Tuesday, February 22, 2011

9 years of jail without conviction in Godhra - will Narendra Modi or the Indian judiciary now apologize?

The Godhra report highlights the sorry state of affairs of undertrials in India. Frankly, given the scale of denial of justice (in fact the perpetration of injustice) to 62 people, it is hardly a happy feeling one gets about the verdict.

This begs the question: how were these people arrested in the first place? As most of us know, the Indian cops are a highly un-trained, un-civilized and un-couth bunch of people. Plus, they are politically polarized. Their inefficiencies have charred their reputations. In Godhra additionally, there was the political motivation that the BJP government had. With the backing of the BJP government, the cops went all out to arrest whoever they could find. Prejudices came to the fore as the cops arrested even those against whom they had no shred of evidence. Needless to say, all of them were Muslims.

I've lived in Gujarat for a very long time. I know exactly how the average Gujarati feels about Muslims. The Muslims also have themselves to blame for this sense of distrust. I have personally witnessed Muslims celebrating when Pakistan won a cricket match against India. Personally. I happen to have a house that is "on the border" with the muslims. So I understand a deep sense of resentment that the Hindus in Gujarat feel. Its all pervasive. This is why the maximum number of riots have happened in Gujarat. I understand all this. But what I cannot understand is how the government can take such a polarized view of things. How can a government charged with the responsibility of defending the constitution and protecting the people behave with the same prejudice that ordinary people may have? A class monitor cannot be indisciplined because he is charged with the responsibility of bringing discipline to the class. Likewise, a government cannot be prejudiced as it is specfically charged with the responsibility of not letting prejudices come in the way of justice.

The point is not whether there was a conspiracy or not. My personal view is that there was a clear conspiracy hatched by the muslims against the kar sewaks. Muslims have been incensed since the time the Babri Masjid was demolished. Frankly, I dont care that the victims were kar sewaks. As far as I am concerned, they were Indians. This was a kind of a terrorist attack. My issue is with the way the matter was handled by the cops and the government of Gujarat.

So the cops go out and arrest people randomly. Then they charge them under the draconian POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) which the BJP government had hatched in 2002. They abuse the powers of POTA and keep the arrested people in detention for months before chargesheeting them. Then the usual delays that the Indian judicial system is infamous for happen. It takes 9 years for the first verdict to be delivered. And for all these 9 years, all those people who are assumed guilty without any conviction stay behind bars. What kind of a justice system is this? What powers does the judiciary have to complain about politicans when it itself is guilty of inefficiency, corruption and injustice. Think about it: anyone could have been arrested that day. Imagine, just being arrested and being put behind bars for NINE whole years. Its criminal.

Whose fault is it that these people were denied 9 years of their life? That they had to live the life of being branded criminals without even being tried? Will the government of Narendra Modi now apologize to them? Pay them compensation? Will the judiciary apologize to them for its inefficiency? How come the media does not complain about this and demand a new law that would oblige the government to compensate people if they have been wrongly jailed? How come the judiciary is allowed to remain an accomplice in this criminal injustice without anyone hauling its ass?

POTA was a disastrous act. It had prejudice written all over it. It was a political tool the BJP created to win the support of Hindus petrified after the 9/11 attacks in the US. All terrorists in India are assumed to be muslims. Do you know that in Gujarat, all those arrested under POTA, except one, are muslims? Do you think this is even possible? Would any of the Hindus who broke down the Babri Masjid be arrested under POTA, if POTA had been around at that time? Highly unlikely.

The real truth is that the Godhra verdict is a huge verdict against the BJP. By acquitting the main accused as well as 2/3rd of those charged, the verdict has proven beyond doubt the prejudice with which the BJP government functions in Gujarat. Here's the tragedy.....every time anyone accuses or proves anything against the BJP's bias in Gujarat, they gain even more in that state. This is a shame on Gujarat. And until it emerges from this, no matter how prosperous it becomes, it will never enjoy the love and appreciation of the rest of India.

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