The Supreme Court


by Heigrujam Nabashyam
There is an old – on the verge of extinction – Meitei saying, though told in a poetic form : “Yairong-na yairong-na kalli, Sabirai-na sabirai-na kalli”. My limited English cannot find an English parallel of this small beautiful rhyme, nor can I attempt a translation.

However it can be said that it is made of three simple words – Yairong (boil), Sabirai (another form of yairong) and na-kalli (more strong), placed wonderfully to tell an idea with sheer magic. It tells us about the human psyche that man will think and act for the self and the self only.

In the olden days man fought and dies for a ruler or a king, because that was the only way to live. In the Mahabharatta it was the jealousy of the crown prince, the son of the blind king that led to Kurukshetra – the battle of the universe. In the last great war it was Adolf Hitlar who started the war for German supremacy.

In today’s world too, the only super power then, the United States invaded Iraq with sanction from the United Nations – very methodically extracted by the Reagan administration – on the pretext of Iraq making weapons of mass destruction and for repeatedly defying UN resolutions. But it was basically the interests of the United States that Iraq dared challenge that led to the war.

However, before the attack US diplomacy successfully portrayed Iraq as a serious threat to world peace. And therefore US could attack Iraq without much protest from the international community.

Any deal, agreement, treaty etc., made between nations bears the same thing – the interests of the nations. Back home the present bonhomie between India and Bangladesh or the new-found prophylactic friendship between India and Myanmar serve the mutual interests of the countries.
So, a nation, a country too, plans and acts only in the interest of the country, – simply called national interest – even at the expense of internationally accepted norms of conduct and justice.

Two recent incidents of delivering justice by the Supreme Court of India caught our attention of how justice is delivered in India. Both had to do with two different murder cases that were widely reported.
One incident was, while passing its judgment on the review petition of the killers of the Staines – the Australian missionary and his two little sons – in Orissa in one of the most cruel and heinous crimes that took place in recent years, the Supreme Court said, the killer was only trying “to teach Staines a lesson about his religious activities, namely, converting poor tribals to Christianity.”

The apex court stopped short of telling ‘therefore the burning alive of the three poor souls was never the intention of the killers.’ This “lesson” theory of the apex court is only an insult to the dead man not expected from civilized humans. The jury should have remembered that a dead man cannot defend himself.

The lesson theory reminds me of the assassination of the Governor of the Punjab province of Pakistan last month by his own bodyguard. After the Governor died the assassin suddenly became a hero or some sort of martyr. And since then there is growing swell of support for the killer, across Pakistan. As reported the Governor was secular and therefore the Muslims felt he was a threat to Islam; and therefore the assassin was only carrying out his duty as a devout Muslim by removing an infidel. I doubt an Islamic Pakistan would ever punish the assassin.
The fear of a threat to Islam in an Islamic Pakistan has amazingly found an unmistakable echo in a paranoid secular India, and more so in the highest court of law of the country.

A great human being – the wife and mother of the Staines had pardoned the killers of her husband and two little sons. One can only admire her courage and magnanimity. Taking cue from her and without going into the merits of the case if the Supreme Court had pardoned the killers, instead of going into the “teaching lesson” theory, the apex court would have set a magnificent precedence. The “lesson” theory dangerously poses a serious threat to democracy – any doubt ?
In the other case, the observation of the Supreme Court : “We cannot allow the state to kill our own children” is highly encouraging and commendable, especially in a state like Manipur. The remark was made while delivering its judgment on a fake encounter killing case of a Maoist by the Security force.

Killing of militants and even innocent civilians in fake encounters by the security forces in the name of neutralizing insurgents are more or less a normal practice adopted in Northeast, especially in Manipur. But, the fact is to take such a case to the Supreme Court is beyond the reach of the locals. They just do not have the wherewithal. That is the reason why the local populace come out on the streets and resort to strikes, bands, etc. instead going to the court ; and this is the reason why Manipur demands AFSPA, 1958 be withdrawn for good and Sharmila Chanu has become the symbol.

However it does not mean that it is only the security forces who torture and kill unarmed and innocent civilians. Let me quote a few lines from a beautiful article by Sanasam Umananda – ‘Oh, No Comments On Manipur’ published in a recent edition of Imphal Free Press : “We are afraid to say anything on Manipur ……………… We fear a two-pronged attack of the guns …………………. A pall of gloom descended on the merry get-together of cowards.” The condition is painful, when one thinks of our children.

Now, it is both the forces of the government and the banned organizations that are feared. But the latter one is because of the serious political issue that Manipur is in today. It is the job of the representatives of the people to work for a breakthrough, and not the Army General nor the Secretaries of the government.

As for the security forces of the state it is the government that has to reign in its forces. It is inhuman for the security forces to blackmail, the locals mentally to do their bidding of their policies. And to make things worse the central forces righteously demand the yokels to speak Hindi, the language of the Jawans which they are ignorant of. Imagine a drove of fierce-looking armed personals shouting at you in a language that you cannot speak and hit you at the face in the death of the night at your home because neither you can understand what the Jawans say nor you can speak the way the Jawans demand. This is dehumanizing.

Anyone given unbridled power would only behave the way you can imagine. AFSPA, 1958 has given unbridled power to the security forces. They can torture and kill any suspect. This fact was brought to the purview of the Supreme Court by the human rights activists from Manipur – if I remember correctly. And they sought the apex court’s intervention to either delete the clauses which give the power to torture and the power to kill or to invalidate the Act altogether.

However the apex court did not give any relief, it had only provided some cosmetic dos and don’ts for the security forces which cannot check the unbridled power in any manner. Perhaps the Supreme Court of India cannot feel the “our own children” sentiment and fatherly affection for Manipur and the Northeast children. A justice should detach himself from paranoiac delusions and predilection and rise above all forms of prejudice while delivering justice; or else it would bring disrespect to the Court.

Author is ex-candidate Singjamei Assembly Constituency Manipur.


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