On 22nd June 2018, in an unusual move Arun Jaitley posted an article edited by the India TV editorial team on the facebook. (ref.: https://www.indiatvnews.com/news/india-jaitley-writes-social-media-post-...).
The article titled 'Govt's Kashmir policy not muscular, fidayeens can't be dealt with satyagrah' is an attempt to justify the free hand given to the armed forces in Kashmir to take liberty with the life and liberty of the Kashmiris in a bid to fight the militants. He justifies the use of unrestrained force even against a suspected terrorist who is not fighting but is just hiding. The article deals in detail with the author's version of the attack on the human rights of the Kashmiris by the insurgents and concludes that the use of unrestrained force by the security forces is not 'muscular 'but the 'rule of law'.
Anticipating opposition from the rights organisations against human rights violations, he launches an attack on human rights organisations to erode their credibility and mislead the people. But the most deplorable part is his knowingly resorting to distortion and lies about the PUCL with which he had been associated for several years before he chose to pursue his political career.
Referring to the PUCL, he writes: "In the early 70s, the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) was formed by Constitutional liberals led by Shri Jai Praksh Narayan. This timed with the supersession of judges, the misuse of Preventive Detention law and the beginning of dynastic rule. Its relevance increased during the Emergency and immediately after. In 1977, the Janata Government headed by Morarji Desai reversed most of the autocratic steps which Indira Gandhi had taken and thereafter, the comfort level of the liberals on civil liberties increased. In the early 80s, the ultraleft seized the opportunity and started infiltrating into organisations like the PUCL and PUDR .The liberals got disillusioned with the Maoist takeover of the civil liberties movement. A few were too gullible to understand this".
It is incredible that a lawyer of his stature would not consult records and verify facts before launching an attack on a reputed organisation with which he had been associated from its second birth in 1980. The only conclusion can be that he has deliberately resorted to distortion of facts and lies to justify the human rights violations in Kashmir following the Modi government's muscular policy and discredit the PUCL and other rights organisations.
To put the record straight, Jaitley’s distortions have to be contradicted and lies nailed with facts.
The PUCL was not formed in early '70s but early 1980’s. Originally, the People's Union for Civil Liberties and Democratic Rights (PUCL&DR) was founded by Jai Prakash Narayan in October, 1976. A seminar was held on 17th October 1976, which was inaugurated by J.B.Kripalani. Mr. V.M. Tarkunde was elected President and Mr. Krishna Kant as its General Secretary.
The PUCL&DR was deliberately kept free from political ideologies so that people belonging to various political parties may come together on one platform for the defence of civil liberties and human rights. However, only seven months later the Emergency was lifted in March, 1977 following Indira Gandhi's defeat at the 1977 Parliamentary elections. Once the fear of Indira Gandhi disappeared, the members of the political parties lost interest in the PUCL &DR, and it became much less active.
It was Indira Gandhi's return to power in 1980, which revived the fear of the opposition parties and also their interest in the revival of the PUCL&DR. A conference was held in November 1980 for the purpose. The 1980 Conference was attended by eminent persons from all walks of life and by the members of most political parties including the Congress. However, a section of the PUCL&DR was not willing to include the members of the RSS and did not join the conference. Thus, out of the PUCL&DR were born two organisations: the PUCL and the PUDR. The PUCL adopted its Constitution and elected V.M. Tarkunde as President and Arun Shourie as General Secretary.
Arun Jaitley, who was very closely associated with the formation of the PUCL, resorts to a downright lie, when he alleges that in the early 80s the ultra-left infiltrated into the PUCL. The PUCL Constitution adopted at the 1980 conference mandated that the PUCL should bring together all who were committed to the defence and promotion of civil liberties in India, regardless of their political ideology. Thus, the so called ultra-left were not barred from joining the PUCL in their personal capacity if they signed the pledge that they 'subscribed to the aims and objects of the organisation and agreed to abide by its Constitution’.
Where was the question of infiltrating when the door was kept open for all? In fact, the first item in the list of PUCL's aims and objects provides that “the Peoples Union for Civil liberties will try to bring together all those who are committed to the defence and promotion of civil liberties in India irrespective of any differences they may have in regard to political and economic institution suitable for the country”.
There were two conditions for a person joining the PUCL .They must subscribe to its aims and objects and must abide by its Constitution. The aims and objects of the PUCL confine themselves to the issues of civil liberties and democratic rights and strictly exclude political issues or political ideologies. Thus, the question of the PUCL promoting the interest of the left or ultra-left or any other political party does not arise. It is kept outside the ambit of its Constitution. The PUCL is also committed to the use of peaceful means and the rule of law. Thus, it can neither support the use of violence nor armed struggle.
Keeping the distant future in mind when some section of the organisation may try to change the character of the PUCL .and exploit it to promote its interest, its Constitution provides that the criteria of membership and aims and objects of the PUCL cannot be amended.
All the liberals and the members of the political parties including Arun Jaitley, who joined the PUCL were fully aware of the Constitution they had framed and adopted and were fully conscious that no person was an untouchable or an outcaste for the PUCL, if the person subscribed to its aims and objects and pledged to abide by its Constitution.
The PUCL members, including the Naxals, also did not discriminate against members on the basis of their ideology. For example, Ravi Shankar Prasad, an ABVP member, was elected as a Secretary, Bihar PUCL in 1981 and held that post till 1988. He was elected as the General Secretary in 1988. He resigned from the post only after he joined the BJP, as the members of political parties are not eligible to hold an office in the PUCL. He eventually left the organisation later because he felt that the PUCL had not acted impartially when it did not send a Fact Finding Team to Ayodhya following the police firing on Kar Sevaks in 1990 in which a large number were killed .While he remained in the PUCL, he enjoyed the members' support on the basis of his performance. No other consideration influenced the members, including the Naxals.
The political elements (members of political parties) of the PUCL left the organisation only towards late 80’s when Indira Gandhi was dead, Rajiv on the backfoot and the prospect of coming to power looked promising. However, the veteran socialist leaders, Surendra Mohan and Karpoori Thakur remained with the PUCL till their end. George Fernandes, too, remained with the organisation, and the PUCL sent Observers' team to monitor his elections for Lok Sabha from Banka (Bihar) in 1986 and Muzaffarpur in 1989. I remember to have met Yashwant Sinha, who was his election agent, at Banka (I was President, Bihar PUCL). A few others remained but the bulk went for a greener pasture .There were many others.
The fact is that the political elements left the PUCL when they came close to coming to power and later turned oppressors and violators of human rights and civil liberties when they became rulers. They could not remain in the PUCL in their new Avatar as an oppressor.
Jaitley has not referred to a single meeting of the PUCL where the question of the takeover by the Maoists was raised by the 'liberals' who allegedly left. In fact, there could be no question of takeover by the Maoists in the early 80s as Jaitley alleges, because the CPI (Maoist) was formed only in 2004 with the merger of the People's War Group, the Maoist Communist Centre and a few others.
A few liberals led by Cho Ramaswamy did part ways with the PUCL in Madras Convention of the PUCL in 1982, but the issue was entirely different. They were of the view that those who did not believe in the Indian Constitution and resorted to violent means, were not entitled to the protection of the Constitution and the law. The PUCL rejected this view. The Convention appealed to all to use the agencies and methods available in an open society but "affirmed that even those who have taken to violence are entitled to the due process of law. We believe that this commitment is the very faith of an open society and also that adhering to this commitment is an effective way of converting all to the democratic and peaceful way of transforming our society".
The PUCL continues to disapprove of violence as a means of resolving political problems and issues, but holds that even those who resort to violence must be dealt with according to the law of the land. The rulers mislead the people into believing that the human rights organisations which stand for the protection of human rights of the alleged Maoists or terrorists are supporters of their ideologies or causes.
Arun Jaitley's gullible liberals who remained with the PUCL till the end include V.M. Tarkunde, Rajindar Sachar, Rajani Kothari, Prof. Amrik Singh, H.M. Seervai, Asghar Ali Engineer, Nayantara Sehgal, Hemlata Prabhu, Aloo Dastoor, M.A.Rane , Baba Adhav , R.B. Mehrotra (Justice ), Dev Brat N Pathak, Yashpal Chhibbar, to name only a few. It is not easy to accept that they were so gullible and blind as Jaitley suggests.
Jaitley, an old PUCL member, is aware that the PUCL has been publishing a monthly bulletin since 1981, which publishes its stand on various issues. He does not support his allegations from our publications because he cannot find anything to substantiate his allegations.
His write up appears to be an attempt to discredit the PUCL and other rights organisations with a view to destroy their credibility and also to criminalise and victimise them if they oppose the human rights violations, inevitable under the so called 'muscular 'approach. It is a case of giving a bad name to a dog if one has decided to shoot him.