Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Lest we repeat - Editorial - The Indian Express

The Indian Express


Lest we repeat

Don’t lament flawed investigation of 2006 Malegaon bombings. Need to explore ways to

institutionalise police accountability

MalegaonNIA said a group of Hindu radicals had carried out the attacks that killed 37. (Archive Photo)

Lives scarred by years spent in prison for crimes never committed; families destroyed; the republic’s promise of justice frayed — with these consequences of the hideously flawed investigation of the 2006 Malegaon bombings, we have all become familiar. 

It isn’t enough, however, to lament what happened. 

Instead, the Central and state governments need to provide granular answers to the questions that have emerged from Malegaon. Just how was it, for instance, that Maharashtra’s criminal investigators incarcerated innocent men, leaving the perpetrators free to strike again? Why was the evidence not revisited when a separate investigation threw up leads linking the bombing to “Hindu terror”? Who in authority authorised prosecutors to defend their error in the face of this new evidence? These questions go to the heart of the police system, for what happened in Malegaon is true to a disturbing pattern. There is a mass of evidence that suggests the men convicted for the July 2006 attacks on Mumbai’s train system were innocent of the crime. Internal police documents revealed by this newspaper last year showed investigators in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh believed the bombings were carried out by men in their custody, not those convicted. However, prosecutors in Maharashtra have refused to revisit the case. Himayat Baig stands convicted of the 2010 bombing in Pune — though, in 2011, police in Delhi arrested a separate group of men they said had carried out the same crime. That did not, however, lead to a reappraisal of the case.

Though it seems improbable that this pattern could be the outcome of anything other than egregious police misconduct, wilful wrongdoing is impossible to prove without an investigation. That is unlikely to happen, for there is no political will to uncover the truth. Even though these criminal failures of policing took place on the watch of a Congress government, the BJP has proved just as tenacious in defending them as its predecessor. For its part, the Congress is interested only in levelling accusations of communal bias at the handling of investigations by the BJP, not a full and honest accounting for past mistakes. This should not surprise: Ruling parties want loyal police forces, and loyalty comes at a price.

How India ought to proceed is no mystery. For one, cases of wrongful arrest must be mandatorily investigated, responsibility assigned, and institutional rectification initiated — all this, in the full light of day.

In democracies across the world, police autonomy has gone hand in hand with police accountability, enforced by bodies like the UK’s Independent Police Complaints Commission. 

In addition, systems have been put in place to compensate those who suffer miscarriages of justice, without putting them through the harassment of proceedings in a civil court. The price of not doing so will be deepening distrust in the law, and in the criminal justice system — a far more lethal wound to India than that any terrorist could inflict.

Secular politics needs Gandhian courage

Democracy in India, affirmed through elections, is pushing Muslims to the margins.

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Apoorvanand  - The writer teaches Hindi at Delhi University.

Picture of representation purpose.

“Festival rubs off scars,” claimed a newspaper report that was accompanied by a photograph of Muslim men distributing water and sweets to Hindus celebrating Ram Navami. The place was Balu Math in Latehar, Jharkhand. The scars meant the murder of two Muslim men, one of them an adolescent, by members of the local Gau Raksha Samiti.

Rub off your scars and do not complain, Muslims are told after each violent incident against them. Their insistence on talking about their wounds is seen as a sign of their grumbling nature, love of their victimhood, and a proof of their disaffection towards Hindus.

Responding to criticism against his study of the sources of the authoritarian personality in Germans in the post-Hitler years, Theodore Adorno wrote “… in the house of the hangman one should not speak of the noose, otherwise one might seem to harbour resentment.” Adorno was trying to look for the socio-psychological sources of Nazism. He was accused of inducing guilt in the Germans about what was not a collective crime, but an exceptional event in the history of an otherwise liberal, enlightened culture.

The killing of Akhlaq at Dadri shocked the nation. But attacks on Muslims, in the name of saving cows or on some other pretext, have lost their ability to create a sensation. For every published story of violence against Muslims, there are at least 10 stories untold or unreported. Violence against the community is like domestic or sexual violence in which the women are expected to understand the temperament of their men and adjust accordingly. Grumbling or resisting women deserve further punishment.

Incidents of beating up of Muslims or social boycott of the community in Jharkhand have failed to find space in the media. Diktats are issued not to do business with Muslims. For the past two years, the Muslims of Jharkhand have been enduring this carefully crafted, ruthless and silent isolation.

How are Muslims expected to react? From petitioning the local police and administration to staging dharnas, community leaders use all possible democratic means to voice their concern. The law and order machinery, mostly, sees Muslims with Hindu eyes. The chief minister of Jharkhand feigned surprise when a delegation apprised him of these incidents. “Who is doing all this?” he asked. One of the delegation members replied, “Sir, they are those who think that now it is their raj path.”

Ironically, it has become the responsibility of Muslims to bring back normalcy. They were asked not to harbour animosity against Hindus. Victims were seen vying with each other to please their tormentors.
It is now seen as a normal democratic practice and a part of the freedom of speech to spread venom and hatred against Muslims. This newspaper has warned and pleaded editorially that hate against Muslims should not be made an electoral agenda. It has gone unheeded. The Assam election campaign saw virulent anti-Muslim propaganda. The chief of the ruling party cunningly used a historically absurd example of a 13th century Ahom king driving out a 16th century Mughal badshah and exhorted the electorate to follow his act. His history may be wrong, but it was a deliberate mistake. The message reached the intended constituency. While preparing for elections in Kerala, he openly called for the consolidation of all Hindu forces.

The rise of Dalit and backward politics has not been of much help to Muslims. If we look at their electoral behaviour, they have always chosen parties headed by Hindus. Parties that mobilise maximum number of Hindu votes usually get their support. But these parties, referred to as secular, refrain from being seen with them in the time of distress. We saw it during the Trilokpuri violence. Neither the AAP nor other secular parties could muster courage to be seen on the ground helping Muslims.

We approached a senior Congress leader in Delhi to request political support for the Muslims of Atali. He explained that they could do it only incognito as their primary concern now was to win back Hindus. “You have to understand that Muslims would back us only when they are assured that the majority of Hindus are with us,” he said. Three years ago in Dhule (Maharashtra), six Muslim youth were killed and many houses burnt. The leaders of the ruling parties, the Congress and the NCP, did not visit the bereaved families.
To be seen supporting Muslims can be electorally costly.

Democracy in India, which gets renewed and affirmed through elections, is now pushing Muslims to the margins and making them invisible. They are losing hope in India. This might sound alarmist, but it needs to be said. For the first time in independent India, they feel pushed to the corner and disenfranchised. There have often been reports from poll-bound states about “aggressive” voting by Muslims. It is a last ditch attempt to save whatever is left of the plural democratic space where they once felt secure.

“Do not leave us” is what Gandhi had told the Muslims in 1947. India will be incomplete without you. You would not be vassals of Hindus but their proud equals, Gandhi had assured them. He was punished with death for this audacity. After him, his disciple, Jawaharlal Nehru, bravely honoured the promise. Nehru was not afraid of being derided as half-Muslim, half-Christian. The shadows of Gandhi and Nehru seem to have receded far from Muslims.

The biggest challenge before secular politics today is to bring back the Gandhian courage and declare boldly that it is pro-Muslim. If it is not done urgently, we are in the danger of losing India, or whatever is left of it.
The writer teaches Hindi at Delhi University.

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