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Between the line

Secular India faltering
November 9, 2011


MASSACRES recede into history. But their memory haunts us. A strain of
music, a candle light in the wilderness or a sad face re-enacts the
tragedies once again. If concrete evidence emerges, it leaves us
forlorn and helpless.
Two instances this week have brought back before me the killings in
Gujarat and Delhi. Nadeem Saiyed, a key witness, was murdered in a
street at Ahmedabad. Some thousands held a candle light vigil at India
Gate to commemorate the memory of the 3,000 Sikhs killed in Delhi
alone. Both are disconnected, but in a way they are not because both
tell a sordid story of government’s hand in the killings of Muslims in
Gujarat and the Sikhs in Delhi.
Not only that, every trace of official involvement has been erased.
Records have been destroyed, FIRs burnt and till today the government
continues to support the perpetrators of loot, murder and rape. On the
other hand, the government has been hard on whistleblowers. Nadeem was
killed because he refused to fall in line. He feared his murder and
asked for more security but did not get it.
Another witness, Sanjeev Rajendra Bhatt, a senior police officer, also
wants more security for his family and himself but there is no
response. Bhatt had the courage to say in the open that he was present
at the official meeting where Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi
said to let the Hindus “vent out their anger” during the clashes and
that he wanted Muslims to be “taught a lesson.” Hats off to Gujarat
IPS Association for standing by Bhatt. But Modi became harder. In a
letter to the chairman of the Special Investigation Team, Bhatt has
said: “…Despite the passage of nearly eight months, the government of
Gujarat continues to play truant with respect to my security
The question that has been posed again and again is that even after
the intervention by the Supreme Court, the guilty have remained
unpunished since 2002 when the pogrom was completed. The irony is that
L.K. Advani’s rath, ostensibly to highlight corruption, was in Gujarat
when Nadeem was murdered. I wish the rath yatra could have been to
bring the culprits of the 2002 massacre to book. Instead Advani
praised the chief minister for his “excellent governance.”
When I was at the candle light vigil, I came face to face with
Nirpreet Kaur. She was 16 years on November 2, 1984, when the mob came
for her father, Nirmal Singh. The gurdwara next to their house in
south Delhi’s Raj Nagar had been set ablaze and a mob of about 450 was
looking for more Sikhs to butcher. The Sikhs of Raj Nagar decided to
confront the mob.
An hour later, Nirpreet recalled, a Youth Congress leader came to her
father requesting him to “settle the matter.” A day earlier, when
violence against Sikhs broke out following the assassination of Prime
Minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikhs bodyguards, the youth leader
had sworn to the Sikhs that they would be protected from violence. The
youth leader went straight for the mob and handed Nirmal Singh over.
The oldest of three siblings, Nirpreet, ran to the mob but could only
watch helplessly as her father was tied up and set ablaze. The family
then fled to safety. When they returned to collect his ashes for
Nirmal Singh’s last rites, the area had been swept clean.
Nirpreet unthinkingly joined the Khalistan movement to avenge the
brutal killing of her father. Nirpreet married a militant in November
1985. Twelve days after her wedding, the Delhi Police picked up her
husband. He was never heard of again. Nirpreet then pregnant with her
son was declared an absconder. She went into hiding. In December 1986,
Nirpreet’s mother, Sampooran Kaur, was sentenced to three years in
Delhi’s high-security Tihar jail for “sheltering a terrorist.” She
didn’t even have an inkling of what her daughter was up to when they
arrested her.
Nirpreet’s tale of woes is not different from what has happened to Mrs
Zakia Jafri whose husband was cut into pieces at their residence in
Ahmedabad and burnt in a bonfire. He was a former Congress MP. Even
his contacts and calls to New Delhi when a Hindu mob was surrounding
his residence brought him no help. Many people from the area had taken
refuge at Jafri’s house. They too were burnt alive.
The Supreme Court has sent her case to the trial court for disposal.
This is not fair. The court could have said something on the role of
the chief minister. At least, Bhatt’s affidavit against Modi required
some comment because he remains suspended from service. The SIT had
given some report and so had amicus curie. The Supreme Court should
have taken notice of them because both were its creatures.
And then there are numerous cases which remain without being pursued
even though they are many years old. There was a massacre at Maliana
near Meerut some 17 years ago. The then superintendent of police,
Bhaputhi Mishra, himself had filed an FIR. The case is pending in a
law court in UP and no appeals to high authorities have resulted in
any movement of the case.
The story of Malegaon blasts is tragic. It once again shows the bias
of authorities against Muslims whenever a bomb blast takes place. None
of the suspects were released after they were wrongly jailed. A
special Maharastra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) last week
granted bail to all the nine accused in the 2006 Malegaon blasts case
after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) said it had no objection
to any of their bail pleas. It was only after the former RSS activist
Swami Aseemanand’s confession about the alleged involvement of the
right-wing Hindu fundamentalists in the blast was leaked did the line
of investigation change. The NIA took over the investigation on March
22, 2011. Justice demands that all the nine are compensated for
illegal detention. After all, a wrong case was framed against them
they and their families carried a tag of terrorism.
Another way the police have evolved is to kill a person in encounters
and declare him a terrorist. Coming heavily on the police, the Supreme
Court has expressed its serious concern over the fake encounters
saying “tolerance of police atrocities would amount to acceptance of
systemic subversion and erosion of the rule of law.” There is no
reason to believe that the Home Ministry will do anything to lessen
the number of “encounters.”
Indeed, India is a pluralistic society. But it has a long way to go
before it can be considered “secular”, a word written within the
preamble of the constitution. At present the government seems to be

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