, did not consider the economic and social well-being of the people an appropriate agenda of a civil rights organization.

"In a welfare state the welfare of the people was the responsibility of the political parties and not of the others, who were not in the competition for capturing power and using power and resources of the state for the welfare of the people. It was also apparent to the framers of the Constitution that it could be possible to agree to a common standard of life, which the people must be provided, but not on how that could be achieved. Opting for any one ideological approach was bound to drive out those members who did not agree because they adhere to a different ideology. Choosing any one way for economic and social well-being of the people would have reduced the PUCL to an organization of politically like-minded persons.

How to Interpret the Constitution of PUCL: The first item in the aims and objects of the Constitution of PUCL is “to promote and uphold civil liberties and the democratic way of life throughout India”. The second item in those aims and objects is “to secure recognition of the principle of dignity of individual”.

In order to interpret these two items we have to look back to see the circumstances and the context in which the constitution of PUCL was made. The formation of the PUCL in November 1980 after four years of the formation of the PUCLDR in Oct 1976 (during the emergency), occurred in totally different circumstances. The emergency had long gone but there was the experience of four years during which derailment of democratic values took place and hence, it appeared that the members of the CFD (Citizens For Democracy) felt a need to form an organization to uphold democratic values and civil liberties and to secure recognition to the principle of dignity of individual.

To find differences between the circumstances under which the PUCLDR was formed on 17th October 1976 and the circumstances in which the PUCL was formed in November 1980, we need to look back as to how the two very different situations came to exist in October 1976 and in November 1980.

Indira Gandhi had won the Parliamentary elections in 1971 with a massive majority. Right from day one she exceeded the power typically enjoyed by Prime Ministers in Parliamentary systems where Prime Ministers heed as well as lead their followers. Granville Austin in his celebrated book: Working a Democratic Constitution has observed “The executive branch came to dominate Parliament to such a degree that Parliament lost any effective identity of its own. And, authority within the executive became concentrated in the Prime Minister’s office and then was exercised from Mrs. Gandhi’s residence, to the exclusion of all but a few.”

The stirrings of the restless 1970s began well before the declaration of emergency in June 1975. By 1972-74, the immediate afterglow of Independence had dimmed and several groups and communities had begun to feel a sense of having been deprived of their due. Emerging from a self-imposed exile of 20 years to lead the change that people of India needed then, JP made the dramatic leap from being the bridge of conciliation between contesting forces to an advocate of a total revolution In early 1974 there started a student’s led movement against misrule of Indira Gandhi.

The events in Gujarat inspired students in Bihar to launch struggle against mis governance. In March 1974 Shri Jai Prakash Narain was asked by students of Gujarat and Bihar more than one year before the Emergency was imposed to step in and lead their movement against the mis governance of Indira Gandhi’s government. J.P agreed. On the 5th June 1974 JP led a massive procession through the streets of Patna, which culminated in a meeting at the Gandhi Maidan, where JP called for a “total revolution” to redeem the unfulfilled promises of the freedom movement. ‘India had been free for 27 years’, said JP, “yet hunger, soaring prices and corruption stalk everywhere. The people are being crushed under all sorts of injustice”. It was in this meeting that JP spoke of a “total revolution” for the first time. The JP movement spread rapidly to become an all India movement.

The hearing in the case of Kesavananda Bharati began on 31st Oct 1972 before a 13 Judges Bench of the Supreme Court and lasted till mid -March .The judgment came on 24th April 1973, the day on which Chief Justice Sikri who was presiding the Bench, had to retire. By a majority of 7:6, the Supreme Court upheld the basic structure doctrine. The majority ruled that there are basic features in the constitution which cannot be amended by Parliament in its amending power under Article 368.

On 25th April 1973, the day after the Kesavananda decision, Mrs Gandhi appointed Justice A. N. Ray as Chief Justice of India by superseding three senior judges: Judges Shallot, Hegde and Grover. By doing so Mrs Gandhi had struck a grievous blow to the independence of judiciary. Adverse reaction to the supersession from the legal community was immediate and vociferous. The experience of the working of the judiciary since then shows that the act of superseding three senior judges on 25th April 1973 was the beginning of the process of weakening of the judiciary. While the JP movement was gaining ground Prime Minister Indira Gandhi lost in election petition on 12th June 1975, which was filed by Raj Narain. Indira Gandhi imposed emergency on the night of 25th June 1975.

Detentions of a large number of persons began during the early hours of 26th June 1975 even before the proclamation of emergency was published in the gazette of India later that day. Granville Austin has described the situation as follows:

“The denial of Civil Liberties and the violation of human rights extended far beyond detentions and censorship. There were stances of torture – the most famous being that of Lawrence Fernandes, brother of railway Union leader George Fernandes- and already poor jail conditions were greatly worsened by the poor overload from detentions. The demolition of jhuggis-jhopries (shanty-town) in and around Delhi devastated the poor. The rural and urban poor and lower middle class were subjected to the terror of a forcible sterilization program organized by Sanjay Gandhi- especially in North India.”

The matters of large number of detentions reached the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court in what is known as ADM Jabalpur case opened hearing on 15th December 1975 and handed down its decision on 28th April 1976 (6 months before PUCLDR was formed ) The case was decided by a majority of 4:1. The majority by judgments gave a free charter to every petty government servant to do his will against helpless people. This case is the most glaring stance in which the Supreme Court of India has suffered most severally from a self-inflicted wound. Four of the five judges who constituted the Bench upheld the Government of India’s position. Only Justice Khanna dissented. The four – judge majority held that no citizen had standing to move a writ of habeas corpus before a High Court under Article 226 in the light of President’s Order of 27th June 1975 or to challenge a detention order as illegal, as factually or legally malafide, or as based on extraneous consideration. The four Judges held that Article 21 was the sole repository of rights to life and personal liberty against the state.

In this backdrop of the events during authoritarian rule of Mrs. Gandhi from 1971 onwards, during the dark days of emergency, when fundamental rights were totally eclipsed, the PUCLDR was formed on 17th Oct 1976, without a written Constitution (After 17 months of declaration of emergency and 6 months after the decision in ADM Jabalpur case). Three months thereafter on 18 Jan 1977 the prime minister announced that Parliament was to be dissolved and fresh elections held.


On the night of 20th March 1977, the election results were declared in which Indira Gandhi had to suffer a humiliating defeat. A Janata Party government came into being on 25th March 1977. A large number of people who had worked with JP during the emergency assumed power at the centre in the Janata Party government and an “impression started floating that now liberties of the people were secure. The dynamic element in the PUCLDR subsided”. The PUCLDR, therefore, could function only for 3 months until 18th Jan 1977 when the elections were announced. The Janata Party came to power on a wave of hyperbole, with talk of a second freedom from authoritarian rule and a resounding restoration of democracy almost from its initial weeks in its office, the party seemed determined to squander this goodwill. Historian Ramchandra Guha described the situation in his celebrated book India after Gandhi as follows: “It was soon noticed that in both the centres and states Janata ministers were grabbing the best government bungalows, raiding the PWD for air-conditioners and carpets, organizing lavish parties and weddings for their relatives, running up huge telephone and electric bills, travelling abroad at the slightest pretext (or on no pretext at all). Even traditionally anti congress journals were writing about single ‘death of idealism’ within Janata, of how it had so quickly become a ‘political party of the traditional time’, its members ‘entrusted more and more in positions and perquisites and less and less in affecting society’. It was being said that while it had taken the congress 30 years to abandon its principles, Janata had lost them within a year of its formation. The Janata government could survive only for 28 months. Janata’s carrier became painfully apparent, in June 1979 as it bled from massive defection. During the Janata Party rule the activities of the PUCLDR remained confined to get the MISA repealed, a draconian law enacted by Mrs. Indira Gandhi in 1971. It was repealed in 1978.

The next elections were held in January 1980 (before 10-11 months of the formation of PUCL) and the same lady who had suffered humiliating defeat in 1977 on account of her authoritarian style of governance during 1971-77, returned as Prime Minister with a thumping majority. Her Congress party won 353 seats in the 1980 elections, one more than in the ‘Garibi Hatao’ campaign of 1971. The 1980 elections marked the ‘end of ideology’ in Indian politics. Previous polls were fought on issues such as democracy, socialism, secularism and non-alignment. In 1980, Mrs. Gandhi did not raise the issue of poverty but of her ability to rule. Granville Austin wrote in his book Working a Democratic Constitution: “On 15th Jan Justice Bhagwati (who was one of the Judges who gave majority judgment in ADM Jabalpur case) wrote a “Dear Indira ji” letter to Prime Minister congratulating her on her re-election and praising her “iron-will………uncanny insight and dynamic vision, great administrative capacity and ……heart which is identified with the misery of the poor and the weak”. The Justice continued that “the judicial system in our country is in a state of utter collapse ……we should have a fresh and uninhibited look at …….. (it) and consider what structural and jurisdictional changes are necessary”. The train of events began in mid-1980 with a rumor that the government intended to appoint the Chief Justice of each High Court from outside its jurisdiction. Indira Gandhi started a process by which her govt. could appoint committed judges –her unaccomplished task during 1971-77.

In this backdrop was formed PUCL in Nov 1980 with a written constitution which was entirely a different entity from the PUCLDR which was formed four years previously on 17th Oct 1976 which functioned for only for 3 months.. The first item in the Aims and Objects given in the Constitution of PUCL is to promote and uphold both ‘ civil liberties’ and ‘the democratic way of life’, throughout India .To uphold and promote Civil liberties means to secure the paramountcy of the Constitution of India in regard to fundamental rights contained in part III which are enforceable through courts. To uphold and promote the democratic way of life means the governance as envisaged in the Constitution of India, which is the governance on the fundamental principles contained in part IV which relates to the directive principles of state policy. The fundamental rights and directive principles had their roots deep in the struggle for independence, and they were included in the Constitution in the hope and expectation that one day the tree of liberty would bloom in India. Article 37 of the Constitution of India provides: ‘the provisions contained in this part shall not be enforceable by any court but the principles laid down therein are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the state to apply these principles in making laws.’ A question arises that if these principles are not enforceable through courts how will they be enforced? The answer is that they are enforceable through a democratic process.

The first and second items in the Aims and Objects of the Constitution of PUCL; “ to uphold and promote by peaceful means Civil liberties and the Democratic Way of life throughout India”, and “to secure recognition to the principle of dignity of the individual” have to be read together and have to be meaningfully interpreted in this context , so as to take within its scope a democratic process in which people may be able to secure their fundamental rights and be involved to demand their governance on fundamental principles contained in Part IV of the Constitution. In fact the core of commitment to the social revolution envisaged under our constitution lies in part III (Chapter relating to Fundamental Rights) and Part IV (Chapter relating to Directive Principles of State policy).

More than 36 years ago in Francis Coralie Mullin vs Administrator, Union Territory of Delhi, 1981(1) SCC 608 (618-19), Para 8, Justice Bhagwati had observed, ‘the right to life includes the right to live with human dignity and all that goes along with it , namely , the bare necessity of life such as adequate nutrition, clothing and shelter and facilities for reading, writing and expressing oneself in diverse forms , freely moving about and mixing and mingling with fellow human beings. Of course the magnitude and content of the components of this right would depend upon the extent of the economic development of the country, but, it must, in any view of the matter include the right to the basic necessities of life and also the right to carry out such functions and activities as constitute the bare minimum expression of the human self. Every act which offends against or impairs human dignity would constitute deprivation pro tanto of this right to and it would have to be in accordance with reasonable , fair and just procedure established by law which stands the test of other fundamental rights.’

In Bandhua Mukti Morcha vs Union of India AIR 1984 SC 802 (para 10) the Supreme Court observed: “It is the fundamental right of everyone in this country ,assured under the interpretation given to article 21 by this court in Francis Mullin’s case (1981(1)SCC 608) to live with human dignity , free from exploitation. This right to live with human dignity enshrined in Article 21 derives its life breath from the directive principles of state policy and particularly clauses (e) and (f) of article 39 and article 41 and 42 and at the least, therefore , it must include protection of the health of the workers , men and women, and of the tender age of the children against abuse , opportunities, facilities for children to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity, educational facilities, just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief. These are the minimum requirements which must exist in order to enable a person to live with human dignity.

    (Kindly read Articles 38, 39, 41, 42, 43 and 47 which are being enumerated in the ANNEXURE)

In the Minerva mills case (1980) 3 SCC page 625. in Para 61 of the judgment of the Supreme Court , it was observed: ‘The significance of the perception that Parts III and IV together constitute the core commitment to social revolution and, they, together are the conscience of the Constitution. Granville Austin’s observation brings out the true position that Parts III and IV are like two wheels of a chariot, one no less important than the other. You snap one and the other will lose its efficacy. They are like a twin formula for achieving the social revolution, which is the ideal which the visionary founders of the Constitution set before themselves. In other words, the Indian Constitution is founded on the bedrock of the balance between Parts III and IV. To give absolute primacy to one over the other is to disturb the harmony of the Constitution. This harmony and balance between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles is an essential feature of the basic structure of the Constitution’.

In Nandini Sundar vs State of Chattisgarh, 2011 (VII) SCC 547, taking note of the Directive Principle contained in Article 39 (b): ‘ That the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to sub serve the common goods, observed as follows :

“The Constitution itself, in no certain terms, demands that the state shall strive, incessantly and consistently, to promote fraternity amongst all citizens such that the dignity of every citizen is protected, nourished and promoted. The directive principles, though not justiciable, nevertheless “fundamental in the governance of the country”, direct the state to utilize the material resources of the country for the common good of all, and not just of the rich and the powerful without consideration of the human suffering that extraction of such resources imposed on those who are sought to be dispossessed and disempowered. Complete justice- social, economic and political- is but our constitution promises to each and every citizen. Such a promise, even in its weakest form and content , cannot condone policies that turn a blind eye to deliberate infliction of misery on large segment of our population” .. (Para 16 of the judgment).

Then in para 25 of the judgment the Supreme Court observed:

“The primary task of the state is the provision of the security to all its citizens, without violating human dignity. This would necessary imply the undertaking of tasks that would prevent the emergence of great dissatisfaction, and disaffection , on account of the manner and mode of extraction, and distribution, of natural resources and organization of social action, its benefits and costs .Our Directive principle of state policy explicitly recognize this . Our Constitution posits that unless we secure for our citizens conditions of social, economic, political justice for all who live in India, we would not have achieved human dignity for our citizens, nor would we be in a position to promote fraternity amongst groups of them”.

We have also to take notice of the 1993 Vienna Dec Declaration of Human Rights which says; ‘all human rights, whether civil, political, economic, social or cultural,’ must be viewed as “universal, indivisible and inter-related. It may be seen here that Part III of the Constitution of India provides for civil and political rights whereas Part IV provides for economic, social and cultural rights. What in 1993 was said in Vienna Declaration the Supreme Court of India has said in a better way in 1980 in Minerva Mills case.

The PUCL should meaningfully interpret first and second items in the aims and objects read with item number three onwards assuming that item number three onwards correspond to part III (Fundamental Right Chapter) which pertains to civil and political rights and item number one and two correspond to part IV (Directive Principles of state policy chapter) which pertains to social, economic and cultural rights.

Emphasis on human dignity is also laid in the Constitution of India which mentions dignity of the individual as a core value in its Preamble.

In August 24 judgment of nine judges Bench of Supreme Court regarding the fundamental rights of privacy, in the leading judgment Justice Chandrachud put a principle of interpretation extremely well which also seems to be relevant to apply for the interpretation of the Constitution of PUCL. Justice Chandrachud said:

Would this Court in interpreting the Constitution freeze the content of Constitutional guarantees and provisions to what the founding fathers perceived? The Constitution was drafted and adopted in a historical context. The vision of the founding fathers was enriched by the histories of sufferings of those who suffered oppression and a violation of dignity both here and elsewhere. Yet, it would be difficult to dispute that many of the problems which contemporary societies face would not have been present to the minds of the most perspicacious drafts-men. No generation, including the present, can have a monopoly over solutions or the confidence in its ability to foresee the future. As society evolves, so must constitutional doctrine. The institutions which the constitution has created must adapt flexibility to make the challenges in a rapidly growing knowledge economy. Above all, constitutional interpretation is but a process in achieving justice, liberty and dignity to every citizen.

The scheme of the Constitution of the PUCL seems to be that its aims and objects require a pursuit of part III and IV of the Constitution of India which are “like two wheels of a chariot, one no less important than the other. You snap one and the other will lose its efficacy.”

In my humble opinion the cause of concern as described by Shri Sinha in the National Council meeting on 17-18 December 2016 that there has not been any engagement with the people, the masses are cut off etc. and there is almost no chance of success for want of public support is that under a misconception that the constitution of PUCL does not include the economic and social rights, we have been taking up only the civil and political rights contained in part III of the Constitution and that we did not take up the social economic and cultural rights of the people as contained in Part IV . It is just not possible to engage the people or have their support by having interactions with them if we focus on only the Civil and Political rights and not the economic, social and cultural rights. The Rajasthan PUCL case asking for legal enforcement of the Right to Food filed in the Supreme Court which was based upon the obligation of the state under Article 47, one of the Directive Principles of State Policy which provides that the State shall raise level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties, is an example. By filing that PIL and obtaining various orders the Rajasthan PUCL had an opportunity to have an interaction with the people and the orders passed by the Supreme Court were got implemented. And in 2013, the Food Security Act was passed. In this process, the Rajasthan PUCL, had become very popular amongst the masses.

There is a great need to enlarge the functions and areas of activities of the PUCL from mere civil liberties to greater agendas. Any struggle for only the cause of civil liberties has now lost its relevance without expanding it into a larger and more realistic campaign for enforcement of all human rights social, economic, cultural, civil and political. The three campaigns which were to be launched nationwide, involving all state units cannot possibly be successfully launched if we continue to hold the view that the Aims and Objects mentioned in the constitution of the PUCL “do not specifically include economic and social rights”.

Our decision to launch the three nationwide campaigns involving all the state units as a top priority is very appropriate. The ball has been put into motion in the Allahabad National Council meeting of September 2015 in which the PUCL decided to launch these three national level campaigns. Let us go ahead to launch the three campaigns. It is our task to strive for a society in which everybody becomes capable of taking up his or her cause. People lack awareness. It is our task to make them aware of their social, economic and cultural rights so that they put it to political parties during elections.

Of the three campaigns, to be launched by us is “a campaign against grave threat posed by divisive and fascist politics of RSS and BJP” Quoting Shri V.M. Tarkunde about this campaign I recall that after about three and a half months of the 6th December 1992 demolition of the mosque, Shri V.M. Tarkunde delivered the 13th JP Memorial Lecture on 23rd March 1993 titled Communalism and Human Rights. Shri Tarkunde said in that lecture: “I am of the view that the communalist nationalism which is being propagated by the BJP and the Sangh Parivar represents a far greater danger to Indian Democracy than the personal authoritarian rule which Mrs. Indira Gandhi and the Gandhi-Nehru family were likely to impose on the country. A personal authoritarian rule is a lesser danger because it is largely external to the people. Most of the people do not approve it, although they are usually too afraid to stick out their necks and openly oppose it ….Communalism, however, particularly when it is the communalism of the majority and can therefore take the form of ardent nationalism as well, can find a positive response in the minds of the people, who are still prone to religious blind faith and among whom the humanist values of democracy, i.e., values of liberty, equality and fraternity are yet to be fully developed. Communalism in such cases is an internal enemy in the human mind and it is far more difficult to eradicate it than an external enemy like an autocratic ruler.” Shri Tarkunde cautioned about the possibility of the BJP coming into power at the next elections (after demolition of the Mosque in December 1992). In this context he said in his memorial speech “as the Congress (I) is now much weaker than before and the opposite parties are unable to unite –to form an anti-communal secular platform, the BJP expects to come to power in the next election. If this happens, the secular democracy in India is liable to be replaced by a potentially fascist theocratic state.” However, it did not so happen in the next election. But in 1999 the BJP-led coalition NDA formed a govt. with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as Prime Minister, with a strong opposition in Parliament. What Shri Tarkunde apprehended in 1993 to happen, actually happened in 2014 through the victory of Modi with a huge majority in Parliament with a weak and divided opposition. Now after three years of landslide victory of Modi at the centre, Yogi Adityanath has become the UP Chief Minister by a majority of 325 members in the Legislative Assembly with a strength of 403 seats which shows that Hindutva is sweeping the country. A campaign against the divisive and fascist politics of the RSS and BJP will have to be chalked out keeping in mind what Mr. Tarkunde had observed at the 13th JP Memorial Lecture on 23 March 1993.


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