July 27, 2009 3:48:02 pm
The reaction to the demands for security when withdrawn on professional considerations and to the frisking of Kalam Saheb has been of disdain on VIP privileges,but the issues in the two cases are strikingly different. Security of an individual is the first responsibility of the state and that is why some of us reacted very strongly to the dereliction of this duty of the state in Gujarat in 2002. When Ahmedabad was still smoldering,some seventy of us joined the first peace march organised by the Gandhians from the Kochrab to the Sabarmati Ashram and ending with over three thousand people we passed a resolution in which according to a national daily Alagh used uncharacteristically strong language. But I would have thought that perennial security would tend to irritate an individual. At least I found it so when I was a Minister. Carrying my heart on my shoulder and knowing that I am not a security risk I worried that something could accidentally go wrong and sure enough a gun went of accidentally and a helper from the Science and Technology Ministry of which I was also holding independent charge got hurt in the foot.
Years earlier when I joined JNU as its VC the first thing I did was to open the windows in the VC’s home and office and ask the security boys to go home or wherever. In my first day of work since the family was still at Ahmedabad and with memories of the JNU of GP and Moonis Raza,I went to a hostel for lunch,telling the security chief who wanted to come that he must go away or I would get ulcers. Apparently,years earlier in the traumatising events of 1984,the students union had decided that if the VC comes to a hostel they would break his leg,but they were taken by surprise and by the time the executive met it was too late. The lunch was almost over and I was having a vociferous debate on facilities. Later if I didn’t go to a hostel for a meal in a semester there would be a protest.
So if our thoroughly professional security boys and girls have decided that a former Minister or Chief Minister is not a security risk or less so,I thought they would be happy. But security in this country has nothing to do with threats. Desecuritisation doesn’t mean you are free but that you are no longer a Brahmin. Since distinctions are abolished in the constitution it was an atrocious mistake by the government otherwise committed to inclusiveness whatever that means,to give in.
The frisking of Kalam Saheb is another matter. To begin with,remember the Americans are themselves a fairly patriotic lot and believe rather strongly in God,country and national icons and most would any day fight for it. There are skeptics but they are on the fringe. The President is a political person,also the chief executive and so in the thick of debate but his person is involved in it under unwritten rules. There is a distance with Mr President. Security is understandably a big problem for them. But I suspect they would understand the importance of respect for a symbol. The crowd haunting the cocktail circuit in Delhi might not and have said so. Kalam Saheb himself has maintained the utmost dignity under the circumstances,but it is known that he was not too happy. The demand for reciprocity is correct. The Brazilians do it. There is no harm in considering Brazening or more accurately Brazilianing it out. The Americans are not a formal lot and generally are fair. I suspect that though they wouldn’t advertise approval,they would understand reciprocity in this matter,of course entirely on security grounds and with the usual mutually acceptable exceptions. Since we have a longer history I personally believe we should be liberal around the reciprocity principle.
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