Even as speculation continues to rise about the circumstances in which the Madhya Pradesh police shot dead eight undertrials who had escaped from Bhopal Central Jail on Monday, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju believes people should stop asking questions.
“First of all we should stop this habit of raising doubt, questioning the authorities and the police,” Rijiju told journalists on Tuesday. “This is not a good culture. But what we have been observing in India that the people have developed this habit of raising unnecessary doubts and questions.”
Rijiju clarified that he was speaking about questions based on videos that purport to show the immediate aftermath of the incident, one of which shows a policeman firing into a supine body and another which shows five men with their hands raised in surrender. The eight undertrials are said to have been associated with the Students Islamic Movement of India.
“The fact will come out soon,” Rijiju added. “I am not dismissing anything but merely on the basis of a clip or some kind of papers, you cannot raise alarm bell like that. Things will come out as we are not here to sit and pass judgement on the basis of some report.”
He also posted tweets questioning those who questioned the government.
Rijiju then seemed to backtrack, but suggested that that terrorists receive more sympathy than members of the armed forces who are their target. A trial court is yet to give a verdict on whether the eight dead were indeed involved in such activities.
Rijiju’s statement comes a few weeks after he sly tweeted Anurag Kashyap for asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to apologise for having visited Pakistan in December 2015, at the same time Karan Johar was making Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Johar had been criticised for including a Pakistani actor, Fawad Khan, in his film.
Yet Rijiju himself did not shy away from asking questions of the government in power the last time he was an elected Member of Parliament, from 2004 to 2009. As a Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Arunachal Pradesh sitting in Opposition to the first United Progressive Alliance government, Rijiju asked almost 300 questions, some of which might be considered of a sensitive nature. Some of these he might even classify today as having been beyond the scope of questioning.
These include questions on:
- Compensation for custodial deaths: On December 23, 2008, Rijiju asked if the government had received any report from the Asian Centre for Human Rights on 1400 deaths in police custody and for details on the number of cases in which compensation had been granted.
- Cross-border infiltration: In February 2009, he asked whether the government was aware of large-scale infiltration, for exact details of all such instances in the three years before, and what it was doing to stop this.
- Extortion by militants in North Eastern states: February 2009 was an active month. Rijiju asked the government whether militant outfits in the North East were involved in extorting the government and private institutions.
- Corruption in the judiciary: That month, he also asked whether incidents of corruption in the judiciary were rising and if so for details about this.
- Intelligence in the North East: Instead of considering details of intelligence services of national interest, Rijiju asked for details of what was being done to strengthen them in the North East in April 2008.
- Employment schemes for surrendered militants: In March 2008, Rijiju wanted to know whether the government had made provisions to employ "terrorists" who had surrendered to security forces – and also whether the government intended to withdraw any such schemes in the light of terror attacks.
- Jail reforms: Rijiju has also been concerned about jail reforms. In November 2007, he asked what the government was doing to modernise jails and whether prisoners had access to training, rehabilitation and medical services.
As a Member of Parliament, Rijiju was well within his rights to ask any of these questions of the government. Indeed, as a member of the opposition, that was his duty. Now that he holds public office, it is his duty to answer them.