20 January 2022
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A group of 102 former civil servants on Sunday wrote an open letter to Indian citizens, criticising recent statements made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other high-ranking officials about the country’s civil society.

“These portents indicate a deliberate strategy to deny civil society the space and wherewithal for its operation,” the letter said.

The signatories, under the Constitutional Conduct Group, include former civil servants Anita Agnihotri, Gurjit Singh Cheema, AS Dulat, KP Fabian, Wajahat Habibullah, Harsh Mander and Mira Pande.

As an instance of the comments against the civil society, the signatories pointed out that Modi had referred to those protesting against the farm laws as “andolaneevis” (those who live off agitations). Speaking in the Rajya Sabha in February, the prime minister had said that “andolaneevis” were like parasites.

“Electoral compulsions might have led the prime minister to announce the decision to repeal the hated [farm] laws, but the damage done to the nation’s polity and social fabric will be hard to repair,” the signatories to the letter stated.

The former civil servants also noted that recent statements made by National Human Rights Commission Chairperson Arun Mishra and Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat had “heightened their anxiety with regard to the articulation of the state-civil society interface”.

Speaking at a Foundation Day event of…

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Abdul Gh Lone