We Believe in Human Rights, But Forces Have Rights Too: Kiren Rijiju
On the third anniversary of Narendra Modi government, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju tells News18’s Arunima that national security has been a top priority for the government. On the recent controversies around videos from Kashmir, he says, ‘Just like common people, our forces also have human rights’. Criticizing those who call Indian forces ‘brutal’, he says only those who have ‘soft corner for the separatists’ can say such a thing.
On the third anniversary of Narendra Modi government, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju tells News18’s Arunima that national security has been a top priority for the government. On the recent controversies around videos from Kashmir, he says, ‘Just like common people, our forces also have human rights’. Criticizing those who call Indian forces ‘brutal’, he says only those who have ‘soft corner for the separatists’ can say such a thing. Edited excerpts:
Q: How do you think the government has performed on national security front in the past three years?
A: We had said in the beginning that we will make this country more secure, more robust and stronger. We are well on course… if you compare with the situation three years ago, things have improved. In terms of internal security, we have seen some big upsetting incidents like in Uri, in Chhattisgarh, in Pathankot… but if you see the overall condition of the national security, things have improved a lot. In metropolitan cities, you have not seen any major incident like it used to happen before. I should not claim that nothing can happen and we have to be alert always... I feel we need to give much more emphasis on securing our border, but we have seen marked improvement in the way we are tackling with the threats, issues and challenges beforehand.
Q: While you are right in pointing out that 2008-09 like terror attacks in cities have not taken place, nothing seems to be working as far as Pakistan’s misadventures in Kashmir are concerned.
A: There are issues before us, which exist since our creation. We are facing difficulties, but with regards to Pakistan I do not want to speak much because it relates to foreign policy.
Q: How do you react to the video which showed CRPF jawans being harassed by Kashmiri youths on the day of Srinagar by-poll?
A: Had our CRPF jawan opened fire that day, media would have said that forces are violating human rights. Media would have questioned us… now when our jawan showed restraint, you are asking us why we tolerated such a thing. The fact is that our forces are working in extremely tough conditions… when you are in a situation where your life is under threat, you have to do everything possible to escape safely. Human Rights aam janta ka bhhi hota hai aur humaare force ka bhhi hota hai (Just like common people, our forces also have human rights).
Q: In this context, do you support what the army officer did, in another incident, by tying up a Kashmiri man to the jeep as a human shield?
A: That particular action might be debatable, but if our soldiers are doing something to protect themselves, how can anyone say they can’t? As I said, everybody is a human being. Forces are also humans. They also need to protect their lives. So if the forces are trying to protect themselves, by taking certain measures which for some other people may not be proper… only organizations and people who have soft corner for the separatists raise these issues that forces are brutal. Indian forces are very responsible, that is why the CRPF jawans restrained from doing anything despite being heckled to the extent that now common people are saying that the jawans should have reacted. That means Indian forces are very responsible. We believe in human rights and we honour human rights, but at the same time we have the right to protect ourselves.
Q: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has suggested that Major Leetul Gogoi, who tied a civilian to the jeep, should not be honored. What would you say to that?
A: I think the statement of Amarinder Singh is quite encouraging... I cannot speak much on this as a minister… because I am in the home ministry and the forces are under me. So I cannot make a statement which becomes a policy statement. I see the files and I deal with the problems, so I cannot make a definite comment here.
Q: When BSF whistleblower Tej Bahadur Yadav flagged the issue of basic facilities, why was he suspended? Why wasn’t the issue of poor food quality looked into?
A: A force cannot sustain if there is no discipline. In case of Tej Bahadur Yadav, we have verified everything. J&K is a difficult area… supply chain was broken for a few days because of the snowfall. In high altitude, you stock food and you don’t get fresh food every day… in difficult situations, sometimes jawans have to eat protein tablets to survive… there are dieticians and there is no such issue with food, everything was checked… in fact, if you see the level of calories, our forces are being provided with adequate calories. If a jawan has an issue, he can talk to his officer. If the immediate officer is not listening, there are senior officers who come for the sainik samailan… but you can’t post a video asking the prime minister to intervene. The PM is the head of the nation. You have to work within the system. As a minister, it is my duty to ensure that all this is being taken care of. If anything is wrong, as a government we are responsible. But at the same time, indiscipline cannot be tolerated.
Q: As an individual, you have always proudly said that you are a nationalist. Tell us about some personal experiences which formed your views?
A: A boy brought up in Delhi or Mumbai will never have the experience of what I have. When I was growing up, every day my mother would say, have food fast otherwise the Chinese will come. This was because the 1962 war was still fresh in everyone’s memory. That is how we were brought up. We greet each other with Jai Hind. Patriotism is in our blood. The 1962 war had a very deep impact on our life. My grandfather and my father had told us how the villagers came and rescued Indian Army when it was left without food, without clothes and the Chinese were marching ahead. There was no planning from the government of India’s side. It was a sorry state of affairs.
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