|And justice for all 2|
In our report, Crime Against Humanity, there is a huge compilation of all the ‘hate speeches’ of Narendra Modi, Praveen Togadia and several BJP, VHP and Bajrang Dal members. There is also a chapter on ‘hate writings’ by these very members. Any one of these is sufficient to prosecute and convict them under Section 153A or 153B of the IPC. But are any of them being prosecuted? Will the government ever give sanction to prosecute them? The reason one requires this sanction is to condone a casual aberration in the general interest of the public at large, and not to endorse regular, recurrent violence offered with impunity in the firm belief that these inciters of violence are above the law. In a country where there has been a perceptible increase in communal violence, refusal to give sanction amounts to connivance with the crime itself by the government, which has a fundamental duty to prosecute criminals. Since these very offenders have gained political power through violence, it is proper that the requirement of giving sanction to prosecute should be treated as obsolete and done away with. Refusal to give sanction where the material is clear and unambiguous is as arbitrary as granting sanction where the material is inadequate. The requirement of sanction generally operates as a shield to protect these criminals who have no respect for human lives or human rights.
In almost all the communal riots, it is the minority community that has suffered the most. Every official Commission of Inquiry appointed by the concerned governments has, without exception, indicted the majority community as mainly responsible for the violence. In every riot, the methodology adopted by the Hindu groups — particularly the RSS — is the same. This is what the Justice Venugopal Commission says on the Kanyakumari riots of 1982, between Hindus and Christians: "The RSS methodology for provoking communal violence is: (a) rousing communal feelings in the majority community by the propaganda that Christians are not loyal citizens of the country; (b) deepening the fear in the majority community by clever propaganda that the population of the minorities is increasing and that of the Hindus is decreasing; (c) infiltrating the administration and inducing the members of the civil and police services by adopting and developing communal attitudes; (d) training young people of the majority community in the use of weapons like daggers, swords and spears; (e) spreading rumours to widen the communal cleavage and deepen communal feelings by giving a communal colour to trivial incidents."
At Jamshedpur in 1979, the method was the same: "to rouse the sentiments of Hindus to a high pitch and to distort events and show some actions as attacks on Hindus that appear to be part of a design. A survey had already established that all policemen, havaldars, home guards, etc were at heart ready to give support to them (Hindu communalist organisation)." After more than a decade, the Shiv Sena indulged in the same modus operandi in Bombay by rousing the Hindus to "entertain the belief that the Muslims, not content with having insisted upon the location of the Babri Masjid on Ram Janmabhoomi, had done the unspeakable by daring to protest against its demolition" (The People’s Verdict, p. 103). And this is what the Justice Srikrishna Commission Report states: "Shiv Sena and its leaders continued to whip up communal frenzy by their statements and acts and writings and directives issued by the Shiv Sena Pramukh Bal Thackeray. The attitude of Shiv Sena as reflected in the Time magazine interview given by Bal Thackeray and its doctrine of retaliation, as expounded by Sri Sarpotdar and Sri Manohar Joshi, together with the thinking of Shiv Sainiks that Shiv Sena’s terror was the true guarantee of the safety of citizens, were responsible for the vigilantism of Shiv Sainiks. Because some criminal Muslims killed innocent Hindus in one corner of the city, the Shiv Sainiks retaliated against several innocent Muslims in other corners of the city."
And now in Gujarat we have the same methodology executed in the most horrendous manner on an unprecedented scale. The objective was to create a situation of extreme violence and polarise people in such a way that those who protested would be terrorised or dubbed anti-national, thus legitimising this unpardonable crime. In this, Godhra became an excuse to attack large numbers of innocent Muslim men, women and children. Besides, the administration — already communalised during the long BJP rule — was with them. They also appeared to be sure of inaction on the part of the central government, which may have taken an oath on the Constitution of India, but seems to swear by the RSS ideology.
Now they threaten to repeat in other states what they did in Gujarat — a recognisable threat to indulge in violence, to commit murder and mayhem, to loot, to rape and burn to death members of the minority community. They have already identified the targets —- Bhojshala in Madhya Pradesh, and Bab Budangiri in Karnataka — to incite people and ignite violence. In all these programmes, the central government appears to be silently supporting the Sangh Parivar, as if the rule of law in this country is not their concern.
In this vitiated atmosphere, it is unlikely that victims of communal violence would ever get justice. They did not get it in the past. They will not get it now. And in future — who knows?
What is lacking is the political will to uphold the rule of law, and not to be subservient to the rule of the jungle. No one should be made to believe that he is above the law, even if he wins politically in any election. Victory in any Assembly or Parliamentary election is no endorsement of crime, nor can it be considered as any condonation of conduct. The law must take its course, and the guilty must be punished.
Time and again over the last three decades, every commission has recommended various measures to prevent communal violence, to de-communalise the police, to punish the guilty and to ensure justice to victims. All these have remained only on paper. No government, be it the Congress, or the Janata or the BJP, has shown any interest or inclination in implementing any of the major recommendations. Our criminal justice system and our judiciary have not galvanised themselves to meet this situation and deliver speedy justice.
Now the situation has become critical. The central government (it is the BJP government and not the National Democratic Alliance, for there is no NDA agenda) and the BJP governments wherever they are, have openly admitted their disinterest in reining in the Sangh Parivar in its design to deliberately create violence all over the country. These elements think that would bring them political gain — "the harvest of hatred" — as in Gujarat. So one can envisage more hate speeches and hate writings all over the country, solely with a view to divide people for political power. That will be an end of all that our pluralistic, liberal, democratic Constitution stands for. Should this be allowed to happen?
There are still several states where the BJP is not in power. The governments in those states must seriously consider how to stem this pernicious poison that is sought to be spread by these elements. Of course, the Sangh Parivar — particularly the VHP and Bajrang Dal — could be banned. They would, in fact, fall within the scope of a ‘Terrorist Organisation’ as defined in POTA. However, banning is not the solution. They must be made to know that there is still the rule of law in these states. For every hate speech or hate writing or for any conduct which is likely to incite people to communal hatred or violence, there should be prosecution under Section 153A or 153B or under other provisions of the IPC. The police could be given a general sanction to arrest and prosecute all such persons, whoever they may be, the moment they indulge in such acts. Our Constitution still has its goal of establishing a society where there will be liberty, equality, fraternity and justice (social, economic and political) for all, irrespective of caste, community or religion. No democracy can survive if minorities have to live under a perpetual threat from the majority community.
1. The Peoples
Verdict is the report authored by this writer with Justice S.M. Daud (Retired)
on behalf of the Indian People’s Human Rights
Commission, on the communal riots in Bombay in 1992-1993 after the
demolition of the Babri Masjid.
p. 1 p. 2
Justice Hosbet Suresh, retired judge of the Bombay High Court, is a leading human rights activist and has worked extensively for civil liberties in India. He lives in Bombay