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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 32 New Delhi August 1, 2015

Voice of Justice Cries in Lonely Silence

Friday 31 July 2015, by Barun Das Gupta


This morning has put an end to the endless speculations whether Yakub Memon would be hanged. He was hanged. His execution, however, does not provide answers to a whole gamut of uncomfortable questions before the people and polity. The first of course is: why was his hanging highly politicised and communalised? Hyper-nationalism was worked up to a fever-pitch. Nationalism and patriotism were reduced to a simplistic equation: Do you or do you not support Yakub’s hanging? If you do, you are a patriot and a nationalist. If you do not, you are an anti-national and a traitor to the country who deserves to be hanged along with Yakub. When hectoring, bullying TV anchorpersons become pedlars of certificates for nationalism and a quiescent society quietly gives in to such usurpations, one cannot but be extremely concerned about the future of our democracy.

In the category of ‘anti-nationals’ fell eminent men like former judge of the Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju, senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani of the BJP, Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, senior lawyer Prashant Bhusan, veteran journalist of The Hindu N. Ram, a scion of the Mahatma’s family Gopal Krishna Gandhi, several intellectuals and film personalities and many more irrespective of their religion. By the zealot’s definition, they are all traitors. It is this fanaticism that poses a mortal danger to our democratic and secular polity. It is this fanaticism that acts as the driving force behind the move to erect a statue and build a temple to lionise another murderer who was hanged—Nathuram Vinayak Godse. It is this fanaticism that calls one set of terror acts as terrorism and another set of terror acts as pure and inspired by high-minded patriotism.

There are many more questions. There are many pieces of evidence like the article by a former senior RAW executive, B. Raman (which was published after his death), that all was not what the government wanted the people to believe. Was Yakub arrested in Nepal or in India? Was he helping the Indian Intelligence? Had he come to surrender but found himself trapped? How was his confession obtained? Justice Katju in his blog has observed: “Everyone knows how confessions are obtained by the police in our country by torture.” He has called Yakub’s execution as a ‘travesty of justice’. It is an undeniable fact that even murderers and murder case accused are treated differently in different cases for purely political reasons. The political influence exerted by the ruling party comes into full play. Former Gujarat Minister Maya Kodnani was sentenced to 28 years’ imprisonment for her role in the Naroda Patiya massacre. Today she is moving about freely because she has been let out on bail.

The mass hysteria that was sought to be created over the Yakub Memon issue spells danger for our democracy. This has to be countered and public opinion mobilised across the country. Not only the educated intelligentsia but the common man must be made aware of the danger that he, as an individual citizen, is threatened with. How debate is being throttled by appealing to false notions of patriotism. The democratic space is already shrinking. The state today claims the right to invade the privacy of every citizen. Various Central and State agencies are arming themselves with such sophisticated equipment for putting individual citizens under constant surveillance that will no longer need even to seek formal permission of the government before surveillance is mounted. The spectre of the ‘Big Brother is Watching You’, portrayed by George Orwell in his once-futuristic novel 1984, now seems to be emerging as a reality. If unchecked, it will become a reality. The hysteria created over Memon’s execution reminds one of the “Two Minutes’ Hate” that used to be routinely practised in Orwell’s imaginary continent ruled by the Big Brother.

Justice Katju has described Memon’s execution as a travesty of justice. It is on one such occasion of denial of justice in the name of justice that Rabindranath Tagore wrote in profound pain and sorrow those immortal lines: “My voice is strangled, dumb my flute” and the “Voice of justice cries in silence and solitude”. But in a vibrant democracy like India, there should be no suffering in silence. The pain has to be expressed powerfully. The wise dictum should never be forgotten by anyone concerned with the judicial system: “Justice must not only be done but must be seen to have been done.”

But after Yakub Memon’s execution in the early hours of this morning do the above words really carry any meaning or conviction?

July 30 Barun Das Gupta