By Saem Hashmi:
So one fine day I am talking to my father about Kashmir and he suddenly reminds me that we shouldn’t be engaging in such a topic over the phone, for obvious reasons. Yes he was right to say so as he worries for me and my safety of speaking about the larger truth but most importantly it raised in me a question that ‘Are we so unsafe in our own nations that we even fear telephonic discussions ofÂ controversialÂ things?’. It is scary to imagine that we are, many a times, spied upon in areas that happen to be extremely private and in complete violations of the most basic rights under the United Nations Charter for Human Rights and under the fundamental rights as bestowed upon us under the Indian constitution.
There is no denial over the fact that it becomes increasingly important to safeguard human life in a world where we are seeing terrorism grow rapidly and bomb blasts happening like crackers exploding on Diwali. But such spying involving the violation of rights and disrupting lives for the mere suspicion is unjustified on all grounds. Moreover, such techniques are in complete violations of the ‘secular-democratic’ fronts that the nations of the world claim themselves to be.
Spying in the recent era, especially after the entire picture being blown away by whistleblowers, has made us citizens doubt our very own states and their functioning as it has put us in a condition where we do not know whether we are free or are being monitored upon. Moreover, spying has revealed as to how the state functions, infringing on private rights and consequently tries to curtail the spread of knowledge and ideas that may prove to be against the ‘smooth functioning’ of the state and yet suppress the larger truth and realities of the unseen state. The infringing leads to the betrayal of the right to ones freedom of opinion and speech. I am not justifying that plotting of terror attacks fall under this category of ‘freedom’.
This yet again reminds me of a road travel incident from Kashmir to Jammu with few jawans from the army. I got talking over the scenario of Kashmir with one of themÂ and he told me that, “We know what these (Kashmiri) people are doing. We have an eye on them 24×7. Whether they are on the street or on the road or in their houses; they are being watched.” We are being spied upon without our knowledge and we have learnt about all the spying from their agents or carriers who on moral and ethical grounds have been truthful to the larger masses. Time and again we are being put in a scenario where the state is losing out on its dependability and reliance.
During my internship in an organization in Kashmir, the head and the lead coordinators had been prohibited the issuance of passports and were kept under constant watch closely and in person. They recognize all the agents by faces. Assassination attempts have been made upon them and all this has been possible by the continuous extreme spying that they have been put under by the state in order to curtail the flow of ground realities and truth as it served against the nature of the states functioning putting them at a vulnerable exposed front.
Justification on the pretext of national security, terrorism, saving human lives etc. have become the greatest arguments for this unjustifiable and undemocratic action. Spying is a necessity but intruding is an evil. We fail to live but succeed to fear immensely and thus bring ourselves into a cosset where we do not question or rise up but sit down and face the consequences of this unchecked potent state.
Discussion of the solution to alternative spying remains out of the realms of this article as I unfortunately do not happen to be any sort of authority on policy making. Spying, for me and others who raise their voice for human rights, those who stand up for what is right against what is wrong, will always continue to be the greatest peril. Spying should be done only after a close check up on the person in question and putting them under observation to acquit him/her of the charges. Spying on the grounds of the psychological fear that we are under ‘threat’ will always continue to be unjustified and unlawful by any institution irrespective of its stature and hierarchical line up. We are free and have rights which can’t be taken away at the whims of the state or any individual or institution. We as humans cannot be made void of them else there will be no difference between a caged animal and us humans.