NIA is acting as another ‘caged parrot’ like CBI

The NIA, constituted by an Act of Parliament, is also being used by the Modi government to serve its political interest

IANS Photo
IANS Photo
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Arun Srivastava/IPA

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which in recent times has suffered a severe crisis of credibility and faith in the eyes of the people has suffered yet another shattering blow with the Maharashtra government withdrawing general consent for operations within its territory. Before Maharashtra, four other states have also withdrawn consent. Obviously this should worry the CBI and the onus is on the agency, not its masters, to ensure its credibility.

The CBI has, in the past, been called a “caged parrot” that sings the Centre’s tune. Professionally, the CBI enjoys the highest order of trustworthiness, but for its own misdemeanour of pleasing the political masters by agreeing to become an active partner in their dirty game. It has not only done a disservice to the people of the country but more than that to the professional ethics. No law abiding citizen now desires that any case of serious nature and deserves an impartial inquiry should be handed over to the CBI. It is only the government and vested interest that prefer to hand over the cases to the agency, that too just to bury and hush up the case.

The UP government design to assign the investigation to CBI into the case of TRP manipulations by TV channels when Mumbai police was already probing the matter was purely aimed at protecting the owners, editors and anchors of the TV channels who were involved in the scam. The move came amidst the Opposition's allegations that the Centre was striving to circumvent investigations by Maharashtra police, especially in the cases related to the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput and the TRP scam.

While the CBI is considered a Central investigative agency, it was not constituted by an Act of Parliament like the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The CBI was formed under a law called Delhi Special Police Establishment Act 1946 (DSPE Act). The NIA can take up a case dealing with its scheduled offences in India without the consent of the state government in question.

But unfortunately, the NIA is also being used by the Modi government to serve its political interest. The Bhima Koregaon case is worth mentioning. While the Maharashtra government was reviewing the Bhima Koregaon case and had ordered to hold back framing of the charges, the NIA at the directive of the Home Minister took over the case without the state's consent. This was done under the façade of NIA enjoying the right of countrywide jurisdiction to take over any case related to terrorism.

The Home Ministry had entrusted the NIA with the Bhima Koregaon case at the initiative of the RSS only with the ominous intention to implicate the social activists and left inclined intellectuals. The RSS leaders were highly critical of the Koregaon case as it was against their Hindutva agenda. The NIA used the Koregaon case to involve the names of prominent activists and frame under the charges of sedition. It has already implicated nearly a dozen prominent academics and intellectuals in this case.

What is bizarre is most of the arrested persons have been accused as “urban naxals”, a term coined by the RSS. These persons are accused of being ‘soft’ to Naxalites or helping them. Though Supreme Court says that an accused has an indefeasible fundamental right to bail if the investigating agency fails to file a chargesheet within the stipulated period, a significant number of these accused persons are yet to be charged.

The true character of a state is perhaps best exposed by its choice of enemies. The latest victim of the NIA has been an 83-year-old Jesuit priest, Father Stan Swamy, who has devoted his life to fight for the cause of most oppressed among the Indian people, the Adivasis in Jharkhand. He has been jailed on grave charges of treason and terror, of being a Maoist, being actively involved in violent Maoist enterprises, and part of a larger sinister Maoist Bhima-Koregaon conspiracy.

Prominent intellectuals, lawyers, writers, poets, activists and student leaders have been arrested for dissenting with the policies of the government. Stan Swamy has carefully documented the monstrous profits made by big corporations, and the inestimable price that people dependent on the land and forests pay. He had opposed the manner in which land was acquired at dirt prices for the Adani power plant in Godda, and how the bulldozers destroyed the standing crop. Adani Power signed an agreement in 2016 with Bangladesh to build a 1,600 MW power plant in Godda, Jharkhand. The coal would be imported from Adani’s mines in Australia.

In his own words, “If you question this form of development, you are anti-development, which is equal to anti-government, which is equal to anti-national. A simple equation. This is why the government calls me a Maoist, although I am completely opposed to Maoist methods, and have nothing to do with them”. He researched and found that at least 3000 Adivasi and Dalit youth in Jharkhand had been jailed for years for being ‘Maoists’.

With Sudha Bhardwaj already in jail in Koregaon case, he co-convened the ‘Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee’ and filed a petition in the Jharkhand High Court seeking their release. Astonishingly, the NIA has accused him of plotting to murder Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In the video he recorded before his arrest, he declared quietly, “I am ready to pay the price, whatever it is.” He is older than the Republic which he fights to defend. For him, the love of his country and the love of his religion is the love of its poorest people. Meanwhile, people have been mobilising mass movement to exert pressure on the central government to release Father Stan Swamy. They assert that his arrest is unconstitutional and immoral and shows how the government machinery is being used to silence voices raised for tribal and Dalit rights.

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