Tuesday, October 23, 2007


CRIME WITHOUT PUNISHMENTBy P.N.BENJAMIN“There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supercedes all other courts.” (Mahatma Gandhi)It has been 20 full years since free India witnessed one of the most organized and macabre pogroms it has known. More than 3,000 Sikhs were killed in the violence that gripped Delhi for four days from the night of October 31, 1984, following Indira Gandhi’s assassination. What Delhi witnessed during those days was manslaughter, arson and loot. Incredible savagery wrought by man on man. Men, women and children – nobody was spared. Age and gender were immaterial. Think of the burning alive of people! The wives, who watched their husbands and sons beaten up to death and burnt alive, saw their daughters raped, their homes looted and burnt! That was the extent of brutality involved.Death and devastation came to many because of their physical profile. Every Sikh became a “terrorist” in the eyes of those who had decided that it was their beholden duty to avenge for one dastardly act by committing a thousand others of the same kind. What happened in 1984 was neither India’s first nor, regretfully, its last experience of communal violence, but in terms of sheer scale and intensity, it will find a place in a hall of shame anywhere. The crime itself was horrible. And the powers that be have added injustice to injury. The survivors have been nowhere people. Cruelly yanked out of quiet life in decent localities by mindless mobs, they have been dumped in filthy colonies, reeking of stagnant sewage. And they have nightmares for company – the frightening vivid images of their dear ones being lynched and burnt alive!What is more maddening is that not one person has been punished for the unspeakable horrors perpetrated on an entire community just because a handful of its members were responsible for the assassination. Most of the accused have been acquitted. Even the Justice Nanavati Commission of Inquiry that probed the killings has, according to news reports, only recommended “re-investigation of cases against some Congress leaders while not blaming the entire party or the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi,” for the incident! Talk of a dead conscience! It is a scene that the ringing tones of Shakespeare alone can describe: “O Justice, thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason!”For 20 years, the victims of the anti-Sikh riots have been waiting for justice. Instead of providing much needed succour to those who survived the pogrom, successive governments have busied themselves with shielding the culprits. The victims remain where they were, as the administration refuses to administer, the prosecution refuses to prosecute, and the courts close their doors. The Constitution of India, the Parliament, and the judiciary and, in an extended sense, democracy itself have failed them.The charming ambiguities of justice have helped those who planned, organised and instigated the violence. Many of them were and still are top-flight leaders of the Congress. There are, of course, the seemingly interminable, wheels-within-wheels, processes of justice; the difficulty in obtaining direct evidence and a lack of political will which have all contributed towards a criminal judicial impasse.What is more worrying is the continued inability of the Indian state and its remarkably free judiciary to provide justice to even those who become such blatant and innocent victims of sponsored fury and manufactured hate. Commissions of inquiry, as per the norm duly established, are set up. They take a long time to wind up their act, and even when they do that, there is no guarantee that the culprits will finally be made to pay for their misdeeds. Every Indian knows what happened in 1984, or on several other occasions elsewhere; unfortunately, even the knowledge of unimaginable atrocities has not led to commensurate action. Why is that so? The secular brigade, who works itself up into just the right kind of outrage after every such carnage, could do with soul-searching on these allied issues.Indira Gandhi’s killing was the culmination of Delhi’s political blunders; foremost among them was the Blue Star Operation. The late Prime Minister’s advisers on Punjab were governed by a very narrow vested interest, and it has been subsequently established that many of them had directly or indirectly helped the rise of pro-Khalistani fundamentalism. The elections that followed the assassination and the mayhem saw the Congress return with the most handsome mandate ever given to a party in any election to the Lok Sabha. No wonder, therefore, the seeds of rabid communal polarization that subsequently determined the terms of political discourse, were sown in 1984. Time has no discriminatory qualities. It heals even those wounds, which should not be healed. The tears of victims may have dried up with time, even though the residual hurt must have remained. At any rate Sikhs are a phlegmatic enough community that, has taken several hurts and prejudices in its stride. But this particular hurt is too hard to live down.It is time for us to be ashamed of our silence. It is also time for us to be angry. Angry with the men who commit such heinous crimes. And also with those who stand by and watch them. Watch them maim, murder, loot, burn, destroy. Only our anger may scare them. Only our anger may one day force the authorities to act. To see that such terrible things are not allowed to happen again and again and again.P.N.BENJAMINE-mail: benjaminpn@hotmail.comVIJAY TIMES 6 Feb. 2005
posted by BIRD

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