Blowback of dishonest policies Dr.M.Manzoor Alam (SEPT.15, 2007)

Justice Denied – 3

DR MOHAMMAD MANZOOR ALAM traces the roots of vigilantism to the gradual loss of faith in law and order machinery and justice delivery system.

On September 13, a mob in the Rajapakar village of Vaishali district in Bihar lynched 10 unarmed "thieves" barely three kilometers away from the local police station. The village is connected to the police station with one of the few well-metalled roads in the state. Had the police responded to calls from some villagers on their cell phones the gruesome murders could have been avoided.

It was the fourth such incident of vigilante justice in one fortnight. The police, who could have reached the spot in six minutes, took two and a half hours to come. There was a caste angle to it also: those brutally done to death belonged to the Kureri community, a Scheduled Caste, while the killers were high-caste Hindus. The message is clear: people take law in their own hands because they don’t trust the police and justice delivery system. The other, equally important, message is that one should not expect police protection if one is a Dalit, a tribal, a Muslim or comes from other weak and poor community.

In the same fortnight, we were treated to the ghastly spectacle of an ill-nourished youth tied to a police motorcycle and dragged through Bhagalpur town in Bihar. We had another incident in which one of the eyes of a young man was gouged out. There were two other, equally horrifying incidents reported the same fortnight. All pointed to the same malaise: loss of faith in police, judiciary and the entire system of modern state. In some of the incidents the police themselves were the perpetrators. Why have we reached where we have reached? The media raised a lot of hue and cry, but stopped short of delving deep into the causes.

That brings us back to the All India Milli Council’s convention on the Feeling of Insecurity Among Muslims held in August in New Delhi. One of the participants (Member of Parliament and well-known journalist) Shahid Siddiqui minced no words when he said "there is a conspiracy of silence" on atrocities against the weaker sections in India. That is, when the weaker sections are attacked and brutalised the society in general and the elite in particular, look the other way. They bother only when someone from the upper classes and castes comes in harm’s way. Then only the police and the state apparatus are asked to follow human rights norms. Otherwise, either it is police raj (with all its brutalities) or mob rule and rein of terror by anarchic, lawless lumpen bands.

What Shahid Siddiqui said (but did not explain) has a historical ring to it. Conspiracy of silence refers to the silence of German people as Hitler exterminated millions of Liberals, Leftists and Jews. A similar silence has been obtaining in India over the last few decades. Muslims have been killed in Ayodhya, Maliana, Hashimpura, Meerut, Aligarh, Raorkela, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Mumbai and numerous other places. And rarely anyone has been brought to justice. No policeman has been punished for mass murder of Muslims.

All this has brought a feeling that the state has abdicated in favour of the mob. The mob maims and kills Muslims in Ayodhya and the mob demolishes Babri Masjid and 28 other mosques, shrines and mazars in Ayodhya while thousands upon thousands of police and para-military troops stand by in silence. Nothing is done to the chief instigators -- LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Umar Bharti. Instead, they become cabinet ministers at the Centre. The chief minister responsible for it --Kalyan Singh -- gets just one day of suspended prison sentence.

The state and the social elite through their connivance (conspiracy of silence) have brought us where we stand today. We have not seen the last of mob rule. So, watch out how the seeds the state and the elite have sown are going to bear bitter fruits of discord, lawlessness, mindless violence and breakdown of civilised order. g

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