The Ultimate Victim by DR MOHAMMAD MANZOOR ALAM (NOVEMBER 21, 2007)

In virtually every case of state-sponsored mass murder the minorities, especially Muslims, are the victim, writes DR MOHAMMAD MANZOOR ALAM

We are justifiably proud to call ourselves a democracy. We do hold periodic elections, however imperfect, to elect our representatives to panchayats, zila parishads, state assemblies and national Parliament. That is an achievement, and everybody recognises it as such. However, that is not enough.

As Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek International editor, writes in his remarkable book The Future of Freedom, what obtains in many parts of India is “robber democracy”. Although Zakaria uses this expression to describe a rather different anomaly in our system, we think it is equally apt for portraying the terrible lawlessness created by the state.

At present the murderous behaviour of the state is most obvious in West Bangal’s Nandigram where people have been attacked, raped and killed by CPIM thugs with full state support. The thuggery of CPIM cadres has got the stamp of state’s approval in the form of the chief minister’s public support to them. The victims have been referred to as “they” (“we” being the goons and their patron, the state).

One wonders whether the state knows that under the Constitution it is obliged not to treat anyone as “they”. And what on earth happened to the inalienable right to life enshrined in the Constitution? The state was supposed to protect this sacred right. Instead, the CM is justifying its violation.

It is not for the first time that the state has behaved in such a blatantly murderous way. Time and again the same pattern has emerged in almost all cases of mass violence against the weaker sections: the state has stood by the marauding bands rather than with the victims.

And the most disconcerting of all is that more often than not it is the minorities that are the ultimate victims of state-sponsored butchery, whether it is Nandigram, Gujarat, Bhagalpur or anywhere else. In some other cases like Maliana and Hashimpura, the state is not merely the sponsor of the crime, but it perpetrator. The anti-Sikh riots of 1984 and the periodic murderous attacks on Christian missionaries also prove the same point.

This trend has to stop if we don’t want our claims to democracy to sound hollow.


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