Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

That the IB considers itself above the law of the land is well known. But that IB’s ex-chief would be so blatantly contemptuous of what he’s sworn to serve should be a cause for worry. Today’s Times of India (Mumbai edition; see online story here) reported on the arrest, by a Mumbai Police contingent in Delhi, of a gangster of note when the said gangster was traveling in a car with this ex-Chief of Intelligence Bureau. It appears that the two had gotten together to discuss some matters over breakfast (at an appropriately swank hotel in Central Delhi) and the retired official was extending the gangster a fairly common courtesy of dropping him to his next appointment, when the cops from Mumbai stepped in. Like many other instances, this too raises many questions. I want only one answered: what is the Union of India going to do about the retired officer’s culpability (at the very least, as a known associate of this gangster) in the matter?

If you are interested in reading a detailed account of how the Intelligence Bureau has been a complete pawn in the hands of the Prime Minister (it seems they bow to no one else – though this could be grandstanding) not just in the recent past but for at least about 30 years now, pick up a copy of Open Secrets (Maloy Krishna Dhar, 2005). I picked up a copy after reading an article in the Indian Express (see here) and becoming intrigued that someone – who is obviously in the know – could actually publish such stuff and invite no comment: either suits of defamation – for many of the dramatis personae are among us even today – or howls of ‘off with their heads’ from a wide cross-section of the press and citizenry. Read for yourself: either of these two paths would be logical follow-on even if one were to believe even 20% of what Mr. Dhar has recounted – and there’s no reason to lay such low credence to his tale (I believe him, mostly. He has tried, in many instances in the book, to clothe himself in martyr’s garbs but the cover is translucent at best: his co-conspirator role is, like the title, an Open Secret). But no, there’s been deathly silence about this book, its contents and the author. Many of my friends in the bureaucracy refuse to even acknowledge the existence of this book and almost none of them have read it. This deafening silence should speak for something in itself, right?

It is unmonitored, unaccountable parts of the government such as this that are the great unacknowledged threats to our civil society. As the specter of terrorism, insurgency and other such threats loom larger, these cloak-and-dagger types presume to become more important. What they need to remember is that till they accede to principles of liberty (and the boundaries imposed by its practice), they will never be able to occupy (and use to their advantage) the high moral ground versus those that they are trying to fight.

N.b. Of course, one can look towards some lesser lights for an answer. In the episode, Homer the Vigilante (the catburglar episode when Homer begins a vigilante group; they begin breaking a ton of laws themselves): Lisa : "Who will police the police?" Homer : "I dunno know. Coast Guard?"
But again, against the uncommon-ness of common sense among our politicians (current lot of 'intellectuals' included), who am I to include Homer in "lesser lights"?