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Double Standards: Punishing the culprits of violence
08/05/2007
By Ram Puniyani

Indian society has been plagued by two major types of violence. One is that related to the sectarian one, the one which began with Jablapur riots of 1961, which intensified greatly during the decades of 1980s, the one which gradually assumed the shape of pogrom like the ones of 1984 (Delhi), 1992-3 (Mumbai) and Gujarat (2002). The two latter one of these also showed that lot of organization and planning is being put in to the same. In the context of the punishments being pronounced in the Mumbai blast cases, the demand resurfaced that even the guilty of 1992-93 carnage should also be punished. Just to recall after these riots this Commission worked painstakingly for five years and came to various conclusions and also named those who were guilty of violation of laws due to which the violence took such horrendous shape.

The Shiv Sena, many of whose leaders actively participated in these riots immediately came out vehemently against such demands. It argument is that the victims have reconciled to what has happened and reopening of these cases is just being demanded by secularists to spoil the broth. Congress, slippery as ever, first promised that the Government will reopen the cases immediately went back on that saying that already all action has been taken and nothing more is needed. One of its leaders also showed the apprehension that reopening these cases may give the political benefit to the Hindutva parties. Such political calculations are present in deliverance of justice is fairly well known by now.     

This became painfully obvious as  the punishment was announced for the guilty of Mumbai blasts of 1993 and as preparations were underfoot to file the case for those involved in the train blasts of Mumbai 2006 July, one nagging question haunted those committed to democratic values and also those who have been the victim of 92-93 Mumbai riots, and also probably the victims of carnage of Gujarat, and many other major and minor incidents of violence, where the victims have been those belonging to the minority community. Most of the culprits of blasts so far indicted have been from the Muslim community, while those who suffered maximum during the sectarian violence were also from the same community.

The present punishments have been meted out to the culprits of Mumbai blasts of 93, which followed the Mumbai violence in the aftermath of Babri demolition. The violence which looked to be spontaneous was investigated by sitting judge Shrikrishna, who after five years of painstaking investigation concluded many a things relating to violence and blasts. About the spread of violence it put the square blame on the failure of police machinery, the role of provocative writings in Shiv Sena paper Saamana and another paper Navakaal, and the role played by Shiv Sena-BJP as a whole, Shiv Sena had later started Maha Aarti, which was meant to mobilize people and give provocation to them.  "The Maha Artis were started from 26th December 1992 and kept adding to the communal tension and endangering the fragile peace which had been established. Some (were used to deliver) communally inciting speeches and the crowds dispersing from (them) indulged in damage, looting and arson of Muslim establishments in the vicinity.?

The commission also concluded that blasts had a connection with the violence, which preceded it. Accepting and upholding the testimony of one of the witnesses the commission pointed out, ?Joint Commissioner M N Singh also emphasizes that serial bomb blasts were a reaction to the totality of events of Ayodhya and Bombay?and commission is inclined to agree with him?? Its observations about the carnage itself are very pertinent, it not only shows the mechanism which might have been operative in some youth and others getting brainwashed to take revenge in this insane fashion, Interestingly Shrikrishna Commission also points of the underlying insecurity which led some elements to participate in scheming and implementation of blasts, ?The Muslims felt a feeling of insecurity and anger, on extent of their suffering during the two riot (Dec. 1992 and Jan 1993) period?certain anti national laments abetted by ISI?recruited some of the angry young men by brainwashing them that they should take revenge??        

It also shows how the Hidutva parties, Shiv Sena in particular coordinated the whole violence, in which around thousand people lost their lives and 86% of those killed belonged to Muslim minority. Commission meticulously documented the direct involvement of many leaders in instigating and participating in violence. About the second phase of riots, which began from 8th January, commission points out, ??there is no doubt that Shiv Sena and Shiv sainiks took lead in organizing attacks on Muslims and their properties under the guidance of several leaders of Shiv Sena from the level of shakha pramukh to Shi vena Pramukh Bal Thackeray, who like a veteran general commanded his loyal Shiv Sainiks, to retaliate by organized attacks against Muslims.?

Cases of very minor nature were registered under Thackeray which were later dropped by Shiv Sena-BJP coalition which came to power in the elections held in 1995. The later Congress coalition was threatened, and cowed to the threat, that violence will break out if Thackeray, the main culprit is arrested. Similarly role of other leaders like Madhukar Sarpotdar, Ram Naik, Gopinath Munde and many others was documented by the commission. Shiv Sena-BJP dropped the cases and the Congress alliance which came to power on the promise of implementing the findings of Shrikrishna commission, did not bother to do any thing in this direction. Madhukar Sarpotdar?s case was deliberately put on the weak wicket, attention was not paid on the case details and neither was it pursued in a proper manner, with the result that he was untouched despite being a potential TADA culprit and also for carrying unlicensed arms. The latter is the act under which Sanjay Dutt has been jailed now. The pattern is same in most of these, either cases are not registered, or registered under weak clauses, than dropped and not pursued. So a biased police machinery and shameless political leadership supplement each other to ensure that justice is not done. 

Similar points can be made about the police officers. Of the hundred police officers who had negative role, commission named 31 for their lapses or proactive involvement in the carnage. Joint Commissioner of police R.D. Tyagi, Assistant Police inspector Deshmukh, and PI Lahane were found to be guilty of excessive and unnecessary firing resulting in death of nine Muslims in Suleiman Bakery incident. Tyagi was discharged in 2003 and others were exonerated and discharged. In case of Tyagi the matter was not pursued by the government. On the top of that many of them like R.D. Tyagi and Nikhil Kapse were promoted in the course of their careers. In another case the police blatantly opened fire in Hari Masjid, the commission points out the guilty, but the GOvt. is clever enough to protect the culprits.

On the other hand in Coimbtore blasts, Madani who was behind the bars for last eight years has been found not to be guilty. And the fellow spent eight years despite not being the part of the crime. In the wake of verdicts delivered for the bomb blast culprits, one is reminded of the fate of justice as far as the Mumbai carnage is concerned. The inferences from these observations are too disturbing. We seem to be heading for two sets of justice system as a whole. The ones belonging to minority community, suffer maximum in the communal carnage. They get killed, their properties are destroyed. The guilty in these cases are generally not punished. Those aiding and abetting these crimes get away with it and sometimes even promoted.

In other case the blasts and acts of terror, if Muslims are involved the cases are investigated and punishments are meted out in due course. There were many a delegations which went to represent to the government to implement the findings of Shrikrishan Commission, but justice for riots victims has been deliberately buried under the political inaction of different governments.

It is reflective of the political parties, the political system and the bureaucratic structure which is coming to be. While some parties like BJP-Shiv Sena are aggressively pursuing the communal agenda, the others are opportunistic enough not to think of justice in a principled way. Congress, while paying lip service to secular values has mostly compromised with the communal elements and most of the times it does not have the spine to take the challenge of rising communalism. This is having very adverse impact on the socio-psychology of the minority communities. At one level they seem to be loosing faith in the whole system, as the current double standards of the ruling party shows.