Saturday, 16 January 2016

Of Mice, Cats & Dogs & The Bourne Identities

The recently held programme in Chandigarh on December 10 to commemorate ‘International Human Rights Day’ had suddenly reminded me of the recently announced witness protection programme of the Delhi government. This event which had Retd Justice Katju, as the key note speaker, also refreshed some old memories hidden in obscure corners of my mind. I feel that this much needed program needs to be implemented throughout the length and breadth of the country if we need to set the judicial system right. But it will be only one of the several ways needed to revamp the ‘so-called’ justice machinery in the country. There, off and on, have been allegation against a section, howsoever miniscule, of judiciary itself, and it is not a hidden secret. Several judicial luminaries including some of the former judges, eminent lawyers and jurists, besides the media itself, have been raising the issue and seeking judicial accountability and transparency. A couple of heads have rolled and a couple managed to escape the accountability. Only the time will tell if the judicial system will get the needed transparency and revamping or not.

Anyhow the question of needed reforms is not the moot point in this piece. It concerns memories, memories of a turbulent past which had shaken not only Punjab but the entire country. Yes, I am talking of the troubled past of Punjab, a past which still looms over Punjab in more than one ways.

Those were the days of the ‘Mice, Cats and Dogs’. The ‘Mice’ were the hunted category and included both militants and terrorists. Yes I draw a distinction between both the categories and some time in one of my later writings, I will talk about them at length. Cats were civilians, coming from the category of both militants and terrorists as also ordinary civilians, who were given ‘protection’ by the security forces and used as ‘moles’, both for the purposes of identification as also neutralization of militants and terrorists. I am using the word, ‘security forces’ because these Cats were used by all forces, the police, para-military, the army as also by the intelligence agencies which were acting under cover. And ‘Dogs’ were a few of the ‘handlers if the Cats’, belonging to several of the government agencies referred to in the preceding lines. Many of the Mice were eating into the personal assets, wealth and property of ordinary civilian population. Loot of some of the Mice was, in turn, devoured by some of the Cats after annihilating them and then came the variety of ‘Dogs’, a few of those ‘gentlemen handlers’ who were running a specific breed of ‘Cats’. These ‘Dogs’ might have been few, but they were ferocious. They gobbled up these Cats and grabbed whatever the latter had looted. Is it not ironical? Or maybe some of us will call it the ‘natural justice’? I do not know. The assets of some of these ‘Dogs’ were in turn swindled by their paramours and in certain cases their families managed to get control of the loot.

It is impossible to ascertain the total number of these Cats because no record thereof was ever maintained. They did not exist officially. But it is a well known fact once their utility was over, a large number of surviving Cats were given a new identity. Their old persona was ‘killed’ on papers and fake papers were generated to give them a new identity. Those were not the days of the ‘Adhar Cards’ having a unique number or gas connections linked up with their bank accounts. PAN cards were also not being used with ‘impunity’ for each and every thing. Those were the days of the good old ‘Ration cards’ which were ‘manufactured’ with great ease and the passports which were also either easily faked or issued without great hassle.

Certain officers of yesteryears have been gloating over how they had ‘resettled’ several or several hundreds of the so-called Cats. They were settled here or sent abroad either with real or faked papers on the basis of their faked identity and many of them obtained foreign nationality on one ground or the other. A few of such foreign nationals who obtained new identity are still working as moles for the Punjab police.

And now, how this ‘plan’ germinated? Those days, as also still, there is not any ‘witness protection scheme’ in operation in the country, though a beginning has since been made in Delhi. The scheme for the resettlement of the Cats was borrowed from the witness protection programmes in force in the United States of America. This country has one of the most developed of such programmes. And Americans, in turn, had obtained inspiration from the ingenious schemes which was thought of and implements by the Nazis fleeing Germany after the fall of the third Reich. The ‘United States Federal Witness Security Program’ which is generally known and is popular as the ‘Witness Security (WITSEC) programme, was enacted in 1970 under their ‘Witness Protection Act. Because of some loopholes in this programme, ‘Witness Security Reform Act 1984’ was enacted to make the system more comprehensive. Though this programme is primarily the ‘prerogative’ of the federal government but some state governments also carry it out with the concurrence and aid of the federal government. Under this scheme the federal and in some cases, even the state governments first gives a new identity to vulnerable and ace witnesses and then resettles or relocates them at a safe and distant place. Such witnessed are also given financial aid besides providing them with suitable jobs. Under these programmes several thousand of witnesses along with their families have been given new identity and resettled in the United States
The ‘Witness Security Reform Act 1984’ could not have come at a more appropriate time. These were the days when Punjab was getting more and more turbulent. But the concept of Cats had still not caught up the imagination of the Punjab police, security forces and other power centers. They were to come later on but the idea implanted by the said act caught on because all such persons, who were earlier called informers and a few of whom later got converted in to cats, always had the first query, ‘ What will we get in return?’ and ‘ How will you protect us’? Normally they gave the answer to the first question, themselves, and it was that they either wanted help in grabbing some property or to get some of their antagonists annihilated.

Simple (I know it sounds cruel and mirthless, but I just stated the fact clearly)

And Matt Damons continue living as Jason Bournes.

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