Indian govt labels people anti-national without declaring emergency: Kannan Gopinathan

Indian govt labels people anti-national without declaring emergency: Kannan Gopinathan
With 27 years more left in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Kannan Gopinathan resigned Secretary, power department of the Union Territories of Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli on August 21, 2019, in protest against the restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir after the revoking of Article 370. Eighteen months since, the Union government has not only refused to accept his resignation, but even tried to rake up a former case against the 2012-batch IAS officer, registered an FIR (first information report) against him and has initiated some disciplinary procedures for “adversely affecting the foreign relations of the country by speaking to the media.” According to Kannan Gopinathan, his decision to resign and the government action against him are reflective of the current scenario where the freedom of individuals is being curtailed. “The current situation prevailing in the country is that the Union government, without declaring an emergency, is categorising people as anti-national or charging them with sedition,” said Kannan Gopinathan. “During the Emergency, the then government had declared the provision of the Emergency. However, in the current scenario, the freedom of individuals are being curtailed without declaring an emergency.” Kannan Gopinathan had resigned as Secretary, Power Department of the Union Territories of Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli after serving seven years in the service. The Union government has neither specified any reason for not accepting his resignation. He said that the Union government tried to level charges of corruption against him after he resigned from the Indian Administrative Service. Read: IAS officer Kannan who quit over govt action in J&K, faces ‘charges’ from Centre Soon after his resignation, Kannan has been vocal — both in media and public events — about his criticisms against the Union government under Narendra Modi for clamping down on freedom of speech. In fact, two months after he resigned, in October 2019, the Union Home Affairs Department initiated disciplinary proceedings against him for speaking to the media. The All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968, bars officers from publicly expressing their views that are critical of the government, even if it is only to state a fact. “I replied to the memorandum, stating that I am not convinced about the legality of the disciplinary procedures and that if the foreign relations of the country are affected as a result of my interactions with the Indian media, I consider they are inappropriately handling India’s foreign relations,” said the 35-year-old former IAS officer. Regarding the disciplinary actions initiated against him, “I asked the government to go ahead with the procedures,” he said. In April 2020, the Daman and Diu and Dadra Nagar Haveli police registered an FIR against Kannan — under section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Epidemic Diseases Act and Disaster Management Act — for not joining duty during the COVID-19 pandemic as directed by the Indian government.  Wrong to stay silent for next generation The Kerala-born former IAS officer Kannan Gopinathan said he resigned over the lack of freedom of speech when there was a security lockdown and communication blackout before and after Article 370 was scrapped. For him, it defeated the purpose of joining the civil service, “to empower the public of their rights, whether I was in Mizoram or in Daman.”  “I resigned because I could not accept the current political discourse. The current dispensation is pressuring the public to be a subject, not a citizen,” he said.  “I am terming the BJP-led Union government as a bully. If they have some ideas in their mind, they will impose on others. If someone opposes their ideas, there will be a move to suppress them and to destroy them. The bullying nature of the government is dangerous and we cannot say when it will lose its control. The people will also get submissive due to the bullying nature of the government.”  He believes that it is not right to remain silent as it will send out a wrong message to the next generation. “If the people of a country are afraid of consequences, it will lead to danger. So, there should be someone who is willing to say that what is happening is wrong. Perhaps, our protest is not going to bring about any systematic change. They may not speak out. However, a generation is listening to what we are speaking and we have a duty to tell every generation that it is not right,” said the former IAS officer, who was known for his anonymous participation in the relief work during the 2018 Kerala floods. Pointing out the sedition laws came into being before the Constitution was introduced, he alleged that the current government is misusing the provisions of the law. “As per the law, sedition can be charged against a person if he criticises the government. He may get a reprieve if he approaches the court. We should have repealed many provisions of the law once the Constitution came into being,” he said.  Not thought about future plans Kannan said he did not have clarity when he resigned from his position. But, as he waited for the resignation to be accepted, he travelled in the 65 districts of the country and even learnt Mandarin. He was part of the movement against the National Register of Citizens (NRC), during which he interacted with many stakeholders. “I will not return to the IAS service. I am confident I will get another job,” he said.  Read: How to engage with pro-CAA arguments: Ex-IAS officer Kannan Gopinathan speaks Service rules stop IAS officers from voicing their views in public, but is it time for change?

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