Sarkari secrecy

Delhi HC should be applauded for ordering prompt release of Netaji’s history

Written by The Indian Express | Published: April 6, 2012 3:32:30 am

Delhi HC should be applauded for ordering prompt release of Netaji’s history

When an RTI application for access to a manuscript containing details of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s disappearance was filed,the defence ministry responded with characteristic reticence. History of the Azad Hind Fauj was written in 1950 and remains the only work commissioned by the Indian government on the subject. The Delhi high court made short work of the mysterious “economic interests” cited by the Centre as a reason for withholding the manuscript. It has ordered the government to release or publish the manuscript in four months. Over the last six decades it has gathered dust as a “classified” document. This despite the fact that all government documents are supposed to be declassified after 30 years and made available in archives. So far,the Indian government has shown a happy disregard for this rule. It likes to nurse its secrets.

This taste for secrets has left significant gaps in the history of modern India. Fifty years after the Indo-China war of 1962,the government refuses to declassify the Henderson Brooks report,said to contain a critical appraisal of the Indian leadership. Documents on the liberation of Bangladesh were reportedly shredded just months after the 1971 war.

A secret parallel history seems to run alongside the known history of modern India. A popular clamour for greater openness and RTI’s arrival have done little to change government’s preference for secrecy. It seems to operate on the dated belief that a state must have a reservoir of secrets to exercise power. But secrecy is the hallmark of repressive regimes,not of healthy democratic practice.

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