SYED TAUSIEF AUSAF pleads for taking stringent action against the guilty indicted by Justice Srikrishna Commission. He squarely rejects the plea that reopening of cases would open old wounds and says that demands of justice would not be fulfilled unl
One of the resolutions that Bharat, which turned 60 on August 15, has to make for the next year and stay firm on it is: Reports of judicial commissions will be fully implemented and will not be turned into political hot potatoes.
The country has to promise to its people that the threats of anti-Muslim riots by the Saffron thugs in reaction to the implementation of judicial probes’ findings will be firmly ignored and that the culprits – no matter how politically influential they be – will be brought to justice as soon as possible.
India has to assure its citizens that policemen – including top brass – who look the other way when lynch mobs rape and kill members of the minority community will not go unpunished. The nonsense of “demoralising effect” on men-in-uniform will be done away with.
But if the emerging giant of south Asia continues to keep its head buried in the sand, the country’s justice system will remain hostage to seasonal blackmailers like Manohar Joshi, during whose tenure the Srikrishna Commission report was submitted.
Joshi had gone on record saying that if anyone touched the Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray – blasted in the report for his role in the riots – he would resign as chief minister and agitate in the streets. Last week he said: “Communal passions will get inflamed and society will stand exposed to the threat of being torn asunder along religious line, if the Vilasrao Deshmukh government persists in raking up issues pertaining to the Commission report.” According to him, the then Shiv Sena/BJP government had rejected the report as it was felt that hostilities between religious communities were likely to get further aroused by discussing such issues.
Isn’t it surprising that Joshi and his likes did not see any threat of communal divide when the Tada court condemned 12 Muslims to death for their role in India’s deadliest terror attacks in Mumbai?
Doesn’t it sound strange that Joshi did not warn of a backlash when Yakub Memon – not directly involved in Mumbai bombings – was handed death and his family members were incarcerated? The Memons including Yakub had come to India prepared to surrender because they believed in their innocence. They were convinced that since India was a democracy, their rights would be protected, that the government would be even-handed and that they would get a fair trial. But they were proved wrong on all counts.
Despite this, there were no protests in support of the Memons. The principal minority took it all in its stride for it does not believe in questioning the intelligence of judges. The Supreme Court will be moved in Yakub’s case and the apex court is known for correcting lower courts’ mistakes thereby restoring people’s trust in judiciary.
Joshi had the audacity of saying that “individuals belonging to one particular community were affected by the riots is a hugely misplaced notion.” Terming that period as a “sad past that was best left buried”, Joshi, in the same breath, threatened that “reopening old cases will bring up old wounds that can have only disastrous consequences.”
Every student of history knows that the Saffron brigade, as part of its survival tactics, has been instigating, planning and executing riots against the minorities. It was Thackeray, who after the wilful desecration and demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, said that he was proud of his boys who pulled down the 450-year-old place of worship. It was the Shiv Sena which, in full connivance with the state police, allegedly, hounded and hacked to death hundreds of Muslim men and women during Mumbai riots.
In case Joshi has forgotten facts and figures: In Mumbai alone according to official figures 872 people – mostly Muslims – were killed, 1,829 rendered injured and 443 reported missing. Around 1,50,000 victims of state abetted terrorism had to flee their homes. In the entire country, Muslim property worth Rs 4,000 crore was destroyed. Gangs of attackers primarily consisted of the members of Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and BJP. Who is Joshi trying to fool?
PARTNERS IN CRIME
Photos of a jubilant Uma Bharti embracing an equally elated Murli Manohar Joshi after the national shame was completed in Ayodhya are still fresh in minds. Lal Krishna Advani, who has been given a clean chit in the razing of the mosque, was also present to grace the occasion. The anti-Muslim flare-up, meticulously planned by the Sangh Parivar, following the demolition, kept the country on tenterhooks for three months. In this backdrop, Joshi’s statement that “the Shiv Sena’s prime concern is to ensure peace prevails” sounds like a joke from a gossip book.
Joshi’s contention that “sad past that was best left buried” needs to be thoroughly X-rayed. What is the deeper meaning of his outrageous argument? Don’t let the probe reach a logical conclusion as it might expose the shameful role the Saffronites and their representatives in bureaucracy and police played in the systematic massacre of Muslims in January 1993.
The Srikrishna Commission has indicted 31 police personnel from the rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police to constable. On the role of the police, the report says: “The police personnel were found actively participating in riots, communal incidents or incidents of looting, arson and so on. The commission strongly recommends that the Government take strict action against them.” Lo and behold, the Shiv Sena-BJP Government promoted 10 of those indicted police officers, one of them to the rank of Police Commissioner of Mumbai. This is how the Sena Government took “strict action”.
One is surprised to see the Sena’s reaction to the demand for action against those indicted. In the Sena’s venomous mouthpiece “Saamna”, the party says that the call for implementation of the report is tantamount to saying “hang the Hindus” with an eye on Muslim votes. When 12 Muslims were sentenced to mount the gallows over 1993 serial blasts, was there any criticism whatsoever of the judiciary? Has anyone seen the headline “hang the Muslims” in the Urdu or Muslim Press anywhere?
The Saffron stance has become clear: If Muslims face death for a heinous crime it is acceptable, but if Hindus meet the same fate, it is not. The Sainiks, it appears, believe that there should be two yardsticks and two sets of laws – one for the Muslims and the other for the Hindus.
If the Sena and their supporters are confident of their innocence, why don’t they let the judiciary put its stamp on it? They should expect fairplay from the same judicial system that has sentenced 12 Muslims to death recently.
Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party promised in its manifesto that if it came to power it would implement the Report within three months. Even after being at the helm for years, the Congress-NCP Government shows no sign of that happening. First, the government kept saying it is studying the ‘legal position’. On December 6, 1999, a citizen’s delegation met Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and urged him to implement the report. He asked for two months’ time and found another way out for non-implementation of the report. The government filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court in January 2000 that it plans to refer the report to the Crime Branch. By doing that, the government, in its utter foolishness, put a question mark over the integrity of a top judge.
Of the indicted police personnel, the Government suspended five constables – mere eyewash to pacify the wronged minority. It is always easy and safe to take symbolic action against the lower ranks and let the higher ranks go unruffled for obvious reasons. The Sena even rewarded the complying and obedient top brass for fully cooperating in teaching a lesson to those who are not Hindus and yet demand equal rights in plural Bharat.
The current political system must answer some important questions. Will just peace ever prevail, if governments tend to protect murderous police officers? If the police play an openly partisan role as they did during the Mumbai riots, is it possible to prevent another Muslim carnage in the future? If the governments are unable to give exemplary punishment to “encounter experts,” shouldn’t they at least desist from promoting them?
As public outrage grows over justice denied to the Mumbai riots victims, a silver lining has come in the form of the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi who has asked Maharashtra chief minister to explain what action his government has taken on the findings of the Commission and what action he has planned. Sonia has won hearts and minds for not toeing the traditional Indira-Rajiv line of only pacifying Muslims. It must be appreciated that for she acted differently from the way her mother-in-law and husband did in such moral crises.
Few would disagree it is time for secular forces to join hands against the Saffron menace. Kudos to CPI (M) leader and Rajya Sabha member Brinda Karat who has assured that the issue of the report’s non-implementation will be raised by her party in and outside Parliament.
If the largest democracy is really interested in restoring its credibility as a responsible state in the comity of nations, it has to make sure that the government of the day does not have the discretion to reject a report it finds “inconvenient.”
Justice B N Srikrishna, in a recent interview, reflected the thoughts of millions of Indians: “Any judge taking up such an assignment must do so on the promise that it (the report) is binding on the government.” He said: “In countries like Australia and South Africa, the findings of such a report are binding on the government. Why should that not be the case here? I have spent five years of my life looking into the Mumbai riots, with government money, in the time I could have disposed at least 20,000 cases, so why let that go waste?”
To prevent the findings of such probes from becoming political footballs in the future, the UPA chairperson and the Manmohan Singh government should think of introducing a bill in parliament for making the implementation of such probes binding on governments. No political party is likely to oppose it. If parliament’s communal liabilities – Shiv Sena, the Bajrang Dal, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and their political face the BJP – oppose any such move, it will be hardly surprising.
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