Mamata cannot lead agitation against CAA: WB Governor

The Tuesday interview

Jagdeep Dhankhar

In an exclusive interview to DH, Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar says that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, having taken an oath to act as per the Constitution, which includes the law of the land, cannot lead the agitation against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which has been passed by both houses of Parliament.

What do you have to say about the protests in Bengal against the Citizenship Amendment Act?

The right to protest is a valuable right under our Constitution. It is the manifestation of different points of view in a democracy. However, violence in agitation or otherwise is antithetical to democracy as also to the rule of law. Violence has to be abjured at all costs. A premium is put on violence if those engaged in it are not brought to book. It is a frequent spectacle in our country that protests are marked and marred by violence resulting in damage to public and private property. In a civilised society, this cannot be countenanced. In Bengal, the flavour of the agitation, with the support of state actors, is worrisome.

What are your reservations about Mamata leading the anti-CAA protests?

All constitutional functionaries are required to adhere to the Constitution. This is the essence of democracy and rule of law. There can be no deviation from it. The oath is unqualified and subject to no other situation. I am firm that an elected Chief Minister cannot agitate and take to street agitation to generate climate against a law that is sanctified by Parliament.

I got a formal communication from the secretary-general of Trinamool Congress (TMC) that Mamata is leading the agitation as the president of TMC. The stand taken by TMC also is therefore clear that as Chief Minister she cannot lead the protests. So, the next issue which arises is, can she do it as president of TMC while being Chief Minister.

My point is clear. She has taken an oath under the Constitution and that oath is to act as per the Constitution, which includes the law of the land. Now, this law has emanated from Parliament. It was deliberated in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, voting took place, and everyone participated. After being passed by both the Houses, it went to the Honourable President who accorded his ascent to it. After that, it was notified and became the law of the land, which she is bound to protect. Now, her oath cannot be like “I will protect the Indian Constitution, subject to my obligation as the president of TMC.”

In your view, has her government done enough to restore normalcy or not?

There was widespread and wanton damage to public and private property. Railway infrastructure suffered huge damage. Uprooting of tracks, stoning of trains and torching of railway stations happen to be too serious to be ignored. Those who took to vandalism should have faced exemplary consequences. More ought to have been done promptly. Absence of pre-emptive action was felt. Normalcy is impeded when the executive head of the state leads the agitation over an issue.

As Governor, what is your role at present?

My role as Governor is spelt out by the Constitution and the oath that I took. As per it, I am duty bound to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law and devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of the State of West Bengal.”

I, also by virtue of my office, act as Chancellor of state-aided universities. I cannot figure out the rationale behind emasculating and compromising the autonomy of universities. These institutions must have freedom and ought to be accountable to the extent there is prescription in the law. Both the Chancellor and the state government have well-defined roles and should not cross their domains. The environment in the campuses is a cause for serious concern. It needs to be watched.

You have said many times that your position as the constitutional head of the state is being compromised.

The question needs to be addressed by those who have engaged in such acts. As the constitutional head, I carry no baggage of past events that compromised my position as Governor. I am to look ahead and move forward in the interest of the state. My patience can never run out.

How would you describe your relationship with Mamata currently?

In the positions that we both have under the Constitution we are supposed to work in tandem and in togetherness. There are issues that I am addressing so that the present stalemate ends. It is not in the state or public interest.

Are you displeased that the Chief Minister has not come to brief you?

I have no doubt that given her stature and experience, she will abide by the Constitution. She is required to brief the Governor. This has not been addressed so far. The issue has been flagged to her. Of late, I see some bright spots, and that augurs well.

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