A ‘whistleblower’ is a person who reports wrongdoing including criminal activities. The exposed aren’t happy and they try to retaliate. Based on the nature of expose and power of ‘exposed’ person or entity, that may end in the whistleblower’s murder. A society with any respect for ethics and truth must protect whistleblowers who often represent the best of humanity. They are living proof that cynicism hasn’t destroyed all hope.
This land has borne many whistleblowers. Many we will never know of, because they were secretly killed or otherwise silenced. Forces who can suppress truth the best are killers with greatest impunity and the rich. Whistleblowers like environmentalists Shehla Masood and Amit Jethwa, street-vendor Shashidhar Mishra, social activist Satish Shetty and many others were killed in recent years. Most of them exposed the government’s crimes. Right to Information Act has added a new dimension to whistleblowing. We hardly know the fate of those of who may have tried to expose holy cows like big corporates, public servants like army, intelligence agencies, and similar temples of ‘honesty’ and ‘humanity’.
Exposure and targeting of whistleblowers encourages a cynical, criminal, unethical system. The Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2011 aimed to give “adequate protection to persons reporting corruption or willful misuse of discretion that causes a demonstrable loss to the government, or commission of a criminal offence by a public servant.” The present government plans to amend it. A government committed to truth and transparency would broaden the law’s ambit and add tooth to it. The central government wants the opposite. They are scheming to exclude issues pertaining to national security and sovereignty from it. Predictably, BJP and Congress agree on this. When they do, the people better be very suspicious. They mostly unite to assist in the looting of public assets or to rob people of human rights.
The government fears that some people’s love for Indian Union’s people far exceeds their loyalty to the nation-state. ‘National security’ exclusion means that there are criminal activities whose full disclosure makes the nation insecure. If criminality is an inalienable part of a nation-state, can any dharmik person be loyal to such an entity? Don’t we know the army’s role in Kunan Poshpora mass gang-rapes of Kashmir in 1991 or in Kakopathar massacre of Assam in 1987? Of police, there’s too many to list. Of the intelligence agencies, we have none — which tells much. Now, if sarkar-bahadur claims that disclosures about still unknown and future Kunan Poshporas will jeopardise ‘national security’, what are we to say? What kind of security does criminality buy? Only the nation state’s victims can tell. Are we ready to take collective responsibility of criminality of the Kunan Poshpora type to buy security? Do we have no fear of gods?
The government’s planned exclusion of ‘national security’ and ‘sovereignty’ by amending the Whistleblowers Protection Act demonstrates the depth of its commitment to truth. It might as well amend its sarkari motto ‘Satyamev jayate’ (Truth alone triumphs). We should remember the words of martyred poet Paash (1950-1988) -“Jey desh di surakhya eho hondee hai / key be-zameeree zindagi lei shart ban javey / akh di putli vich han ton bina koi bhi shabd ashleel howe / tey man badkaar ghadiyan de samne / dandaut’t jhukiya rahe / Tey saanu desh di surakhya ton khatra hai.” (If a life without conscience is a pre-condition of the country’s security, if anything other than saying ‘yes’ in agreement is obscene, and the mind submits before the greedy times, then security of the country is a danger to all).
The author is a commentator on politics and culture