From Tragedy to Farce


By B.G. Verghese
The Mamata-CPM civil war fought on the streets of Delhi and Kolkata is a new low in politics. Mamata was callous and utterly boorish in her attitude towards the avoidable death of a young leftist protestor in a melee mishandled by the Kolkata police. This brought SFI activists in Delhi on to the streets to protest against the Bengal chief minister who was in the capital to meet the Planning Commission.The Delhi police advised BangaBhavan to request the CM to avoid the main gate of YojanaBhavanand use the VIP entrance. Mamata refused.She not only drove up to the main gate but with foolish bravado dismounted to make her entry on foot. She was jostled but her Finance Minister who was behind was pushed and pummelled.

The SFI activists certainly misbehaved but Mamatadeliberately courted trouble and cannot escape culpability for the unfortunate event. MontekAlhuwalia and the PM both apologised for what happened. But the Trinamool reaction was to call its goons on to the streetsin Kolkata to assault Leftist leaders and property. This was followed the next day with a mindless invasion and vandalisation of a prized Presidency University laboratory, a criminal act that Trinamool leaders typically first defended.

The Bengal Governor properly condemned the attack on the CM and her FM in Delhi but went on to castigate the CPM politboro for what he said was a premeditated assault. The CPM understandably found the Governor’s statement excessive, leading the latter to go further and issue a statement through Raj Bhavanthat his conclusions about the CPM’s conduct were based on a deep study of Marx and Mao. Serious issues of law and order issue and gross political impropriety have been reduced to farce.

The Governor then went on to apologise to the students and faculty of Presidency University for his failure to protect them as Chancellor and Governor. How should he have gone about doing that?Governors as ex-officio chancellors of state universities should not pursue interventionist policies as some have done and one must hope that this does not now happen in West Bengal, especially as the Governor admitted to interlocutors that he was “going beyond his constitutional responsibilities”. The Governor, howsoever well-intentioned, should tread carefully in not setting what could become a dangerous precedent.

Another dangerous precedent is being set by the Akalis and human rights activists in rejecting the Supreme Court’s order that delay in deciding a mercy petition cannot by itself be cause to commute a death sentence to life imprisonment as in the case of Khalistani terrorist, Devinder  SinghBhullar. The magnitude of the crime and its impact on society cannot be disregarded. Bhullar was found guilty of killing nine persons in a bomb attack in Delhi in 1993. His clemency petition, after final disposal of his review petition at the highest judicial level, was rejected by the President in 2011 since when it is now pleaded that he has become mentally unsound and cannot therefore be hanged, a view that the Court rejected on facts. Then to argue that Bhullar cannot be hanged on what is termed a dubious self-confession after judicial review is to say that the courts cannot and must never decide.

The Akalis now plan to appeal to the President (again) claiming that hurt public sentiment will not tolerate such injustice. This is crudeblackmail with the political threat of murder and communal mayhem on the streets as earlier threatened in the case of the Babar Khalsa terrorist, Rajaona,Afzal Guru, and others. Gratuitous allegations of discrimination against minorities are also alleged in these cases in a bid to divide communities. Such repeated grandstanding to defeat due process and democratic governance is gathering currency and such tamashaneeds to be put down with a firm hand. To add to the on-going buffoonerywe have Justice MarkandeyKatju, the maverick chairperson of the Press Council, off on another trip to cloud-cuckoo land in rejecting the Supreme Court’s order and proclaiming his intention of appealing to the President to overturn it.

What the latest episodes underline is the need to make disposal of mercy petitions time bound, say within three months. Thereafter, non-decision should be presumed to constitute approval for hanging, which must be done within a week, no questions asked. The idea that the individual or family rights of a condemned terrorist or murderer are far greater and nobler than the social rights of the citizenry and the state acting in accordance with due process is unmitigated nonsense.

The issue of delay is again highlighted in the rejection by a Delhi sessions court of the CBI’s clean chit to JagdishTytler, the Congress leader, in the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom. It has ordered  reinvestigation of the case after examining hitherto “missing” witnesses. The procedure is proper but the process, especially the tortoise-like speed of commissions of inquiry, cries out for reform. The axiom justice delayed is justice denied lies buried and courts and commissions are quick to grant postponements and prolong proceedings interminably in the most unconscionable manner. Liberhan holds the record for taking 17 years to produce his report on the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Nanavatiwas asked to head the tenth Commission of Inquiry appointed to look into the 1984 riots and reported five years later but not before taking up chairmanship of the 2002 inquiry into the Gujarat killings. This has yet to report after umpteen extensions.

This resume only exemplifies the political reluctance to proceed expeditiously and bring speedy closure to the victims of horrendous riots and pogroms. The BJP and Congress have been happy to prolong proceedings to obfuscate their culpability and use one pogrom virtually to justify the other in a 1984 vs 1992/93-cum-2002 communal orgy. The Congress thwarted the Marwah Commission, the first of the 1984 inquiries, as soon as it was known that the Delhi police and its masters were going to be indicted. Likewise, NarendraModi and the BJP have supported every dodge to delay or deny justice in Gujarat. The cover up goes on.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh apologised to the nation on behalf of the Congress government for what happened in 1984.Sharad Pawar has now apologised to Maharashtra for the arrogant and contemptible remarks of his nephew and Deputy Chief Minister, AjitPawar about drought in the state. These apologies are well taken but hardly sufficient.  The BJP has been more honest in strutting around apologising to none.


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