Between the mob and the state by Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam (February 26, 2016)

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Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam


We are passing through a strange moment in our life where we are confronted with the evil described neatly by Macbeth’s witches: “Fair is foul, foul is fair.” In a moral reversal, language, too, has been turned upside down and meanings of words have been distorted, and even changed.

Sorry to resort to literature, but in times of crisis we tend to look at scripture for guidance, or to literature for enlightened solace. Lawyers in black robe, on court campus, are unleashing goonda attacks on students, professors and media persons boldly, without any fear of, or regard for law, the same law from which they get their livelihood.

Everything is done on camera, shown nationwide on TV that even judges of high courts and the Supreme Court watch. No suo motto notice is taken, which emboldens the lawless lawyers. Then the aggrieved journalists, accompanied by hundreds of fellow-professionals, go to the Chief Justice of India to present a memorandum. Seeing no sign of state indignation and taking it as a tacit state approval, the same set of lawyers attack and pulverise the hapless JNU students’ union president Kanhayya Kumar next day on court campus. The police, present in large strength, choose not to intervene, which further encourages the black-robed offenders.

The offenders’ leader brags that he would beat the students again, this time inside Tihar jail, where the students have been lodged. Ok, they can cock a snook at law in courts where their lordships, the judges, give rulings, because being lawyers they know law’s limits and the guts of people assigned the duty of its enforcement. But, how on earth they would enter the high-security prison cells to beat the students a third time? They themselves have said how, on camera, known to millions: “We will commit some ‘small’ crime and make sure we land in Tihar for a few days.” They would use the time to beat the students. Well done! By the way, what happened to the rule-of-law? To democracy? To Constitution?

Let us for some time assume that the court really finds the students guilty of the far-fetched, mind-stretching charge of sedition. In that case, the court will pronounce a judgment, giving them some punishment, which would not include beatings by lawyers. Even if lawyers declare that they are law into themselves and choose to beat anyone they fancy in court premises and their lordships do not notice it, they will be committing a reprehensible crime, and would be guilty of an unbecoming, boorish conduct. A crime does not become a legitimate act just because black-robed men have committed it. A mob of lawyers is still a mob, an unruly, violent crowd, attracting immediate and serious action from the state.

But, where has the state gone? Does not the state know that it has been charged with the duty of protecting “We, the people” from goonda attacks, even if the goondas are black-robed and the attack occurs in the temples of justice right under the nose of reigning deities, their lordships, the honourable judges?

To our eternal sorrow we have discovered that the state has abandoned us, breached the oath of protecting the Constitution and surrendered before the mob. Not only the justice-delivery system and its components have come under a cloud, but a link between the executive and the judiciary, too, has been shown in poor light. One of the best-known characters in English literature, Mr. Bumble, observes: “If the law thinks so, Sir, the law is an ass.” Let’s us correct Mr Bumble: the law is not certainly an ass. People who make a living out of law are those who make an ass of the law. People charged with protecting law are degrading its dignity. The honour, dignity and fear of law will be alive only as long as lawyers, law officers and courts as a whole honour it and police work on its side, rather than against it. Nothing of that sort is happening.

Ever wondered why the state as a whole, including the ruling class, have surrendered before the mob? It is simply because the mob and the ruling class subscribe to the same ideology. The police know which side of their bread is buttered, and act accordingly. The leader of the attacking lawyers, felicitated twice for attacking undefended students twice (and planning to attack them again) has said in a sting operation that the policemen who watched as the students leader Kumar was savaged by him, instead of stopping him, cheered him and said they too would have done so if they were not in uniform.

No one should be foolhardy enough to imagine that the state will come to their rescue if they are attacked by a lawless gang. The state has abdicated in favour of the mob. In the wake of the Babri Masjid demolition preceded by mass killing of Muslims and followed by more anti-Muslim violence, the communist poet Ali Sardar Jaffry wrote a great poem, Raj-Niraj (Government-Anarchy), one of whose couplets is: Sunai jayengi sazaen begunahon ko begunahi ki /ke fard-e-jurm ke mujrim ke munsif bekharber honge (The innocent will be punished for their innocence/Because the judges will be ignorant of the crimes of criminals.)

We have already reached the stage described by Jaffry. Political and cultural theorist Nevedita Menon rightly says that nationalism has been defined by the powerful in a way that “only 24 are nationalists–Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and the 22 lawyers who were seen attacking students, professors and journalists in the court. Everyone else is anti-national.”

Other than those 24 have reason to worry. Maybe, one percent of the country’s population who are ideologically connected to those 24 may have less to worry about. But the rest 99 percent are in trouble because anarchy has firmly replaced the state.

 

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