Edit/Op-Ed

Divided by Parties, United in Massacres and Impunity

Mahtab Alam

Last year, on 3rd June in Bhajanapura village of Forbesganj block of Araria district of Bihar, while a number of villagers were protesting the blockade of a road that connects the village to the Idgah, Karbala and market by a private company, they were fired upon by the police. The firing was ordered by then Superintendent of Police (SP), Garima Malik, now SP of Darbhanga, a city of Bihar which is news due to arrests alleging its residents’ role in Terror activities. In the firing, four civilians including a woman and an infant were killed on the spot and nine badly injured. During my visit, I was told in addition to SP, the SDO, a local councilor (with political links to BJP and Deputy Chief Minister, Sushil Kumar Modi) was also present, and not only did he instigate the police, but had also personally fired upon the villagers. The protestors were chased into their homes and killed. Later, a gruesome video recording of a policeman jumping and trampling upon the faces and bodies of injured, half dead young men  exposed the depths to which the state machinery had fallen in the name of upholding ‘law and order’, and the reality of ‘good governance’.

 

One year after the brutal killings, till today the victims are still waiting for Justice. The one man Commission instituted to investigate the matter is yet to submit its report though it was supposed to submit it within 6 months time. Similarly, report of the fact-finding team of the National Commission of Human Rights (NHRC), which visited the village in the month of July last year is yet to be made public. So far, compensation has been granted, saying the matter is under investigation. Not a single officer or police personnel or private parties involved in the firing is suspended or charged. Moreover, when a PIL was filled at the Supreme Court of India seeking CBI enquiry in to the matter, at first the Bihar government did not took the notice of the Supreme Court seriously and later through an affidavit termed the  killings as ‘minor incident’. But this is not the first time; the state and apparatus has denied justice to its citizen.  Looking after various cases of police firing and state supported violence, it is evident that it has become a pattern of ‘governance’.

Take the case of Gopalgarh village of Bharatpur district of Rajasthan. On 14thSeptember last year, ten people were killed and 38 injured while praying inside the Jama Masjid. The incident took place when the police resorted to indiscriminate firing on the mosque amid tension between Gujjars and Muslims. Some of the policemen even joined the armed Gujjar mob which stormed into the mosque and lynched the worshippers. The firing was ordered by the Bharatpur Collector Krishna Kunal.  After much pressure and state-wide protests, the Collector was suspended for his failure to control communal violence. But recently, in a quiet move following a stay granted by the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), the Congress-led Government in Rajasthan has reinstated former Bharatpur Collector Krishna Kunal!

But the list of the massacres and impunity does not end here. Here is a similar story from south Indian state—Kerala. On 17th May of 2009, the Kerala police entered a Muslim fishermen colony of Beemapalli and opened fire at the locals killing six and injuring 52; the deceased included a 16-year-old boy playing cricket at the beach, who after being shot was attacked with the bayonet of a gun. Three years down the line, like above cases nothing has been done. The judicial commission instituted under chairmanship of Justice K Ramakrishnan in August 2009; which began functioning on 17th March, 2010 and collected evidences from almost 60 witnesses and submitted its report to the Chief Minister on 4th January 2012. However, the report is yet to be made public leave apart the question of implanting its recommendations. The firing took place at the time of Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) led Left Democratic Front government and now the state is ruled by Congress led United Democratic Front, with its major allies Muslim League. But despite the changes in power and the ‘Secular’ Congress and ‘Champion of Muslim Cause’ the Muslim League being at the helm of affairs there is no sign of justice. They way, the government after the government is trying to hush-up the case, indicate that they are nothing but partners in crime.

Here one is also reminded by the cases of recent Rudrapur (Uttarakhand), Moradabad (Uttar Pradesh), and many like it. However, the classic in all these cases is the case of Hashimpura, a town near Meerut district of Uttar Pradesh, which took place 25 years ago. On 22nd May of 1987, in Hashimpura, 42 innocent Muslims were killed in cold blood by the personnel of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC). Vibhuti Narayan Rai, then Superintendent of Police, nearby district Ghaziabad and one of the witnesses of the massacre told this writer once, “There are some experiences that stick with you throughout your life. They always stay with you like a nightmare and sometimes are like debts on your shoulders”. Adding “the experiences at Hashimpura massacre was such an experience for me”.

Trial in the case, which was transferred from Ghaziabad court to Tis Hazari, Delhi on the orders of the Supreme Court, is yet to conclude. Advocate Akbar Abidi, additional special public prosecutor told this writer last year that the case is in the last stages of presentation of prosecution witnesses. There were around 140 witnesses in the case out of which more than 20 died during last 24 years. Eighty three witnesses have already been produced before the court. Even the accused who are in total 19, got reduced to 16, three died during the course of last 25 years. But despite all this, the matter is still the court and victims still hoping for justice.

Forbesganj of Bihar, Hashimpura of Uttar Pradesh, Beemapalli of Kerala, Gopalgarh of Rajasthan, Rudrapur of Uttrakhand and many other parts of India might not have any geographical or political connection but there is something which connects all these places together: massacres and impunity. Crime, nay terror and violence unleashed by State and its various agencies and denial of justice to the victims of these massacres and killings. At all these places, while the victims live in fear, the perpetrators are roaming free under the patronage of the state governments. Notably, it does not matter which political party is in the power. It includes from ‘Secular’ Congress to Communal BJP to ‘Torchbearers’ of social justice JDU and BSP to Marxist – CPM.  When it comes to punishing police personnel and state officials all are alike. In short, it can be said that all these governments may be divided by parties but are united in massacres and Impunity!

(Writer is a civil rights activist and independent journalist based in Delhi. He can be contacted at [email protected])

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