Monday, August 06, 2007

Are We Biased?

Three interesting ‘events’ that happened in the recent past makes me feel that the Law enforcement machinery is biased. Biased negatively towards the Muslim populace in the country (if not inclined towards the Hindu majority).

Event 1: Md. Haneef is detained under Australian terror laws and is subsequently freed after the public outcry in Australia

Event 2: Sanjay Dutt’s conviction in the Bombay Blasts case ends with a sentence of rigorous imprisonment for six years

Event 3: Sulaiman Memon is acquitted after spending 6 long years in jail as an under-trial whilst his wife is handed a life sentence

From Frontline on the Mumbai blasts case:

Zakir Hussain burst out in court that the judiciary was biased.
“If a Hindu does something, a commission is set up. But if a Muslim does something, he is hanged,” he shouted.

Outside the courtroom, family members of the convicted echoed this sentiment. “It was one-sided. What happened to the Srikrishna Commission report? Why was it not implemented? What happened to those who killed innocent Muslims during the riots?” asked an inconsolable Ismailbi, Abdul Khan’s mother

In the blasts case, 100 have been sentenced, 12 have been sentenced to death, 20 given life terms. I cannot help but wonder that if it were Salman Khan in place of Sanju baba in the ‘AK-56 possession’ case, it might have been a longer sentence. Someone would need to answer these questions that the media and a few in the society have been asking. The congress government that believes that they are the most secular of governments in recent times might want to hazard an answer to them. I think they will try and make some politically correct statements given the fact that the Loksabha elections are not too far now!

What is an act of terror? I do not know how the law defines it but I do believe that organized riots like the ones in Sikh riots (1984), Mumbai Riots (1992-93), Gujarat Riots (2003) are also acts of terror. However the Indian law enforcement machinery would not want to pass any sentence on any of these with such sense of idealism that we have seen in the Mumbai blasts case. Mind you, I am not saying that the judgments by Justice PD Kode were wrong. I hope that they are as righteous as such cases should be, especially in terms of setting the right precedent. But I cannot help but wonder what happened to the report submitted by Justice Srikrishna commission. The NDA government in power (Centre and State) did its bit to rubbish it but the present regime is not worried about it either. Was it because the ‘fish’ named were too big to be nabbed by the net of the Law?

Dr. Haneef’s episode is another case-in-point to illustrate the bias in our government machinery. It curiously refused to (re)act. I think the conclusions of team at the (Ministry of External Affairs) would have been in line with the English and the Australian government i.e. Muslim=Terrorist!! I fail to understand how MEA forgot that he is an Indian citizen as well. Was it not our responsibility to speak-up on his behalf? The lackadaisical requests that the government made (post the public outcry in Australia and their media) were lame at best. Though we did get loud once it was clear that he would be let off the hook. Our media acted in a similar fashion.

However, in Sanju Baba’s case the media (and some from political jamboree) is all over the place, shouting themselves hoarse about the ‘unfair’ nature of the sentence. We have spin doctors telling us how he has a heart of gold, how he shared a wonderful rapport with Abhishek Bacchan and Zayed khan and how he advised DJ Aqeel against the usage of dugs etc. I understand that they believe that these are reasons good enough for Mr. Dutt to be released or to be awarded a truncated sentence! These ‘supporters’ seem to believe that illegal procurement of arms from the chief conspirator and then their destruction to save oneself from the law does not warrant this kind of a sentence. Not to forget that he was named a co-conspirator in the initial phases of the case, a charge that was subsequently dropped.

Sulaiman saw his business destroyed in the 6 years he spent in Jail. His wife Rubina got a life sentence because her car was used in the bombing. Apparently there is no other evidence that she was a part of the planning or abetted the conspiracy. However, the lady behind the veil who might have not had any clue about what her Brothers-in-law were up to will spend the rest of her life behind bars.

While our law ensures that the guilty are punished, it should also appear impartial. We might find it increasingly difficult to include the Gen-next of muslims in our mainstream if they cannot trust the Government. They need to believe that the law is impartial and would punish the guilty irrespective of their religious moorings. A good starting point might be a quick closure on all riot cases that have been stowed away in cold storage. I hope it is not too much to ask for!

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