By Ram Puniyani
Retired Justice of Supreme Court, Justice Markandey Katju, wrote to the Supreme Court this September saying, “You are aware that one Ikhilaq was brutally lynched by cow vigilantes in Dadri. Instead of severely punishing the perpetrators of this heinous outrage, the police and local judge proceeded against the family of Ikhlaq…Have the police gone mad?”
Before he was acquitted, Chand Khan alias Shan Khan spent eleven years in a jail in the Akshardham temple attack (2002) case. Now, he finds himself booked in a case of cow slaughter (21 September 2016) instead of receiving compensation.
A book by Mufti Abdul Qayyum Ahmed Hussain, ‘Eleven Years behind the bars’ (I am a mufti, I am not terrorist) tells the story of him being arrested on charges of terrorism. He talks about the tortures he had to face and his release after spending eleven long years in prison.
A boy named Aamir Khan, of Muslim origin, faced fourteen years of imprisonment prior to his release. He too was booked under the charges of terrorism. In addition, this coincided with the time he was preparing for his matriculation examination. As he came out of the dungeon, he had already lost his father and found his mother seriously ill. Reading his book, ‘Framed as a Terrorist’, makes one realise the brutality and injustice of the system.
Facing terror for false charges
These are just a few glaring examples from the vast number of cases with involvement of Muslim youth and men. With ruined careers and families destroyed, their lives have now come to a halt.
For instance, Haji Umarji was imprisoned for being the mastermind of Godhra train burning. Thereafter, he was released after a few years of torture as no evidence of any kind was found against him. Similar arrests featured in the reports of the infamous cases of terror blasts in Makkah Masjid (Hyderabad), Malegaon, Samjhauta Express and Ajmer blasts. Finally the accused had to be released for lack of any credible evidence. Most of the investigations showed the sloppy and pre-motivated nature of investigation done by authorities. In conclusion, an obvious pattern has developed. It is hard to ignore the bias of police towards the minorities.
Is the State protecting only a few?
Scholars of communal violence in India observe that the police played a neutral role during the British period. In earlier times, it was a force which intervened in an impartial way. The biased attitude of police picked up after independence and shows the anti-minority attitude right from the first major violence in Jabalpur, 1961. Even the state machinery and political leaderships, at times, have aggravated this attitude with their policies. Most of the inquiry commission reports, films and documentaries bring out this fact. The representation of Muslims in the state services is minuscule. As a result, those Muslims who are in the position of authority have to go with the flow by keeping quite. Else, they face postings in areas where they cannot influence the dynamics of communal violence.
The Srikrishna Commission report of Mumbai violence highlighted that many police officers either looked the other way or sided with those indulging in violence. The massive anti-Sikh violence (Delhi 1984) and Gujarat violence were similar in this regard. In Maharashtra (Dhule 2013), the police itself took up the role of perpetrators of mayhem. In a revealing book “Hashimpura 22 May”, V.N. Rai ex-Director General of police points out that the police deliberately took away trucks loaded with Muslims, shot them point blank and threw their bodies in the canal. As a result, only a few survivors from the tragedy survived to narrate their harrowing experience.
Police Reforms: Need of the hour
There is an urgent need to protect the innocent young and others. Many commissions have given suggestions for improving the system of policing and initiating police reforms. Police personnel need sensitisation on issues related to minorities in our country. Currently, there are both state and national level police academies training the police personnel. The curriculum at these academies needs modification to incorporate the reality behind the biases and stereotypes which are prevalent in the society.
The police should align to the Constitution rather than dictating themselves by their sentiments and emotions. Moreover, they need to understand the truth behind the prevalent social common sense.
There are many civil society groups who are taking up the cases of those framed by the authorities but their capacity has its limits. There must be a stronger network of such civil society groups in order for significant impact. The falsely implicated must receive timely compensations. Consequently, any false implications by police officers must lead to imposition of strict punishments.
Books written by the falsely accused must become mandatory reading in our staff colleges and police training academies. Furthermore, the political parties who want to uphold the secular values have to isolate the communal outfits. They also need to ensure that communal parties don’t come to power. We need a society with justice and peace.
Such gross injustice against people of particular religion/minority implies that our judiciary system is weak. Thus any judgement on the culture of any society must be on the delivery of justice to the weaker sections of society including the religious minorities. Let us hope that Justice Katju’s letter sees affirmative action.
Ram Puniyani is a former professor of biomedical engineering and former senior medical officer affiliated with the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay.
Featured Image Source: The Week