Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam
How do we judge the justice delivery system in India? Is it good, shoddy, or great? In fact, it is all the three at different times and levels. To be fair to it, its shoddiness does not always come from within it, but mostly from outside: the political culture, the police, the state itself.
Before coming to the crying shame part, let us mull over a rather comical point. After coming out of jail where he had languished for years on charge of killing innocent people in false encounters, Gujarat Police officer DG Vanzara declared: “Achche din aa gaye” (Good days are here), which was a take on a BJP electoral promise “Achche din aaen gay” (Good days are coming).
One wonders whether with the achche din of criminally-oriented policemen, bure din (bad days) for law-abiding citizens have also come. The vicious criminality and partiality of elements in the Gujarat state, including the state judiciary, had forced the Supreme Court to shift several cases of anti-Muslim violence out of the state in the interest of justice. That was a reasonable move on the part of the apex court as it did lead to some victims getting justice, after all.
As Vanzara’s achche din have come we have reason to fear for the safety and security of common people in Gujarat, especially if they happen to be Muslims.
Now, for the crying shame part. After 28 years of the Hashimpura massacre of Muslims by UP Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) men, a Delhi court decided last week that nobody was guilty of the massacre. The survivors of the massacre and families of victims asked in unison, “If the PAC did not kill our men, then who did it?”
Almost echoing them, a leading English daily from the national capital asked in its first editorial of March 24: “Then who?” That is, if not the PAC, then who? On May 22, 1987, PAC men picked up 48 Muslim young men from the Hashimpura locality of Meerut, put them in a truck and brought some of them to the Hindon Canal near Delhi and others to the Gang canal, shot 42 of them and threw them into the canals. A few of them survived with bullet wounds and, at the dead of night, swam to safety and in the darkness of night hid themselves in nearby areas.
Some were rescued by a police team from Ghaziabad, led by the legendry IPS officer VN Roy, who was district SP at that time. He also recorded the crime.
Not that the PAC men who had done it were unknown, or untraceable. The truck they were driving was a PAC vehicle, with the number of the truck, the name of its driver and personnel travelling in it, the time of its leaving camp and its destination, every detail registered in the official logbook. All of them could be recognised immediately by victims, their families, survivors, and even press photographers who had photographed them while they were “loading” the condemned victims in the truck.
Despite all that, the court could not decide who killed them, though the failure was not the court’s alone.
Courts need the support of state machinery to be able to deliver justice. Everybody, right from the head of government, cabinet ministers, bureaucrats to police and intelligence officials have to contribute to the process.
Whether it was Moradabad (1980), Delhi (1984), Bhagalpur (1989), Mumbai (1992-93), Gujarat (2002), or Hashimpura (2013), perpetrators went largely unpunished. Between them these massacres claimed thousands of innocent lives. Bhagalpur (anti-Muslim), Delhi (anti-Sikh) and Mumbai (anti-Muslim) massacres account for the largest number of deaths. Even Moradabad (anti-Muslim) claimed more than a hundred lives.
More often than not, the state is complicit in such massacres. PAC is responsible for hundreds of deaths of Muslims in Moradabad, Hashimpura and Muzaffarnagar. Government complicity and judiciary’s failure to bring them to justice has conferred impunity on them. Since the Hashimpura killings, governments of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati have come in and gone out. Despite their tall claims of sympathy for Muslims they did everything to thwart justice.
The UP government took nine years to file a chargesheet in the case. As it allowed the case to drift, it was shifted to Delhi in the 15th year. It took 19 years to appoint a public prosecutor and allow the first prosecution witness to give his testimony.
It is no wonder if the court failed to make a head or tail of the case against 16 PAC men.
The question arises as to who is responsible for this sorry state of affairs. The first culprit is the political class which mobilises anti-minorities opinion for electoral gains. Then there is government and its machinery which refuses to come to the rescue of victims. Successive governments (from the “secular” Congress to SP, BSP and the “communal” BJP) are responsible for deploying PAC in Muslim areas knowing their communal character and their involvement in massacres of Muslims.
Then come the police and intelligence officials who derail justice. Finally, the common citizen too has his share of the responsibility as he never opposes such criminality. Practically, it is a conspiracy of silence on the part of the large masses of our citizenry.
Activist and film-maker Patwardhan has said that everyday one Dalit is killed and two Dalit women are raped in India. There is no protest against this from the well-to-do classes, for whom it is normal. It is “normalisation of violence”, as activists call it. Once it is “normal,” there is no need to react against it.
Rape by security forces in Kashmir and tribal areas of India is a common occurrence. It is “normal”. So, nobody says a word. It is also normal because the victims are Muslims and adivasis. This is against the idea of India itself. Hence, it must change, sooner than later.