By Kalpana Kannabiran – HYDERABAD, Published: 24th April 2014 08:38 AM
The decision of the AP High Court acquitting 56 persons convicted by the Tsundur Special Court in 2007 for their role in the massacre of Dalits in 1991 is a shocking reminder of how far the justice system needs to travel to begin to hear survivors speak.
In deliberating on what was one of the most brutal incidents of caste atrocity and collective violence, the Court has failed to move itself out of the circle of dominance and build constitutional roots instead in the life worlds of the oppressed and vulnerable. What this judgment also points to is the impunity enjoyed by dominant castes especially where it concerns socially vulnerable groups that have special protections under the Constitution.
The Hon’ble High Court is quoted in newspaper reports as urging all sections to ‘bury the hatchet’. So essentially, since all those killed were Dalits, it is they who should bury the hatchet while the dominant castes continue to brandish their weapons with no fear of the law.
This is not about violence and counter violence.
The anti-caste struggle has ceaselessly worked to discipline dominance through recourse to law and constitutional courts – the weapons of the oppressed. The exhortation to ‘bury hatchets’ belongs to the sphere of public morality where rival gangs must drop their weapons for any semblance of peace.
But if there has been mass murder in broad daylight that has targeted a particularly vulnerable group, justice through courts and convictions are the only answer.
If we were to begin to withdraw from demanding justice from courts, and were to choose ‘burying hatchets’ instead, we might as well shut down our entire institutional apparatus for justice.
Let the law of the street prevail. This is not the end of the road. We must join forces and go to the Supreme Court, challenging this extremely unjust and partisan verdict.
I remember especially at this time my friend late Advocate B Chandrasekhar who worked tirelessly and without respite as Special Public Prosecutor to secure convictions in the trial court. And I salute the resilience of Jaladi Moses and the Dalit people of Tsundur for their tenacity and grit in an extremely hostile environment. We owe it to the victims and survivors of Tsundur and all other atrocities (and there are countless) to take this battle in the courts forward and onward through public debate and struggle.
It is ironical, that in the circus of the elections that we are currently witnessing, caste atrocity simply does not figure.
And yet we know from this judgment and our recent struggles, that atrocity and collective violence is the biggest threat to democracy in India today.
(The author is Professor & Director, Council for Social Development, Hyderabad)


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