Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Judicial Ray of Hope

Shaikh Dastagir, a victim of September 8, 2006 Qabristan blasts

Ashwani Kumar, director of Central Bureau of Investigation, and his committed team of sleuths have suddenly discovered that power is not absolute in a secular democracy. Power comes with responsibility and subject to checks and balances by the short arm of legislators and by the long arm of judiciary. CBI sleuths were so confident of power that they went on to sleep for three long years before being woken up by a judicial bite. Isn’t it amazing that CBI took three years just to utter one sentence – which everybody in Malegaon knows – that accused of Malegaon 2006 blasts are innocent. Had it not been the deep and effective judicial bite of Justice J.N. Patel, CBI would have slept till eternity!

The response of judiciary was quick; Bombay High Court came out with its terse judgment in three months. There was no political response for three long years. Should one assume that the two arms of a democratic republic are in complete disharmony? Should one equate Manmohan Singh-led UPA with notorious CBI? Where PC Chidambaram’s golden-rule of democracy is which he very keen taught to Muslims at Deoband? Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, National Security Advisor and Home Minister must admonish CBI in two words: perform or perish.

Before being bitten by the judicial jaw, CBI had an opportunity to prove and reaffirm nationwide belief that it is indeed country’s most trusted and prestigious investigating agency. CBI had a golden chance to capitalize on the so-called “public outcry” which rose from Malegaon. It had a golden opportunity to score over ATS. But unfortunately it treaded the path of ATS which has a dead end. It followed the misleading footprints of a “communal” (that’s how SM Mushrif describes KP Raghuvanshi in his new book: Who Killed Karkare?) officer like KP Raghuvanshi. CBI inquiry may have been a ray of hope to some in Malegaon but it has proved to be eyewash.

The demand for CBI inquiry was not because of “public outcry” as the public prosecutor has claimed in the high court. It was a personal outcry borne with the desire to fill Muslim leadership vacuum. The lone voice filled the empty spaces in newspapers’ columns and each one of us accepted it as a gospel. It was S.M. Mushrif alone who publicly castigated and criticised this insane decision to demand a CBI inquiry on October 10, 2006 at KC College auditorium. CBI inquiry converted an easy puzzle into a complicated riddle.

The formation of Kul Jamati Tanzeem (KJT) did not help; it, in fact, made matters worse. KJT wanted to spearhead a democratic movement in order to release the accused but yet it forgot a golden-rule of democracy: to take help of secular activists. It aggressively portrayed itself as a Muslim organization which proved suicidal. It is precisely for this reason that KJT refused to cooperate and share its report with Teesta Setalvad and Justice Kolshe Patil. The inflated egos of its members must have further inflated when it submitted its so-called “report” to CBI. Is CBI a court of law? Was CBI legally bound to follow the report? Has KJT got any legal credentials that country’s premier investigating agency will follow its diktat?

CBI sleuths must have mocked at this blind and insane decision. The decision to handover the report was a collective mockery of people of Malegaon. KJT is guilty of connivance; it presented all the “evidence” to CBI the way a fresh bowl of soup is given to guests!

Centre and State government have been playing the role of hide and seek. Both are morally and politically responsible to pressurize the concerned agencies to speed up the pace of investigation. Home Minister PC Chidambaram need not become a judge to discover that justice is one of the foremost problems of Indian Muslims. He would do well to remember what American editor and reformer Frederick Douglass was fond of saying,
“I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.”

Frederick once wrote:

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

Judges have performed their duty. Politicians have not.

Sunday Inquilab, November 22, 2009

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