Preventive arrest is a part of political activity and political leaders in Kashmir cannot argue that standing by the Indian Constitution or holding the Indian flag by themselves should be a reason for not keeping them in preventive custody, according to BJP general secretary Ram Madhav.
In an interview with Liz Mathew, Madhav, the party’s in-charge for J&K and the Northeastern states, speaks about BJP’s strategies to overcome confusion over the NRC list in Assam, the issue of illegal immigrants and the communications lockdown in the Valley. Excerpts:
After the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) list, many in the BJP have expressed apprehensions. You addressed such concerns at the just-concluded RSS meeting in Pushkar.
The final NRC list was out about 10 days ago. But the details are not available with the government yet; they are with the officers concerned, who will submit them to the Supreme Court. Once we get to know the details, what further actions are needed will be decided by the people concerned. Having said that, there are apprehensions among some sections that the process needed to be revisited.
In fact, there was a request by the state government and the Centre before the Supreme Court that at least 20 per cent (applicants) in border districts and 10 per cent in the hinterlands should be re-verified. There is an apprehension that a large number of infiltrators have been included in NRC, while a large number of genuine citizens are being excluded. Our request for re-verification was rejected, but once the full list is out, we have to think about taking it forward.
Our party is committed in ensuring that no genuine citizen is left out.
How will the party address the state unit, which appears upset with the NRC result?
The NRC has been a long-standing demand of the people of Assam. We have succeeded in taking it to a conclusion. All apprehensions — and some of them are genuine — need to be addressed in different ways. One way is to go back to the Supreme Court with a certain request. Second, we have given our word to the people that we will bring the Citizenship Amendment Bill for the whole country. Once it becomes an Act, some of the concerns will be addressed.
Third, those who could not find their names in NRC could approach the hundreds of (Foreigners’) Tribunals in Assam and move the High Court after that.
Who will you blame for this exclusion of genuine citizens?
That’s why the need to raise the issue of re-verification of cases, especially in the border districts. It is a procedural issue. There is no need to blame any particular person or group. On the contrary, we are happy that we are able to complete the process. It was a Supreme Court-monitored process.
Has the outcome affected BJP’s main political plank? After all, illegal immigrants have always been projected by the party as a national security threat?
It is not about the BJP’s agenda. Of course, we have zero tolerance to infiltration, just like our zero tolerance to terrorism and corruption. (But) it is a threat to national security and livelihood of people. We have very clear views on how to tackle this question of infiltration.
Indrajit Gupta (late CPI leader, former Union minister and multiple-term Lok Sabha MP) had on the floor of the House said that there were more than 1 crore illegal infiltrators in Assam. So it’s not just us — all parties have acknowledged it. No country tolerates illegal migrants.
Do you think there will be demand for NRC in other states now?
Many states and (political) leaders have asked for similar process to be conducted in their state. I am sure the Union Home Ministry will take appropriate view on that. It’s not about the number. Even if you identify 1.5 million (15 lakh) infiltrators, it’s a good thing. It should have been much more — that’s what many think — but at least you have identified illegal migrants to the extent of 1.5 million.
The NRC process in Assam was undertaken with an Act of Parliament. What measures the Home Ministry will take for the rest of the country we will see.
Is the citizenship Bill still in your priority list?
We attempted to get it passed in Parliament in the last government but it got stuck in Rajya Sabha. I am sure this government will take it up at an appropriate time.
In Kashmir, how do you justify the continuing custody of mainstream leaders who have been championing the Indian Constitution in the Valley?
Who is questioning us? Political leaders are kept in preventive detentions in certain situations. Preventive arrest is a part of political activity. There is a particular situation in Kashmir Valley which needed, for the sake of law and order, certain preventive measures to be taken by the law and order machinery, which the state machinery has taken.
Such measures had been taken in the past too. I am not comparing, but let me remind you that Sheikh Abdullah was arrested in 1953, was in jail for decades. Why was it done? Because there was a need for it.
But every leader in Kashmir is under house arrest for more than a month now. How long will you continue it?
It’s a temporary measure taken by the administration to maintain law and order. The decision we took (to scrap special provisions to J&K under Article 370 and to bifurcate the state) was historic. Certain measures were needed to maintain law and order. It (house arrests) is temporary; as things normalise all of them will be set free.
Let me add: standing by the Constitution or holding the national flag is not a charity. If you are a politician of India and running a party under the Indian Constitution, that is your duty. To show it as though they are doing a great service to India — I am holding national flag so I cannot be taken into preventive detention… how does it work like that?
You are just back from the RSS meet. What is the view on the economic slowdown?
At 5 per cent GDP growth, we are doing fairly well when you look at what’s happening around the world. Global GDP hovers around 2 per cent now. But we have been able to manage the affairs pretty well. Having said that, I am not denying that there are challenges. The Finance Minister and the government is seized of the challenges. They have done many important modifications and reforms in the last two weeks.
(The interview was originally published in Indian Express on September 11, 2019)