July 7, 2013

Nitya Ramakrishnan

“Why this selective concern about encounter killings in Gujarat — these happen all over the country,” pleaded Gujarat’s lawyer at a Supreme Court hearing of veteran journalist B.G. Verghese’s public interest petition on 22 unexplained police killings in that state.

When a 13-year-old boy was abducted from a Delhi jhuggi by Gujarat police officials on a whim, the State government’s defence was first that the boy was Bangladeshi, next that he was 16 and not 13, and finally that he had gone willingly with the gun-wielding policemen.

The Delhi High Court, issuing a writ to restore the child to his family, treated Gujarat’s pleas with the disdain that they deserved, but the State is still shielding the errant policemen.

Conjecture as science

Yet another time a court in Gujarat convicted 12 Muslims for the murder of former Gujarat Minister Haren Pandya, by postulating a conjecture that defied every rule of science and logic.

The conjecture that the dead man’s body had jumped up inside a Maruti car and contorted itself just so, to get shot in the left scrotum from the top end of the right side window, led the High Court to express its disapproval in the strongest terms of both the quality of investigation and of the whimsical reasoning adopted by its subordinate court of law.

The scale of absurdity in the stances unhesitatingly adopted reveals something far more serious than a breach of the law.

The police in Gujarat wear lawlessness as a badge of honour, and that explains the extraordinary phenomenon of such a rich crop of high ranking Gujarat police officers in prison.

Any administration that nurtures such lawlessness is plainly unfit to govern, but that’s not the whole of it. The ruling political establishment of Gujarat has made an ideological campaign in support of murder, rape and extortion by its highest rung of officers, based not on any credible factual challenge, but instead as a turf battle.

Non-partisan struggle

The people who have fought to bring the violators in Gujarat to book are also those who fought against the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, the Meerut killings of 1987 and many serious human rights violations irrespective of the political regime under which they occurred.

The constant refrain that this is a Congress ploy against the BJP will simply not wash, for it is not the Congress at all, but a spirited group of activists who have tirelessly worked to expose the now obvious design to create a hype of Muslim terror.

Even as unlikely threats to security were targeted in encounters and flimsy cases, the Gujarat police let real threats like the much-wanted Mufti Sufiyan slip away. There is good reason to suspect that there was active private interest behind these operations. This then is the answer to the hollow indignation, “why Gujarat.”

The unbridled run given to ‘security’ agencies in the last years has no doubt contributed to the greatest security risk that citizens face; and bringing Gujarat to book is an important step towards restoration of institutional integrity.

(The author is a Delhi- based advocate and has defended many terror cases in Gujarat and elsewhere, including the Haren Pandya case.)

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