The Supreme Court order for fresh probe into some Gujarat riot cases, like Naroda Patia, Naroda etc. (March 25 08) comes as a welcome relief in the dark times where most of the times justice is conspicuous by its absence. In Gujarat, we witnessed the case of Zahira Sheikh, going for a toss, the judiciary quietly watching and ignoring all the witnesses turning hostile, but preferring to accept the version of the state despite all the holes in its argument. It was the transfer of the case to Maharashtra that brought forward the truth. Same was repeated in case of Bilkis Bano. The transfer of cases away from the state gave some justice to her. Now with the intervention of National Human Rights commission and Teesta Setalvad many other cases with serious portents on the fate of justice for the victims will be reinvestigated properly.
By now it is clear as crystal that communal carnage is the total violation of the democratic norms and laws. To begin with some political forces that stand to benefit from this violence, post violence polarization and electoral strengthening, look for a pretext to launch the carnage. By now the biases against minorities have become ingrained very deeply into the social psyche and so during the carnage large sections of society come to believe that since the major victims are minorities, what is going on is OK! A silent sanction for the violence prevails in the air. This social, communal common sense against minorities makes the job of communalists easy as their image has been demonized through various mechanisms, globally and also at home here in India.
As far as political leadership is concerned there are three types of attitudes. One, at times the ruling party workers lead the carnage from the front e.g. the Delhi Anti Sikh massacre (Congress) or Gujarat carnage (RSS combine). Second type of leadership is that, which keeps quiet and lets the leader of carnage of dastardly designs do his job, like the one in Mumbai (92-93), where Shiv Sena led the charge, BJP assisted and Congress, the party in power, watched. Most of the riots in India fall in this category. It is one of the reasons as to why BJP was claiming till Gujarat violence that there are no riots when it rules. Some people bought this and projected that BJP is better than Congress. And then Gujarat happened. Even in the majority of cases where Congress ruled and violence took place it was the BJP which was spearheading the violence while Congress leadership was letting the violence take place, even when it could have put a stop on that. This is silent collusion.
In the third variety the political leadership ignores, looks the other way when violence is on and there by lets the communal brigade do its job like Samajvadi Party letting the communalists rampage in Mau in Uttar Pradesh. There is another variety also, the one of communists. They have ensured that violence against minorities does not take place when they are ruling but they have also not prevented the communalization of minds, which is the base of communal riots. CPM led coalition in West Bengal or Communist coalition in Kerala falls in this category.
The role of police is fairly along a set pattern. Its partisan attitude has been shown in most of the inquiry committee reports. It actively aids the rioters, as in Gujarat, or keeps quiet to let the rioters do their work, with its blessings. During Mumbai violence many a Muslim minority victims said that we are capable of protecting ourselves but for the police which shields the attackers and paralyses us. Both these roles are supplementary. Research by a police officer, Dr. V.N. Rai shows that no riot can go on beyond 48 hours unless it is blessed by political leadership and supported by police officials. Bureaucracy also has powers which can put a stop to the violence but it prefers not to use these powers as its large section is already busy using its powers in different directions.
During and after the violence, another role of police comes to fore. The one of registering cases, First Information reports, FIRs. In such situations it prefers to believe in, 'forget it' policy by not registering the FIRs as far as possible. If forced to register the same, despite its reluctance, it ensures that there are sufficient clauses in built in the FIR which should act as escape route for the guilty. After this come the investigation done by police and here again the work is deliberately meant to protect the guilty. It is at this stage that SC has now intervened, and set up a committee with some forthright official from outside the state. In all such cases in Gujarat, by now it is clear that the communalized state apparatus is politically biased, and so its justice is impossible to get through its machinery. A real achievement of Hindu rashtra's first state! Bravo Modi, now one knows beyond any shadow of doubt as to why he is darling of RSS bosses and the heir apparent of the current Prime Minister in waiting, Lal Krishna Advani!
The role of police in particular has come under investigation by different inquiry commission reports, (Madon-Bhivandi Jalgaon, Jagmohan Reddy-Ahmadabad, Vythyathil-Tellicherry, Shrikrishan-Mumbai) and most of these point out that police has without any exception aided and abetted the riots. These reports, meticulous and sincere to the core also highlight the rot, which has set in the whole system from the political leadership, bureaucracy to the police. One significant observation is that most of the planning of the carnage has been done by some or the other affiliate of RSS, which has also been taking the leading role.
Even the judiciary has not remained unaffected by the communal virus as witnessed in Gujarat. So by now, the basic dictum of a just society, punish the guilty and protect the innocent, is under cloud. This step of Supreme Court rekindles the hope that the process of degeneration of justice delivery system may be halted at various stages. One has been waiting for years for the justice to be done for the victims of anti Sikh pogrom. One also is witnessing the deceptive attitude of Maharashtra Government in implementation of Shrikrishna Commission report. In a shrewd and dishonest manner it promised that the implementation of the report will be on the top of its agenda, if elected to power. This election promise was made twice, but after winning, it has been throwing dust in the eyes of victims and human rights activists by dodging the issue one way or the other.
Gujarat of course is the worst case as far as justice delivery is concerned. With polarization along religious lines more or less complete, there are few victims who will dare to speak out for justice to them as their very survival is at stake. The chief perpetrator of the crime, Narendra Modi, with his second victory due to polarization, is bloating his chest to 56 inches and hiding his blood stained hands. Will or can justice catch up. Will there be a possibility of putting in dock the twin 'Emperors of Hindu Hearts', Thackeray and Modi, who were anointed so in the aftermath of their leading the carnages in Mumbai and Gujarat respectively. Will they be put on trial as per the laws of the land and restore a sense of justice in the country where communalization has eroded the values of our freedom movement, the values of pluralism, the values of syncretism, the values of 'diversity as celebration'!
One sees a ray of hope in this move of Supreme Court, one sees the human rights commission and social activists staking all to ensure that the democratic norms survive in the face of creeping 'Hate politics'.