It is a question uncomfortable to ask: it may even be slammed as politically-motivated, antinational or seditious given the politically induced looseness within which those terms are now being used. Yet a sense of higher duty, and commitment to the ideals sanctified in the Constitution of India, dictate that it must be asked. Has the “tough” line the government has, perhaps rightly taken, on militancy and terrorism been misinterpreted by some members of the security forces to think they have been granted licence to disregard basic human rights, international conventions, domestic law and indeed the traditions and ethos of their own organisations to be high-handed, oppressive or worse? The query assumes considerable significance in the context of not just the vexatious caution the Army Chief issued before the TV cameras in February, but the military and paramilitary leadership subsequently failing to discipline their men ~ and the ruling political establishment applauding actions it would have condemned had it been in the Opposition. For even as the controversy continues to rage over the Army Chief commending the “human shield” incident even before probes have been completed, comes a report from a senior officer of the CRPF of a wellchoreographed fake encounter in Assam in which personnel from the state and central police forces, and the army, eliminated two men they projected as Bodo militants. In endorsing the line taken by Maj. L.Gogoi, the defence minister has propounded a dangerous theory ~ that MPs (who happen to represent the people in a democracy) are not entitled to opine on any action the military may take. Has Mr Arun Jaitley rejected the principle of the military functioning under civilian control, and the executive being accountable to Parliament?

To go into details of the alleged fake encounter in Assam might not be appropriate since the “facts” are yet to be confirmed, but the home ministry brushing aside a “discreet” inquiry conducted by a police officer of the rank of Inspector-General does not convince of a determination to unearth the truth: instead the “whistle-blower” is being pilloried. The narrative recounted by the Inspector-General is downright alarming, and North Block is creating an impression of endorsing a cover-up by opting to be “technical” ~ as if all probes are not “postfacto”. The least expected from the home minister or Prime Minister is an independent fact-finding investigation ~ there is seldom smoke without fire. If the IG has dubious motives he must be prosecuted immediately, otherwise some of his charges will “stick”. Both the editorially-condemned “award” for the human shield incident, and the report of the fake encounter are sure to accelerate the mental alienation of the affected people, further the process of emotional disintegration. That surely enhances the risk of physical disintegration: something which electoral success can never remedy