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Mainstream, VOL LV No 42 New Delhi October 7, 2017

Whither India?

Monday 9 October 2017, by Shamsul Islam


With the announcement of the quantum of punishment to the perpetrators of the January 1993 serial blasts in Bombay by Judge G.A. Sanap of the Special Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act [TADA] court on September 7, 2017, probably the longest terror case trial in India comes to a close. In the first phase of this trial, Judge P.D. Kode of the Special TADA Court had sentenced 12 convicts to death and 20 to life term on September 12, 2006. With the latest judgment, 100 of the 123 accused have been punished.

This is a job well done! The Muslim terrorists who killed 257 and maimed hundreds of innocent residents of Bombay in January 1993 have been punished. Many of them have been sent to the gallows, awarded life sentences and so on. But what about those terrorists who butchered 575 and maimed hundreds of people of the minority community in December 1992 in the same city? In fact, some of the instigators later occupied high constitutional offices in democratic-secular India. This is true of the “Khalistani terrorists” also. They were hanged or killed on roads but for the 1984 massacre of Sikhs the Indian state is yet to conclude its process of finding the real culprits.

Sadly, with regard to communal and caste violence, India has two kinds of laws, one for minority/Dalits and other for majority/high castes. Whenever the former suffer, the Indian state plays a game of forming commissions—commissions to ensure that the heinous crimes against minorities and Dalits disappear from the public memory. In this regard the 1992-93 Bombay violence can be an interesting case for study. But if violence is believed to be perpetrated by minorities/Dalits, the punishment is instant. This latest judgment ensures punishment for January 1993 perpetrators but despite the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Commission Report holding almost all Hindutva organisations responsible for the killings of minority people in December 1992, the indicted perpetrators were not even questioned, what to talk of arresting them.

One unfortunate aspect of our post-indepen-dence governance has been that whenever the country witnesses large-scale violence against minorities and Dalits, the search for perpetrators continues endlessly and criminals are rarely punished. Major incidents of violence against minorities like the Nellie massacre (1983), Sikh massacre (1984), Hashimpura custodial massacre of Muslim youth (1987), pre/post-Ayodhya mosque demolition violence against Muslims (1990-92), Gujarat carnage (2002) and Kandhamal cleansing of Christians (2008) are testimony to this reality.

The status of anti-Dalit violence is no different. The major incidents of persecution and massacre of Dalits—the 1968 Kilvenmani massacre, 1997 Melavalavu massacre, 2013 Marakkanam anti-Dalit violence, 2012 Dharmapuri anti-Dalit violence (all in Tamil Nadu), 1985 Karamchedu massacre, 1991 Tsundur massacre (both in AP), 1996 Bathani Tola massacre, 1997 Laxmanpur Bathe massacre (both in Bihar), 1997 Ramabai killings, Mumbai, 2006 Khairlanji massacre, 2014 Javkheda Hatyakand, (all in Maharashtra), 2000 Caste persecution in (Karnataka), five Dalits beaten/burnt to death for skinning a dead cow in 2006, 2011 killings of Dalits in Mirchpur (all in Haryana), 2015 anti-Dalit violence in Dangawas (Rajasthan)—are among the thousands of incidents of Dalit persecution wherein most of the perpetrators remain unidentified. Moreover, in almost all the anti-Dalit violence cases, the culprits are acquitted or released on bail despite murder charges against them.

As a nation wedded to the exalted ideals of democracy, secularism and egalitarianism, we must never shy away from critically investi-gating this kind of dichotomy unless we feel that we have already the lost battle to religious bigotry and casteist hegemony.

Shamsul Islam, a well-known theatre personality, is a former Associate Professor (now retired), Department of Political Science, Satyawati College, University of Delhi. For some of the author’s writings in English, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Punjabi, Urdu and Gujarati use the following link: http/

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