Edit/Op-Ed

WHAT ABOUT JUSTICE TO 17 MUSLIMS BURNT ALIVE ON 6 DECEMBER, 1992?

By Sandeep Pandey

YakubMemon has been hanged for his role in the 1993 serial bomb blasts in Mumbai in which 257 people were killed. Relatives of some of the victims and survivors claim that justice has been done even though a number of people, including a former intelligence officer, late B. Raman, thought that it was not justified to hang YakubMemon. Yakub had cooperated in the investigation after his arrest.

But it was necessary to hang Yakub, just like it was necessary to hang Afzal Guru, to make the nation feel that justice had been done in the wrong committed by these individuals. Imagine, if Afzal or Yakub were not hanged. There would have been a feeling persisted that the government could not take to task people who were involved in such big incidents of terror in the country. India would have appeared as a weak or even a meek country. Is it not a travesty that the Hindu majority, which believes itself to be peaceful community, rejoices the public hanging of culprits, especially Muslims, to satisfy itself that justice is being done without even questioning whether the right people are being hanged? In the case of both Afzal Guru and YakubMemon, the role of individuals was marginal in the crimes for which they were executed, leaving behind suffering families. Inadvertent result of these capital punishments has been that the real culprits for the serious crimes have been let off.

There is strong reaction by Indians to incidents of terror inflicted upon us which have origin in Pakistan which is quite justified. The majority also complains about the treatment Hindus are meted out in Pakistan. Infiltration from Bangladesh is considered undesirable but Hindus from Pakistan are happily given refuge here. But there is not even a murmur about the brutal massacre of Hindu Tamils by the Sinhalese government which took place in Sri Lanka some years ago. Is the Hindu majority Indian society biased towards Muslims and Islamic nations?

The Mumbai serial blasts were planned as a reaction to the demolition of Babri Masjid on 6 December, 1992. In fact, in a number of bomb blast incidents which, after the 11 September, 2001 attack on US, came to be called ‘terrorist’ attacks, the youth involved confessed that they were motivated to undertake these operations as a revenge for Babri Masjid demolition. Hence Babri Masjid demolition can be described as the mother of most terrorist incidents in India. The pertinent question to be asked is if people are being punished for their involvement in incidents which happened as a reaction to Babri Masjid demolition, when will the perpetrators of Babri Masjid demolition be punished?

Moreover, on 6 December, 1992, in the frenzy created as a result of demolition of the Babri Masjid, 17 Muslims were torched alive in Ayodhya. Complaints were given to the police but no FIR has been lodged till date. When will we think about the justice which needs to be done to the families of the burnt victims?

The role of Hindutva organizations has been established in at least five terrorist incidents around the country. The country is waiting to see what treatment will be meted out to culprits in these cases if they are convicted? Indian government, judiciary as well as people have to prove that they don’t apply different standards when dealing with Muslims.

As a civilized country and especially if the Hindu majority considers itself a torch bearer of peace then the barbaric act of death penalty must be abolished. 103 countries in the world have abolished death penalty completely and 6 have done it for ordinary crimes. The UN General Assembly has passed resolutions five times calling for global moratorium on executions. In India a number of people die in fake encounters, judicial custody or at police stations. India needs to improve its record so far as legal and illegal killings by the state are concerned.

The present central government’s anti-minority bias is also reflected in the hounding of Teesta Setalvad by CBI whose organization Citizens for Justice and Peace fought legal cases for victims of 2002 violence in Gujarat. CJP is also a co-petitioner along with Zakia Jafri, wife of former Congress MP Ahsan Jafri who was publicly killed in 2002, which sought a criminal trial of the then CM of Gujarat Narendra Modi, the current PM of the country, along with other politicians and officials for their role in the riots. This is the only case in which NarendraModi has been named and that explains why CBI is being used to harass Teesta by the present dispensation headed by him. Teesta Setalvad has played an important role in the conviction of 120 culprits for their complicity in 2002 riots who have now been sentenced to life imprisonment. They include a former minister in NarendraModi’s Gujarat government, Dr. Maya Kodnani and a prominent Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi. Kodnani, then a MLA, and Bajrangi were found guilty of murder as they led a mob which killed 97 Muslims in Naroda Patiya. Both are leniently given bail even after conviction whereas hundreds of Muslim youth accused in various terrorist incidents continue to languish in jails as trails procrastinate.

If India is to be recognized as a truly democratic nation which treats all its citizens equal before the law then the communal bias in our system must go. The state machinery must not be used to hound minorities and judiciary must be fair. Human rights activists fighting for the right of people who are being discriminated against must be held honourably instead of being harassed. The citizenry must evolve and mature. The highest value in democracy, justice, must be held highly by all.

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