Why is the largest democracy silent on the judicial forgiveness of criminals, granted by the Gujarat High Court?
On February 27, 2002, fifty-nine passengers in the Sabarmati express were burnt alive at the Godhra railway station. The innocent victims were arguably religious as they were identified as Kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya after attending Purnahuti Maha Yagna organized at Ayodhya under the aegis of Vishwa Hindu Parishad. According to the trial court, “The cause of fire was not short-circuiting or accidental because of any leakage of kerosene from the stove of any passenger but definitely petrol in huge quantity came to be poured inside the coach (in) the rear portion, after entering into (the) coach, and then using burning rag, it was ignited.” An examination directed by the Gujarat Forensic Science Laboratory report expresses that 60 litres of inflammable fluid had been meticulously poured into coach S-6 using a wide-mouthed holder. The pouring extended on the section between the northern side-entryway of the eastern side of the coach, which had been determined to flame promptly from that point. The report likewise reasoned that there had been substantial stone pelting as well on the train. As concluded by the Justice Nanavati Commission appointed by the Gujarat government to probe the carnage, that the fire in a coach of Sabarmati Express was no accident; as bluntly claimed by pseudo-secularists, rather the coach had been set ablaze.
Gujarat High Court’s judgement dated October 9, 2017, commuted the death sentence awarded to 11 convicts in the 2002 Godhra train burning case to rigorous life imprisonment. The division bench of Justice G.R. Udhwani and Justice A.S. Dave apologized to the people for a delayed verdict. The convicts have been charged under certain sections of Indian Penal Code, Police Act, Railway Act and especially under Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 (POTA). Gujarat high court has counted upon the testimonies of the experts from forensic laboratories, confessional statements of injured witnesses, co-passengers, Railway protection force personnel, Gujarat Railway police and railway employees.
What should India ponder upon?
Gujarat high court’s mere apology neither juxtaposes nor superimposes its structural impunity to a heinous pre-planned conspiracy against humanity.
When humanity achieves its peak of ignorance, the exuberance for monetary compensation becomes just a tailspin, for “We, the people of India” would accept an apology only from Britain for their historical wrongs; as precisely articulated by Shashi Tharoor in his much-acclaimed book, An Era of Darkness: The British empire in India.
A deeper dig
Such a fatal crime is not sui generis in India. Neither to legislature, executive & judiciary nor for The People of India. The death of Indira Gandhi in 1984 triggered anti-Sikh riots chiefly in Punjab, Haryana, and Delhi. This gruesome genocide of Sikhs was cynically justified by anti-Sikh mobs which largely consisted of fanatic members of the Indian National Congress party, as a response to the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Acting like an absurd garb for the congress party-workers against their Sikh massacre, the reluctant successor of Indira Gandhi her son Rajiv Gandhi shamelessly said, “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes”. More than 8000 Sikhs were brutally murdered and burnt alive as a vendetta for a Prime Minister; who imposed emergency on India and deliberately violated countless human and constitutional rights of its people. It is worth mentioning here that Rajiv Gandhi has undoubtedly been venerated politically by his party as pure as the snow.
Threads from Kashmir
According to a report by Human Rights Watch published in 2011, the Government of India is “yet to prosecute those responsible for the mass killings”(of Sikhs). Around January 20, 1990; the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri pandits sponsored by radical Islamic terrorism and enthusiastically outsourced by local residents under the garb of jihad, resulted in the former’s exodus from Kashmir valley to “safer” places of India. Surprisingly, this intra-state diaspora transformed the lives of millions, and census of Jammu & Kashmir and subsequently India; forever. From approximately 165,000 Pandits living in the Kashmir valley, the madness of jihad within a considerable short timespan permitted lesser than 5000 Hindus to continue living there! Being President’s rule then in Jammu & Kashmir, neither the President of India nor the Centre (V.P Singh Government) was alleged for being a mute spectator to actual attempts of ethnic cleansing. Yet, the democratic farrago of media politics alleged then Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi and held him accountable for nurturing the communal riots in Gujarat, which were unanimously triggered by Islamic extremists and its blind-ship by claiming innocent lives at Godhra railway station. Unlike the erstwhile leadership of riots-hit states in India, Narendra Modi had handled the jingoist chaos better than any of his counterparts, especially the widely celebrated congressman Rajiv Gandhi.
So, what’s the point?
It is clear that the Gujarat high court’s verdict is sluggish token and simply a consolation granted to the extreme gross violators of human rights. Why is the death penalty replaced by imprisonment? India has always abided by its tradition of Atithi Devo Bhava. Centuries ago, Hindutva made friendship with pseudo nomadic foreign religions especially Islam and Christianity. But, what should be done when the same Atithi tries to overpower the host and attempts by all means; to snatch its habitat? If we are a truly secular country, why is the pseudo brigade silent? This highlights the cataclysmic fact of the existence of a pseudo-secular lobby operating its propaganda under the garb of secularism! India’s silence indicates that probably we’re trying to establish some kind of negative co-relation between further-ness to independence and adaptation to judicial forgiveness to criminals.
Justice delayed is ideally claimed to be justice not denied, but should a tampered-with judgement actually be interpreted as justice?
The author is a Reiki Master based in Ahmedabad and New Delhi. He can be reached at [email protected]