Ex-bureaucrat blasts letter by group of 101 civil servants

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Ex-bureaucrat KK Sethi, (IAS:MP 1963) has taken a diametrically opposite view and has blasted the letter written by 101 ex-civil servants to the Chief Ministers and Lt Govenors of States and Union Territories with a copy marked to the Prime Minister over what they perceive as oppression of Muslims. The letter has special reference to the Tablighi Jamat gathering at Nizamuddin in March this year and the accusation that the Jamaat was responsible for spreading COVID-19 in different parts of the country.

Reacting sharply to the letter, Sethi writes: “It was totally uncalled for, unnecessary and unwarranted.”

KK Sethi, while serving as an IAS officer, was highly respected for his commitment to the larger good.

Sethi has held several important posts and was Chief Secretary Manipur and President Board of Revenue in Madhya Pradesh. As Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities, he had presented to the President of India, the forty-fourth Annual Report under Article 350- B (2) of the Constitution. For the implementation of the constitutional provisions and Nationally Agreed Scheme of Safeguards provided to linguistic minorities, the report recommends action to be taken by the Central Government and various State Governments/Union Territory Administration, to assuage the feelings of the linguistic minorities.

Earlier on Sunday, 25 April, Sethi wrote on his facebook wall:

It (the letter by ex-bureaucrats) appears more of an apology for the unpardonable behaviour of the Tablighi Jammat. The organization of a conference can probably be overlooked considering their total backwardness but their subsequent conduct and that of their sympathisers was outright immoral, illegal and should have been condemned as such by these bureaucrats. The excuse given is “this was hardly the only incident of such gathering, both religious and political”.

It is as if this absolves the Jammat and their supporters of all responsibility. It is usual now a days to reply to any criticism by saying that others are also doing it. This is, in itself, immoral. But it must be observed that nowhere such gatherings were supported by any political party or religious organization. Even while granting that there was an excuse, despite advisory by Delhi Police, for not cancelling the conference but what cannot be condoned is that the members of the Jamaat dispersed all over the country and kept hiding instead of coming forward to offer them for testing and, if required, for isolation and quarantine. But it was not done. Instead the police and medical parties which went in search of them were attacked and assaulted. To call the media irresponsible is ok but is there one word in the letter to call the community irresponsible for not following the legal orders. There were, and are, some irresponsible people trying to target the entire community (in which eighty percent or more will have nothing to do with the misdemeanor of the rest) but so is the attempt to silence the entire media to refrain from comments which bring out the sordid facts. Let us be impartial if we want to address the wrongs that have been done to the entire campaign against the (COVID-19) pandemic by this behavior of the Jamaat and their supporters who must bear responsibility for a number of positive cases.

Another matter: the letter is addressed to Chief Ministers whereas it should have been addressed to the religious leaders. There are many sane voices among them and they need strength by endorsement of their announcements by the group of bureaucrats which swears by the Constitution (and, it is said, do not subscribe to any particular political ideology). The constitutional authorities are all united in devoting their attention to fighting the pandemics and nowhere they have instigated any group for wrongful behavior.

101 civil servants calling themselves the Constitutional Conduct Group that has come out in defence of Tablighi Jamaat gathering at Nizamuddin during COVID pandemic

1.Anita AgnihotriIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Department of Social Justice Empowerment, GoI
2.Salahuddin AhmadIAS (Retd.)Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
3.Shafi AlamIPS (Retd.)Former Director General, National Crime Records Bureau, GoI
4.S.P. AmbroseIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI
5.Anand ArniR&AW (Retd.)Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
6.Mohinderpal AulakhIPS (Retd.)Former Director General of Police (Jails), Govt. of Punjab
7.G. BalachandhranIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
8.Vappala BalachandranIPS (Retd.)Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
9.Gopalan BalagopalIAS (Retd.)Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
10.Chandrashekhar BalakrishnanIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Coal, GoI
11.Sharad BeharIAS (Retd.)Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
12.Aurobindo BeheraIAS (Retd.)Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha
13.Madhu BhaduriIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Portugal
14.Meeran C BorwankarIPS (Retd.)Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research and Development, GoI
15.Sundar BurraIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
16.K.M. ChandrasekharIAS (Retd.)Former Cabinet Secretary, GoI
17.Rachel ChatterjeeIAS (Retd.)Former Special Chief Secretary, Agriculture, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh
18.Tishyarakshit ChatterjeeIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Environment & Forests, GoI
19.Kalyani ChaudhuriIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
20.Anna DaniIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
21.Surjit K. DasIAS (Retd.)Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttarakhand
22.Vibha Puri DasIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI
23.P.R. DasguptaIAS (Retd.)Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI
24.Nareshwar DayalIFS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs and former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
25.Pradeep K. DebIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Deptt. Of Sports, GoI
26.Nitin DesaiIES (Retd.)Former Secretary and Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI
27.Keshav DesirajuIAS (Retd.)Former Health Secretary, GoI
28.M.G. DevasahayamIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana
29.Sushil DubeyIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Sweden
30.A.S. DulatIPS (Retd.)Former OSD on Kashmir, Prime Minister’s Office, GoI
31.K.P. FabianIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Italy
32.Arif GhauriIRS (Retd.)Former Governance Adviser, DFID, Govt. of the United Kingdom (on deputation)
33.Gourisankar GhoshIAS (Retd.)Former Mission Director, National Drinking Water Mission, GoI
34.Suresh K. GoelIFS (Retd.)Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI
35.S. GopalIPS (Retd.)Former Special Secretary, GoI
36.Meena GuptaIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI
37.Ravi Vira GuptaIAS (Retd.)Former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India
38.Wajahat HabibullahIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, GoI and Chief Information Commissioner
39.Deepa HariIRS (Resigned)
40.Sajjad HassanIAS (Retd.)Former Commissioner (Planning), Govt. of Manipur
41.Siraj HussainIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Department of Agriculture, GoI
42.Kamal JaswalIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
43.Najeeb JungIAS (Retd.)Former Lieutenant Governor, Delhi
44.Rahul KhullarIAS (Retd.)Former Chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India
45.K. John KoshyIAS (Retd.)Former State Chief Information Commissioner, West Bengal
46.Ajai KumarIndian Forest Service (Retd.)Former Director, Ministry of Agriculture, GoI
47.Brijesh KumarIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
48.P.K. LahiriIAS (Retd.)Former Executive Director, Asian Development Bank
49.Aloke B. LalIPS (Retd.)Former Director General (Prosecution), Govt. of Uttarakhand
50.Subodh LalIPoS (Resigned)Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI
51.Harsh ManderIAS (Retd.)Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
52.Amitabh MathurIPS (Retd.)Former Director, Aviation Research Centre and Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
53.Aditi MehtaIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
54.Dalip MehtaIFS (Retd.)Former Secretary to GoI & Dean, Foreign Service Institute
55.Shivshankar MenonIFS (Retd.)Former Foreign Secretary and Former National Security Adviser
56.Sonalini MirchandaniIFS (Resigned)GoI
57.Sunil MitraIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI
58.Jugal MohapatraIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Department of Rural Development, GoI
59.Deb MukharjiIFS (Retd.)Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal
60.Shiv Shankar MukherjeeIFS (Retd.)Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
61.P.G.J. NampoothiriIPS (Retd.)Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Gujarat
62.P.A. NazarethIFS (Retd.)GoI
63.Amitabha PandeIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
64.Niranjan PantIA&AS (Retd.)Former Deputy Comptroller and Auditor General, GoI
65.Alok PertiIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Ministry of Coal, GoI
66.R.M. PremkumarIAS (Retd.)Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
67.S.Y. QuraishiIAS (Retd.)Former Chief Election Commissioner
68.N.K. RaghupathyIAS (Retd.)Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI
69.V.P. RajaIAS (Retd.)Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission
70.K. Sujatha RaoIAS (Retd.)Former Health Secretary, GoI
71.M.Y. RaoIAS (Retd.)
72.Satwant ReddyIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Chemicals and Petrochemicals, GoI
73.Vijaya Latha ReddyIFS (Retd.)Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI
74.Julio RibeiroIPS (Retd.)Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania
75.Aruna RoyIAS (Resigned)
76.Manabendra N. RoyIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
77.Deepak SananIAS (Retd.)Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh
78.G. SankaranIC&CES (Retd.)Former President, Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal
79.Shyam SaranIFS (Retd.)Former Foreign Secretary and Former Chairman, National Security Advisory Board
80.S. SatyabhamaIAS (Retd.)Former Chairperson, National Seeds Corporation, GoI
81.N.C. SaxenaIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI
82.A. SelvarajIRS (Retd.)Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI
83.Ardhendu SenIAS (Retd.)Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
84.Abhijit SenguptaIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI
85.Aftab SethIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Japan
86.Ajay ShankarIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Deptt. of Industrial Policy & Promotion
87.Ashok Kumar SharmaIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia
88.Navrekha SharmaIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Indonesia
89.Raju SharmaIAS (Retd.)Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh
90.Har Mander SinghIAS (Retd.)Former Director General, ESI Corporation, GoI
91.Tirlochan SinghIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI
92.Jawhar SircarIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI, & former CEO, Prasar Bharati
93.Narendra SisodiaIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI
94.Sanjivi SundarIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Ministry of Surface Transport, GoI
95.Parveen TalhaIRS (Retd.)Former Member, Union Public Service Commission
96.Thanksy ThekkekeraIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Minorities Development, Govt. of Maharashtra
97.P.S.S. ThomasIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission
98.Geetha ThoopalIRAS (Retd.)Former General Manager, Metro Railway, Kolkata
99.Hindal TyabjiIAS (Retd.)Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
100.Ashok VajpeyiIAS (Retd.)Former Chairman, Lalit Kala Akademi
101.Ramani VenkatesanIAS (Retd.)Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra

Content of Civil Servants’ letter

We are a group of former civil servants belonging to the All-India and Central Services, from all over India. As a group, we do not subscribe to any particular political ideology but rather focus on issues that have a bearing upon the Indian Constitution. We have been holding Conclaves and writing Open Letters on matters of concern since we came together as the Constitutional Conduct Group in June 2017.

It is with much anguish that we bring to your attention reports of harassment of Muslims in some parts of the country, particularly following the meeting of the Tablighi Jamaat in March in the Nizamuddin area of New Delhi.

The Jamaat was criticised for ignoring the principles of social distancing when cases of COVID-19 had started emerging in the country. Although this was hardly the only incident of such gatherings, both political and religious, sections of the media hastened to give a communal colour to COVID-19, including attributing motives to the Tablighi Jamaat in spreading the virus to different parts of the country. The action of the Jamaat in organising such an event, ignoring the Delhi Government’s advisories was, without question, misguided and condemnable. However, the action of the media in communalizing it and extending it to the Muslim community as a whole is utterly irresponsible and reprehensible.

Such coverage has fuelled hostility towards the Muslim community in parts of the country. Fake video clips have been doing the rounds showing Muslim vendors spitting on the fruits and vegetables that they have for sale – purportedly to spread the Covid-19 disease. Cases have been reported of vegetable vendors being asked their religion, even being assaulted when they mention Muslim names. Video recordings of such incidents are circulating through social media at this time. The fear and insecurity generated by the pandemic is sought to be channelled into the “othering” of the Muslim community in different places to keep them out of public spaces, purportedly to protect the rest of the population!

There are reports from Hoshiarpur that Muslim Gujjars who traditionally migrate from Punjab to Himachal Pradesh with their cattle were denied entry at the border by the police due to apprehension of tension created by mobs on the other side to prevent their entry. Photographs of men, women and children forced to take shelter on the banks of the Swan river, where hundreds of litres of milk had to be dumped following this blockade, have appeared. Photos from a market in Biharsharif, Nalanda district, Bihar, show pictures of flags being affixed to the carts of non-Muslim vendors with exhortations that buyers should only purchase produce from such carts. These seemingly isolated incidents appear to be building up to an ostracism of Muslims.

More disturbingly, reports of discrimination are also coming in from various places about Muslims being turned away from hospitals and health facilities. It is reported that on 8th April, Fauzia Shaheen, a weaver from the Muslim-dominated area of Madanpura in Varanasi, who was experiencing labour pains, was repeatedly turned away from clinics and hospitals including from the Sir Sunderlal Hospital at the Banaras Hindu University, even after she delivered a baby outside the hospital. Following an outcry in the social media, police registered a case against the management of a cancer hospital in Meerut that had put out an advertisement saying that it would treat Muslims only when they produce a report showing that they have tested negative for coronavirus. In Ahmedabad, we learn that separate wards have been designated for Muslim patients of Coronavirus.

In addition, there are reports of the special entitlements of rations and cash that governments have sanctioned at this time being denied to Muslim families.

The entire country is going through unprecedented trauma. We can endure, survive and overcome the challenges that this pandemic has imposed on us only by remaining united and helping each other. We laud those Chief Ministers who have been resolutely secular in their approach both in general and, in particular, in relation to this pandemic.

We should remember that traditionally India has maintained good relations with Muslim nations and has been seen as their friend. Millions of our fellow citizens live and work in these countries. There has been serious concern expressed in these countries about the recent developments. We should ensure, through our non-discriminatory action and relief measures, that the minorities have nothing to fear in India. This will help assuage the misgivings of these countries and avoid any consequential detriment to the prospects of the sizable Indian diaspora there.

We call upon you to reassure all the people in your State that by following the instructions for social distancing and the practices regarding using face covering and hand washing, they can keep safe from COVID-19. It needs to be emphasized that there is no truth whatsoever in the rumours that any particular group has more infections than others in our country. Incidents like the one in Karnataka, where three Hindu youth created panic at a police check post in Mandya district on 8th April by posing as Muslims with Coronavirus infection, need to be dealt with firmly, as was done in this case by the Karnataka police.

We request you to instruct all public functionaries to be particularly vigilant to prevent social boycott of any community in the State and to ensure that all the entitlements including medical and hospital care, rations and financial assistance are available equally to all those in need.

At this time of grave national and international crisis, we count on your leadership in bringing the people of India together rather than allowing the deepening of fissures in our country.

SATYAMEVA JAYATE

Yours faithfully,

Constitutional Conduct Group 

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