IMPERFECT JUSTICE Dr.M.Manzoor Alam (AUGUST. 01, 2007)


Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam

Finally, the last batch of the people found to be involved in the Mumbai blasts of 1993 have been sentenced variously (according to the degree of harm caused by them). The sentences range from death penalty to life imprisonment and relatively shorter sentences.

Although it has taken the court 14 long years to deliver verdict, most of the causes of delay could be associated with procedural nitty gritty and police and intelligence gathering mechanism’s ineptitude rather than sloth on the part of the court itself. Even then the delay in justice delivery is a matter of concern.

When one looks at all this one finds that the court has done its duty, but the governments at Centre and in Maharashtra have singularly failed in their raj dharma. It is quite clear that while one group of offenders (the blast accused) has been punished, the other group (Babri Masjid demolishers, riot organisers, Mumbai riots offenders, who have publicly boasted about their role) have been let off even without a word.

It is obvious that in such cases courts proceed only on complaints from government prosecutors. Thus because of government’s indifference Advani, Joshi and Co. were not charged on grounds of terrorist violence (the CBI had initially recommended this in Babri Masjid demolition case and concomitant violence). Nor were Bal Thackeray and his Shiv Sena goons brought to court for burning Mumbai for 10 days (although Thackeray has repeatedly boasted of his offence).

All this has rightly created the impression that we are being subjected to selective justice and the state is not neutral. It is quite clear that lack of state’s neutrality destroys faith in the state itself and selective justice undermines the credibility of judiciary.

Let us not forget that the Mumbai blasts came at a time when a section of Muslim youth had seen that the state was not impartial and they would never get justice. Two episodes from the days of Mumbai riots are particularly illustrative.

The first one came at the height of Mumbai riots. At that time the former prime minister Chandra Shekher was in Mumbai. Describing the concerted attacks on Muslims, their homes and establishments he broke into sobs before a group of journalists. Regaining his composure he predicted, "from now onwards Muslim youth are going to take up arms". The Mumbai blasts came within the next couple of months.

The second episode also came during those anti-Muslim riots. The police, instead of being neutral law keepers, were openly moving with the rioters. An irrefutable evidence of their criminality came in the form of transcript of their conversation on wireless published by the New York Times. In the tapes police officers could be heard abusing Muslims in the vilest terms and asking their subordinates not to allow relief to reach Muslim victims of riots.

It was quite clear that Muslims had been made to realise that they should not expect fair play and justice from the state. While we are not justifying any retaliatory action from Muslims we do insist on trying to explain and understand. To us explanation is not justification. And the explanation has to come from the events of December 6, 1992. The perpetrators and motives behind the Mumbai riots were largely the same as those of Ayodhya.

As Ayodhya and Mumbai riots were the preceding events of a single sequence of events that later included the blasts, no justice-loving person would even think of letting the perpetrators of Ayodhya carnage and Mumbai riots walk away unpunished.

The groundwork for prosecuting the offenders of the other two events has been partly done. The prosecution against Advani, Joshi and Co. needs political will of the Centre and UP government, while it is up to the Congress Party (which  rules both the Centre and Maharashtra) to take out the Sri Krishna Commission Report and work on it. If it fails in its duties to establish justice and rule of law as usual, the people, especially the victimised community, will never forgive it.

We also have to remember that there was nothing like Muslim extremism in India before December 6, 1992 (barring Kashmir, which is purely a local affair). If we want to establish peace and justice we should take care not to be selective. Selective justice only inflames the sense of hurt among the oppressed and forces them to commit acts of desperation.g

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