[ Tage Lapung ]
The Arunachal Pradesh Property (Prevention of Damage and Loss) Bill 2020 that got the assent of the State Assembly on 3rd March, 2020 looks like a full text import of the Uttar Pradesh Prevention of Damage to Public and Private Property Act, 2009 which has been operationalized by saffron-clad Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to suppress the anti-CAA and NRC protestors.
This law is drawn reckoning the national enactment of The Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984 that provides classified legal domain in assessments and compensations of damage to public property caused during natural disasters, civil commotions, and communal vandalism in the country, and it is adopted in some states with conditions.
In Uttar Pradesh, the operation of this law has been condemned widely for being harsh and arbitrary. The intellects and social activists across the country termed it as undemocratic, immoral and deviating from the Parliamentary law.
The Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act 1984 may have national relevance as it might have recoursed-engagement to many compelling sovereign situations, with the presumption that Parliament must have had debated thoroughly in National context through layers of Parliamentary proceedings. In states like Odhisa, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, the context of this law has been taken in accordance with the evolution of state itself which existed as an advance historical entity prior to Independence. But the state of Arunachal Pradesh stands on different constructs of Indian federalism, as it is established under Article 371H of the Constitution with the tribal cultural practices and traditional system of local governance as the fountain of administrative practice. Introduction of this imported cosmopolitan, and metro- communal charged law — the A.P Property (Prevention of Damage and Loss) Act is anti-thesis to the Constitutional provision of the Art 371H and spirit of the syncretised tribal state. The Bill is simply thumbed thorough as law without any serious deliberations on its intensity and required engagements.
As it stands, the plain reading of the Act can allow drawing a simplistic syllogism of the whole text which premises centrally on inflicting a huge monetary burden on alleged person or organisation on the basis of complainant – the police, who would be a judge himself, to decide upon the damage of property. The evidences which shall be rallied of such damages are on the basis of photo clips by the complainant (police officers themselves). The extent of such arbitrariness is unknown in any civil law. The main focus of the Act is on the act of vandalism with the target group set on civil society activist and daring voice which is pre-meditated now. This is here, where the concern of the people must be sensitized and resuscitated, if public interest and democratic space is to live to liberty in the state.
The bigger question which is becoming a self-intriguing is that, whether the people of Arunachal Pradesh and its statehood, adventure or misadventure have sufficiently been evolved to triumph the complexity of democracy, freedom, and rule of law? Or, is it an over-estimated self imposed ideas of the leadership to do something demonically sinister against the under-rated citizens, wherein the majority of population are yet to see the light of moving vehicles, high raise building, and mistaking Aeroplane to be a strange bird from other planets? Whatever may be the case, the palpability of event is such that this legislative enactment would remain as an eponymous to the regime of the time. The object of orchestrating this kind of special law in a state like Arunachal Pradesh, wherein less than half of its population cannot read and understand the elementary of politics and democracy, wherein 30 percent of the villages bordering international boundary still remain beyond the reach and are virtually reeling under feudalistic conditions of social life, is to drab the whole population from the slaughterhouse political design for their continuity. It cannot escape from being blamed as selfish, egoistic and irresponsible towards our own people. This law is naturally corrupt in its manifestation, as the purpose directed to achieve is to victimize democratic voice and constitutional dissents by installing a symbolic denomination in the name of peace and tranquillity.
As it is in the preamble to Act itself, the Law is preventive conjecture, therefore creates state sponsored psychological terrorism, which is detrimental to the dynamic social growth, and hence slavish the democracy and the stakeholders – the people.
It is important here to relate that crafting such a preventive law solely for the purpose of inducing fatal burden on social activists, democratic voice, and unpleasant criticisms, the leadership cannot escape from the realities of public unhappiness owing to growing unemployment, unequal distribution of state resources, widespread corruptions, and rotting and degrading government delivery institutions which are strikingly and shamefully happening right in front of them.
The leadership of the time, instead of engaging in the pragmatic issues, inclined more towards discovering an obscurantist instruments for its civilian population, cannot remain as a tenable leader of the mass. The business of thriving to rule the people from the opaque tower of power and position, cannot and should not be accepted as democratic standard in the governance. The leader of the people should be in the ground, listen to the voice of the mass as an equal partner, and as a stakeholder of the system. Democracy is our chosen path sanctioned through the constitution, and it cannot be tickled and twisted through masquerading legislation, even under the condition of absolute majority.
Having this prelude, it needs emphasis to rewind some of the scary events in the state political history which led to the rise and fall of duly elected government and change of leadership too often, including the present regime.
Shamefully, we have the history of un-concluded scams like PDS, trans-highway, untitled political murders, Tawang firings, PRC misadventures, and devastated political movements leading to many leadership changes in the state. All those catastrophic events had happened without any positive lesson. Though the change in leadership had taken place, however, the changes have ostensibly failed to sufficiently engage those mass involvements in the pragmatic issues concerning the state.
The protests, bandh calls, street violence and consequential damages are result of systematic failure to engage with the real issues and discrediting feature of leaders to lead the state towards harmony.
It becomes needless to emphasis further that the leadership of the present regime wrangles on high decibel about transparency and accountability, and structural reformation began in some corner like establishment of APSSB and its corruption had surfaced shamefully. Institutions like the Arunachal Pradesh Public Service Commission are still laying as a clueless organiser to host the civil services exams. Therefore, instead of building public trust and confidence, and an action conduit for social impact, rather propounding irrational law in allude to those moronic past cannot be justified as governance for peace and tranquillity.
In simple sense, this is a stark attempt to wrench the public, particularly the daring social activists in the tight corners of peace and tranquillity, and refusal to listen to those voices. Doing this, the leadership seemingly escapes engaging with the people in the political process through obstructive hedges.
This kind of harsh law- as an instrument for preventing civil disorder- should have been allowed to be crystallized through consultations of activists, academicians and civil society organisations, instead of confining it within the assembly hall. Such a law is not even heard in communist China administration. (The writer is a former AAPSU leader and representative of the Centre for Policy Research, Impact Studies and Monitoring)
[ Tage Lapung ]