A division over null and void demand

Monday Musing

[ Amar Sangno ]

Arunachal as a society has never been divided like it is now over the phrase ‘null and void’, ever since the Arunachal Pradesh Public Service Commission’s (APPSC) question paper leak scam came to light in the public domain. These two contentious words have become household syllables and a popular catchphrase, even for people who have never been to school in their life.

The division over the hotly contested issue is wide open on social media, or at a personal level, as the respective relatives and clan members are coming out openly in support of their members (both aspirants and officers).

These words are a reflection of the pain, anger, frustration, emotion, hardship and the future of the two sections: the aspirants, represented by the Pan Arunachal Joint Steering Committee (PAJSC), and the affected officers.

Members of the PAJSC had seized the state capital for 24 hours on 17 and 18 February, demanding that the government fulfill their 13 demands, including declaring null and void all exams conducted by the APPSC, in which malpractices were found, since 2014. The aspirants argue that any competitive examination which has been marred by malpractice or has been compromised must be declared null and void.

The 24-hour siege gave the impression that we were heading towards mobocracy, as incidents of violence were witnessed, ranging from arson to damaging public properties. It brought the Chief Minister Pema Khandu government to its knees and forced it to cancel the proposed swearing-in ceremony of the newly appointed APPSC chairman and members. The government subsequently announced that it has left it to the APPSC to declare null and void all tainted exams conducted by the commission.

Though Khandu has managed to quell angry parents and aspirants by announcing that all 13 demands would be fulfilled, subject to provisions, bigger challenges lie ahead in its trajectory. The Khandu government has thrown the ‘null and void’ ball into the commission’s court, thus sowing the seed of division among the people in the society.

Despite knowing that declaring the exams null and void would not be an easy task, and that it would take a long legal course, the affected officers who put their heart and soul into clearing the state’s premier competitive exam are shattered by the governments’ decision.

Some of them consider the government’s decision a brutal rejection of their hard work and sheer dedication, which has put their future in limbo. The sense of rejection and alienation has surely affected the zeal among the officers. To register their anger, the affected officers are staging a peaceful protest on Tuesday.

To ensure that this contentious issue comes to a logical end, both sides must be practical and rational and must accept the law of the land. The affected officers should not shield the candidates who got through the examination using unfair means. At the same time, the aspirants must accept whatever outcome the CBI investigation reveals.

However, the bigger question is, if at all the commission declares all exams null and void, will it ever be able to implemented it on the ground?

The mysterious death of former APPSC undersecretary Tumi Gangkak may have changed the course of the investigation into the question paper leak scam. Apparently, a stormy winter is still looming large over the state capital, even after the arrival of spring. The state government is walking on an eggshell as far as the null and void issue is concerned.