Open letter to Ban Ki-Moon: India's democracy is intact, but how long will you protect your bias and selectivity?

There is a lot in common between you, Mr Ban Ki-Moon, and the organisation you once headed, the United Nations.

Both have been accused of lacking a spine. Both seem to regale in self-importance but hardly get anything done. And both target democracies like India and Israel, but serve as mouthpiece and platform for the worst despots, dictatorships and jihadis.

So, when you write a rant, ‘Protecting India: Nation must stay with vision of founding fathers to fight threat to secular democracy’, it is only right that you get called out.

 Open letter to Ban Ki-Moon: Indias democracy is intact, but how long will you protect your bias and selectivity?

File image of former UN chief Ban ki_Moon. Reuters

First, there must be good reason why India’s founding fathers did not include ‘secular’ in the preamble to the Constitution. ‘Secular’ and ‘socialist’ were added in 1976 ironically during Emergency, India’s darkest hour when then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had suspended all civil liberties to secure her own political future.

India has been multicultural for centuries, long before the West even coined the word or understood the concept. It does not need the West to teach it co-existence.

A riot of bias

"I am deeply concerned that Gandhi’s vision is now threatened by sectarian violence and divisive political rhetoric,” you write. “The attacks on poor, working people, mainly Muslims, in Delhi cannot be separated from the attempts by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to redefine Indian citizenship and who is eligible for it, via the recent Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), and the proposed National Population Register and National Register of Citizens."

The Delhi riots are deeply condemnable, but it was not one-sided as you suggest. The “poor, working people” among Hindus were also targeted with as much bloodlust, not “mainly Muslims”. In the months preceding the riots, India had seen wanton violence by Muslim mobs in the name of anti-CAA protests, for which you don’t have a single word of condemnation.

So, please don’t try to divide Indians by feasting on tragedy. India’s colonisers did it. That vacancy no longer exists.

This is off the point, but please don’t tie India down to only Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violence. And much as India reveres Bapu, his is one of the many visions that guide this civilisation. From Bhagavad Gita to Arthashastra to Swami Vivekanda’s writings, there is enough philosophical artillery to take down Gandhi’s turn-the-other-cheek credo. The days of India being a non-violent pushover is over. It will internally and externally respond to violence and injustice and with all its might. Deal with it.

On the CAA, you are either ignorant or lying. India’s laws of naturalised citizenship still exists for every community, including Muslims. Pakistan-born singer Adnan Sami got an Indian citizenship and is among most loved personalities in India. The CAA is a narrow-window legislation meant to fast-track citizenship for persecuted minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Trail of selectivity

It is interesting that you have never uttered a word about the rape, murder and forced conversion of minorities in these Islamic nations. Nor did you ever question the US about a legislation very similar to the CAA, the Lautenberg Amendment. The 1990 amendment to the US Constitution offers special treatment to people from historically persecuted groups from former Soviet Union and Iran.

But your selective silence or validation of some nations’ actions while censuring others is not new.

When the US had hanged Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2007, you promptly justified it saying it was the business of each country to decide whether or not to use the death penalty. However, when a perpetually cornered nation like Israel acts against Hamas or Hezbollah terrorists, your concern for sovereignty disappears, and you single out Israel for criticism.

In your Indian Express piece, you further say about the CAA: “These measures would appear to be incompatible with Article 14 of India’s Constitution, which clearly states that all citizens are equal before the law.”

Since you cite the Right to Equality under Article 14, are you not familiar with exceptions based on “intelligible differentia” and “reasonable classification” which allows for unequal treatment to unequal people? The Constitution acknowledges that inequalities exist in society and giving equal treatment to unequal people may lead to injustice.

Are you advocating that under Article 14, India should do away with special treatment for minorities, certain caste and gender groups, the disabled and others?

Slaughter of logic

Then you arrive at murkier territory.

“International observers, including myself, have also been increasingly alarmed at the arbitrary attacks on India’s Muslims based on rumours about sensitive issues such as cow slaughter, beef consumption and inter-communal personal relationships,” you write.

India’s Constitution that you lecture Indians on explicitly advises ending cow slaughter in the Directive Principles of State Policy. And while attacks on Muslims by vigilante groups over beef are shameful, have you ever condemned the numerous killings by cow smugglers and meat mafia, whether it is Prashanth Poojary in Karnataka’s Moodbidri in 2015 or the two Hindu priests whose throats were slit and tongues severed because they opposed local cow smuggling? No, you haven’t.

You have never condemned waves of Islamist violence that India has suffered. Unsurprising again. You had been quick to congratulate Islamist despot Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his rigged 2009 presidential victory in a campaign which saw deaths of 70 protesters and arrest of more than 4,000 in Iran.

Towards the end of your piece, however, you show remarkable honesty. You praise Aam Aadmi Party chief and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal for his mohalla clinics, making your partisan choice clear.

“In 2018, together with my fellow Elder Gro Harlem Brundtland, former director-general of the World Health Organisation, I also visited a ‘Mohalla’ clinic in Delhi together with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, and was hugely impressed by the model of free, universal services regardless of wealth, religion or class,” you write.

You are fully entitled to laud Kejriwal government’s mohalla clinics. But if Narendra Modi’s overwhelming democratic mandate in 2014 and 2019 had not shaken those like you to the core, you would have also noticed toilets built under Swachh Bharat mission or LPG cylinders distributed under the Ujjwala scheme.

An entire swarm of such schemes reach the needy regardless of wealth, religion or class. But you wouldn’t notice, lest facts come in the way of your bias.

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Updated Date: Mar 22, 2020 15:56:06 IST