Dictionary defines an ‘apologist’ as “one who speaks or writes in defense of someone or something.” And this seems to be the order of the day in ‘New India’ with a large army of Sanghi bakhts and “WhatsApp university underlings” coming out with all kind of distorted and convoluted arguments and trolls not only to justify but also to hail the disastrous political, social and economic agenda of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that is fast morphing this great nation into a polarised, divisive, impoverished and inequitable sub-continent!

This continues and accelerates even when “Modi Reforms” are ‘degenerating’ democratic India into a theocratic, communal, oligarchic and kleptocratic state.

But when an ‘intellectual’ bunch of “Former Judges, Public Servants and Armed Forces Officers” join this bandwagon it is a matter of serious concern. And when these worthies start branding ‘democratic dissenters’ and those ‘speaking truth to power’ as ‘anti-national’ and ‘foreign agents’ it has the stink of fascism.

This actually is the case of the slugfest over an anguished letter written by 108 former civil servants belonging to the Constitutional Conduct Group (CCG) to Prime Minister Narendra Modi with this opening salvo: “We are witnessing a frenzy of hate filled destruction in the country where at the sacrificial altar are not just Muslims and members of the other minority communities but the Constitution itself…”

Issue of this communication was preceded by weeks of intense discussions, deliberations and brainstorming in the closely knit e-group of CCG comprising around 200 civil servants. The letter was put out in the evening of 26 April, 2022 reaching the public domain next day.

A riposte to this came within a record time of 2-3 days i.e., on 30 April from a disjointed and disparate set of individuals - 8 retired judges, 97 former bureaucrats / ambassadors and 92 retired Armed forces officers - posing as ‘patriots’ cum ‘nationalists’ and calling themselves Forum of Concerned Citizens (FCC).

The language was rabid Sanghi as would be evident from this passage: “The CCG should not give ideological cover to an anti-national outlook as well as religious and left-wing extremism, which they seem to do… Such a narrative gets recognition and encouragement from international lobbies that want to halt India’s progress.”

Though two names appeared below the letter - a former Ambassador and former Lieutenant General - one wonders as to who drafted it and circulated it, what kind of deliberations took place and who finalised the communication and how 197 ‘signatories’ gave their approval all in two days! It looks as if the entire exercise is a command performance with a standard script!

That FCC is nothing but a front of the BJP publicity cell is made out by this bogus and irrelevant claim: “Public opinion remains solidly behind Prime Minister Modi as recent state elections have shown.” The fact is that less than 25% of the electorate in UP and Uttarakhand had voted for the BJP in the recent Assembly elections. While the party received a severe drubbing in Punjab the other two states, Goa and Manipur, are insignificant and small.

Be that as it may, let us look at the matter on its merits. The CCG letter to the PM had made the following salient points:

1. That there is a spurt in orchestrated and premeditated incidents of hate violence directed against the minorities mostly in the BJP ruled states.

2. That there is a difference between these incidents and communal conflagrations of the past because (a) at the local level the police and the administration aid, abet and support vigilante violence and not only allow them to operate with impunity but make available legal coercive means to subdue the minorities and strike fear in their hearts, (b) vigilante violence gets tacit support and encouragement from higher levels in the State and Central Governments who provide legal measures by which the minorities are made to accept majoritarian tyranny, their constitutional rights severely curbed and their living together as equal citizens made impossible, and (c) these actions follow a master script and appear to be aimed at making constitutional values subservient to majoritarian ends.

3. That it is this subversion of constitutional values which is the graver threat more than just violence along traditional, communal fault lines.

4. That, to arrest this trend public attention has to be directed to the political and ideological objectives underlying this subversion of constitutional values - objectives which are a part of the larger majoritarian agenda of this Government.

The letter was addressed to the Prime Minister to draw public attention to his constitutional obligations as the Head of the Government calling upon his effective intervention to stem the rot. It was not concerning any specific incidents of communal violence.

It is obvious that the FCC group acting as ‘apologists’ and has rushed to defend the PM has neither read the CCG letter, nor reflected on the gravity of the ‘frenzy of hate’ that has grown rapidly in the last few months. Instead of providing a point-by-point rebuttal to the issues raised by the CCG against Governments both at the Centre and the States, the FCC rejoinder makes the following absurd and unsubstantiated claims:

. That the CCG is in the habit of writing letters against the Prime Minister and is primarily interested in generating a hate campaign against him.

. That this anti-Modi campaign is part of an ‘anti-national’ agenda which is allegedly influenced by foreign/western lobbies who have a vested interest in destabilizing India.

. That sporadic incidents of violence, which can happen anywhere, anytime, have been exaggerated to construct a negative campaign against the Prime Minister in particular and the BJP Government in general.

The allegations are ad hominem, full of whataboutery and insinuations and bear no reference to anything contained in the CCG communication. Whosoever drafted the riposte has also deliberately side-stepped this caveat in the CCG letter: “As former civil servants, it is not normally our wont to express ourselves in such extreme terms, but the relentless pace at which the constitutional edifice created by our founding fathers is being destroyed compels us to speak out and express our anger and anguish.”

This is because the self-styled FCC ‘patriots’ have no knowledge of the Constitution and are adopting an ostrich-like approach with their head buried deep inside the sand!

Incidentally this is not the first time that the CCG has written such an anguished missive. In December 2020, a group of 104 of them had written to UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath over the Moradabad love jihad murder that was triggered by a UP government ordinance. At that time they noted:

“Chanakya taught us, a crafty politician must sow dissension amongst rivals. Here you are sowing dissensions among our own people. We, therefore, demand that the illegal ordinance be withdrawn forthwith and those Indians that have suffered from its unconstitutional enforcement be suitably compensated.”

This letter was also countered by an open missive by an FCC type motley of 224 former civil servants, judges and military officers:

“It is a matter of concern that one group of retired civil servants, visibly biased with an anti-establishment attitude despite overtly posing as ‘non-political’, repeatedly avail of every opportunity to put Indian democracy, its institutions, and persons legitimately holding high offices in poor light before the whole world by making ill-considered public statements, or writing misconceived communications to various authorities.”

Whosoever is scripting, choreographing and directing the FCC ‘patriot show’ should realise that playing ‘apologists’ is the job of palace sycophants and does not behove a democracy or democratically elected leaders who should have the courage of conviction to face criticism and respond. Nor is it proper for former judges, civil servants and army brass who had once taken oath of allegiance to the Constitution of India and not to any particular individual!

MG Devasahayam is retired from the Indian Administrative Service. He has also served in the Indian Army. His views are personal.