India: What about the ’93 rioters ?

SANJAY DUTT’S defence for keeping
an AK-56 rifle and an 9 mm pistol was that they
were for protecting his family as they were
getting threatening calls during the 1993 Mumbai
riots. His father, the late Sunil Dutt, was
amongst the few trying to save the colonies under
siege by hooligans. Sanjay Dutt’s mother was the
legendary actor Nargis, a Muslim. The Dutts got
many threatening phone calls. Sanjay Dutt did
procure the rifle illegally, but all the same it
was not used at any point. As one saw the glum
face of Sanjay Dutt after the verdict was
pronounced, one remembered another case of
violation of the Arms Act. During the 1992-93
riots, Shiv Sena leader Madhukar Sarpotdar was
caught carrying revolvers, pistols, choppers and
hockey sticks. The role of this Shiv Sainik, who
became an MP, was outlined by the Srikrishna
Commission of inquiry: "Šthe other two pistols
were unlicensed. (Sarpotdar’s) explanation (was
that) they were carrying them for
self-defenceŠThis explanation strains credulity.“Further, the Commission pointed out,”It took
police two days to register an offense against
SarpotdarŠThe mere possession of unlicensed
firearms in a ’notified area’ would have
attracted penal liability under TADA (but) there
was neither an attempt to (do this) nor to oppose
bail." Sarpotdar was not even served a
chargesheet. The Shiv Sena Government
dropped all cases against him. The Congress
alliance, which came to power after this, on
the promise of implementing the Srikrishna
Commission report, not only failed to reopen the
case but shamelessly proclaimed that the
recommendations of the commission have to be
implemented in letter and spirit.

These two cases in a way show as to how the
justice delivery system in the country is
turning politically schizophrenic. The Mumbai
riots took place in the aftermath of the
demolition of the Babri Masjid. The riots were
followed by the bomb blasts. The verdict on those
involved in the cases is close to complete by
now. During the Mumbai violence the police not
only participated and aided in the anti-minority
violence, it deliberately refused to register the
First Information Reports (FIR). And where the
FIRs did get registered they were neither
recorded properly nor pursued. Later the cases
were closed on one pretext or the other. The
Srikrishna Commission clearly indicted the Shiv
Sena and BJP leaders. It also named several
police personnel for their crimes. Forget
punishing them, some of the policemen even got
promotions in due course. The commission was
initially stalled midway and later its findings
were withheld on the ground that they would
reopen old wounds. Finally, the findings were
rejected by the Shiv Sena- BJP government.

The Gujarat violence is still being
investigated by the inquiry commission, but as
far as the police is concerned nothing had
happened. Here matters go one step further: the
complainants are threatened and asked to withdraw
the cases, witnesses turn hostile and the victims
are reduced to second-class citizens. Now the
police are coming into ’efficiency mode’ again
and are ready to launch cases against the
culprits of the July 2006 blasts. The rioters of
the Gujarat carnage are moving with pride at
“having taught them a lesson”.

In April 2006, two activists belonging to
Bajrang Dal died while making bombs in Nanded, as
confirmed by the Maharashtra Anti-terrorist Squad
Chief K.P. Raghuvanshi. One of them, Himanshu
Panse, had stated that unless Hindus bomb
mosques, it would be perceived that Hindus are
hijras (eunuchs). The blasts are the only way to
stop attacks like the ones in Varanasi and Delhi.
The Malegaon blast, the blast in a Hyderabad
mosque and the Samjhauta Express followed this
pattern. It is explained away as thework of an
external hand in league with local minority
elements to foment trouble.

One can see the emergence of a clear pattern in
dealing with communal crimes and acts of
terrorism. While the communal parties proactively
pursue a divisive agenda, most other parties have
compromised their principles of fair play At one
level they are . infected by this communal virus
and at another most of the police and
bureaucratic system have succeeded in demonising
Islam as the propagator of violence and projected
Muslims as a violent, terrorist community. Seeing
the fate of justice in the case of the Mumbai and
Gujarat riots and many other scattered acts where
minorities were the victims, and conflating them
with the way justice is meted out in acts of
terrorism, a uniform pattern seems to be
emerging: punish those involved in acts of
terrorism and exonerate those indulging in
communal violence.


* From Hindustan Times, 2 August 2007. Circulated by South Asia Citizens Wire | August 6-9, 2007 | Dispatch No. 2432 - Year 9.

* Ram Punyani is secretary, All India Secular Forum.

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