‘Modi government is trying to be petty’

‘Your confidence is shaken when the government does what it does these days, but then it is the same confidence that gives you the courage to stand up to the government’s high-handedness.’
‘There will always be people who will not fear jails or the physical and mental torture that visit citizens protesting against the government’s draconian policies and laws.’
‘There will always be Indians who will not be afraid to face the consequences of fighting for their Constitutional rights.’

Kannan Gopinathan, the IAS officer who had resigned on August 23, 2019 in protest against the Narendra Damodardas Modi government’s decision to abrogate Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019, got a communication from the Daman administration — part of the AGMUT (Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram-Union Territory cadre which he belongs to — that ‘charges’ against him have been proved.

Gopinathan was charged with ‘communicating unauthorisedly with the media on government policies’ and which ‘contravened the provisions of Rule 3 of the All India Service (Conduct) Rules 1968.

Now, two years after this drama unfolded, the Daman administration sent him a communication on June 24, the same day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi met political leaders from Kashmir, that the charges against him have been proved.

Kanan Gopinathan spoke with Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com about what the Daman administration’s ruling means, the action that can be taken against him and how citizens in a Constitutional Republic like India inspire themselves to fight against unjust government policies and laws.

It took almost two years for the Daman administration to prove the charges against you.

I was actually quite surprised to get this letter yesterday (June 24) evening and it was quite peculiar to have been the day when the prime minister was meeting political leaders from Kashmir.

This has been going on for more than one-and-a-half to two years now and it was very intriguing for me that why would they do that (when Modi was meeting political leaders from Kashmir).

What was your first reaction when you saw this order from the Daman administration?

Nothing much; only surprised that it took them two years to do this.

The charge against me was I spoke to the media without authorisation from the government. I had already given my reply to the enquiry officer when it was first initiated. I had told him that I did not consider my interaction with the media or tweeting about it illegal at all.

There is no corruption or any criminal charge against me. I had asked them to proceed legally against me.

Now that the charges against you have been ‘proved’, what action can the Daman administration take against you?

There can be a minor or major penalty.

The worst they can do in a disciplinary proceeding is dismiss me. I don’t know whether there is a provision to cut down on any of my benefits. But I really don’t understand why they are doing it because I have already tendered my resignation (from the IAS).

Even to go for a major penalty would require a huge bureaucratic procedure. Even for this (to prove the charges that they had levelled against me) it took them two long years. If they decide to impose a manor penalty, then it will have to go to the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) and then they will have to concur (with the findings of the Daman administration).

Is the government trying to intimidate you? Do you feel intimidated?

The Modi government is trying to be petty more than anything else. Not even intimidating.

If this is an attempt to intimidate me then I think it is a very petty and vindictive effort.

Why do you want to dare Modi with ‘jo karna hai kar lo‘?

The provision used against me is that my interaction with the media could have affected India’s foreign relations. If I am speaking in my country with the media of my country, how will that affect our relationship with foreign countries?

I don’t know who is advising them. By doing this, they are trying to kick me out.

I think the prime minister is not aware of how my case is being tackled and how silly officials are acting against me.

I have resigned almost two years ago, I have not been getting any government salary, and I am trying to go on with my life and at the same time I am trying to be a responsible citizen who holds the government accountable and if that leads to such vindictive response from the government then he is responsible for it.

I just want to tell him or whoever is doing this ,that do whatever you want to do.

This is my country and I am going to speak against the government in my own country if I am convinced that it is engaging in vendetta.

If I don’t speak up my mind in my own country, then where do I go to speak about what’s happening in my country?

The whole point of having a Constitutional Republic is to give citizens a right to speak about what they think is right or wrong.

The Modi government seems to have embarked on an outreach with Kashmir’s political leaders who Home Minister Amit Anilchandra Shah had called the ‘Gupkar Gang’.
Do you believe the Modi government is honest in its intent to help solve the Kashmir problem?

I wouldn’t have put out this tweet were it not for the letter that was sent out yesterday. If the relationship (between New Delhi and Kashmir) is getting better in whatever way, I would welcome it and not want to influence it or derail it in any negative way.

But, this is for the fact that by abrogating Article 370, we (the Modi government) very reprehensibly violated the fundamental rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

This act of the government is not befitting any democratic government which values the fundamental rights of citizens as enshrined in India’s Constitution.

Having said that, if a better solution were to be found out, it is definitely welcome.

Do you see a ray of hope that the fundamental rights of Kashmiri people will be restored now that the Modi government is engaging with Kashmiri leaders?

The thing is something unacceptable was done (by the abrogation of Article 370 by the Narendra Modi government on August 5, 2019).

In a country when such abuse of fundamental rights happen, there has to be some sort of reaction to it in a democratic, judicial, way. But the reaction from the judiciary is yet to happen; the reaction from the media is yet to happen.

If the government thinks that it can blatantly abuse the fundamental and Constitutional rights of the people and get away with it, then they must be told that they will be held accountable by the people in a democratic way.

The point about calling it fundamental rights is that it is fundamental; it cannot be violated. That is the edifice on which we have built our Constitutional edifice.

And if these rights are to be violated at the will of the government and then say that after three years everything will be set right, then that should not happen.

Who is supposed to protect these rights? The judiciary is supposed to protect these rights.

Who is supposed to hold the government accountable for such violations? The media is supposed to do it.

These institutions have to ensure that such violations do not happen on a day-to-day basis.

But the government is using laws like UAPA, PSA, etc, to arrest protestors and those politically opposed to it.

It is a human life that you are playing with. These arrested people have families that are getting devastated. You can’t do that.

If you continue to do that, then some reaction has to come from the judiciary, the media, and the citizens.

What gives you the courage of your conviction to stand up against injustice?

I have a great confidence and trust in what my nation is and I also know that I have not done anything wrong.

Your confidence is shaken when the government does what it does these days, but then it is the same confidence that gives you the courage to stand up to the government’s high-handedness.

It is a continuous process. Before those who are protesting and agitating against the government’s high-handedness today there were thousands and thousands who did it against the British, against the 1975 Emergency (imposed on June 25, 1975 by then prime minister Indira Gandhi).

If I don’t start it, somebody else will do it. It is not about an individual, any individual.

There will always be people who will not fear jails or the physical and mental torture that visit citizens protesting against the government’s draconian policies and laws.

There will always be Indians who will not be afraid to face the consequences of fighting for their Constitutional rights.

This is a continuous process. Nations are not built in five years or ten years. They are built over several decades.

People come and go. Leaders come and go. The nation stays, the Constitution stays; whether you win or not is immaterial.

The people who fought for the country before us will always inspire the generations that came after them.

What protestors are doing today will be remembered by the generation that will come after this.

If our prime minister is tweeting against the 1975 Emergency, it is because people back then fought for the restoration of Constitutional, fundamental rights with courage and conviction.

At that point in time, those who fought against the Emergency were ridiculed, arrested, tortured, but still people fought back against the Emergency because they were convinced that what they were doing was for the good of the country.

The same applies to people who are fighting against this government’s laws and policies that are in violation of India’s Constitution.

Though our history as a Constitutional Republic is short, we have a very long history of fighting against injustice. People will continue to fight for what they think is right.

Every government in power has to understand that certain rights of citizens are inalienable. At the same time the citizens too have to do their bit by holding governments accountable. That is how we have come together as a nation.

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