, by N. JAMAL ANSARI
There was a time when Gujarat was considered a civilized place. All men were addressed as bhai, all women ben and all food was sweet even the tikha achars. The State and its people claimed a tradition of pragmatism. They have done well in foreign countries from East Africa to the U.S.A. Their organisational acumen is unusual. And yet, not all seems going well in Mahatma Gandhi’s Gujarat. It has become a hot bed of communalism and fascism within a short span of time – a State where genocide of Muslims was engineered by the State itself in 2002.
In this changed Gujarat, fake encounter of Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausarbi took place in 2005. It might have gone as other such encounters but Rubabuddin, brother of Sohrabuddin, decided to fight back. The Supreme Court of India intervened to save the Constitution of India and then the conspiracies behind the staged encounter began unfolding, one after another. CBI dutifully identified conspirators behind the case, including Minister of State for Home, Amit Shah.
After absconding for four days, Shah finally resigned and surrendered. He was earlier shying away from presenting himself before CBI. Blood of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausarbi is slowly but surely tightening screws around the neck of conspirators. Since Mahatma Gandhi’s Gujarat turned into a fascist state, fake encounter has become order of the day.
It is not surprising that Narendra Modi is shielding his minister. It should be recalled that he had positioned his two Cabinet Ministers Ashok Bhat and I.K. Jadeja in the offices of the DGP, Gandhinagar and Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad from February 27 to March 3, 2002 so that the genocide of Muslims might go on unchecked.
The basic issue is not fake encounter or prosecution of Amit Shah or Narendra Modi for genocide or extra-judicial killings. The moot question is why our democratic system is collapsing and why our secular intellectuals and leaders are failing in halting the march of fascism? Let us examine Sohrabuddin case and the history of genocide of Muslims in the names of “encounter” or/and “counter terrorism”.
Since the Sohrabuddin fake encounter was exposed and the Supreme Court intervened, allegations of favouritism have been levelled against the investigating agencies. The government of Gujarat selected senior police officer Geeta Johri for inquiry on the order of the Supreme Court but she was also accused of saving involved policemen. Rubabuddin expressed his distrust on Geeta. Then the Supreme Court issued orders to halt the trial, sealed all records, and appointed senior Advocate Gopal Subramanayam who pointed out many points on which Geeta came under clouds of doubts. Subramanayam opined that top police officials of state and state machinery was directly involved in the so-called encounter but Geeta Johri had not taken them in her investigations.
The Apex Court was deeply concerned to save the Constitution and ultimately the task of investigating the real motive and conspiracy behind Sohrabuddin’s killing was entrusted to CBI, which has been exposing state terrorism of Gujarat. The current position is that Amit Shah has surrendered and law is catching up to the man who had engineered genocide in 2002.
Let us discuss the trend of fake encounters and terrorism in other parts of the country.
Batla House encounter took place right under the nose of Manmohan Singh government. It should have been investigated deeply because not only young Muslim boys were killed but an Inspector of Delhi Police Mohan Chand Sharma also died as a result of this shootout. Despite strong demands of meaningful inquiry, the so-called secular government at the Centre shied away from it. National Human Rights Commission also gave clean chit to Delhi Police without even calling eyewitnesses of the locality. But Batla House encounter is included in the list of fake encounters in the reply to Afroz Alam of Delhi by the same NHRC under RTI. Even Congress leader Digvijay Singh has also accepted that it was a fake encounter.
A resident of Ghaziabad, Ranveer Singh was gunned down in Dehradun. A joint inquiry of CBI and SIT declared it fake and charged 18 policemen. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are topping in fake encounters. As per the information supplied by NHRC during last 16 years U.P and Bihar have accounted for 716 and 79 fake encounters followed by Andhra Pradesh (73). Maharashtra is not lagging and claimed 61 innocent lives in fake encounters. Surprisingly India’s two volatile states Gujarat and Jammu & Kashmir murdered only 20 and 18 Indian citizens. Even in national capital Delhi, 22 fake encounters took place. It means that Gujarat is not so much notorious for fake encounters as the popular impression is. But here lies the difference.
Fake encounters in other states take place due to frustration, incompetency, corruption and immorality of the police compounded by apathy of the ruling class towards plight of the masses and delivery of justice. But in Gujarat selective encounters of Muslims are engineered to frighten Muslim masses who have escaped genocide in 2002.
Let us return to Gujarat and Sohrabuddin fake encounter. Soon after this staged encounter, it was clear that top police and political bosses of Gujarat were involved in hatching the conspiracy. We must also recall that apart from Gujarat, police officials of Andhra Pradesh were also involved. The charge sheet filed in the Court of Ahmedabad Metropolitan Judge by Gujarat CID revealed that “three officials from Andhra Pradesh had helped the Gujarat police in abducting Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausarbi from Hyderabad-Sangli bus. Names of the former Additional Commissioner of police Rajeev Trivedi and DSP of Chittoor and Adilabad TV Shashidhar Reddy and Anil Kumar respectively figured (Sohrabuddin case charge sheet rattles Andhra Police, The Pioneer, July 18, 2007).
My submission is that, to crush the rising tide of Hindutva among police force, the ruling elite of the nation must rise above usual party politics and sustainable corrective measures should be taken. Thus alone we can save the nation from anarchy.
To address the problem of fascism, a by-product of communalism, we must consider 42nd Amendment (1978) of the Constitution which is “Fundamental Duties” (Chapter IV A). It holds “duties on every citizen, to foster scientific temper, promote unity transcending all religions, linguistic and regional differences”. The legal position should be that the Fundamental Rights granted under chapter III of the Constitution are subject to the discharge of fundamental duties. Chapter IV (I) and Article 51(A) have to be read as regulating Fundamental Rights granted by Chapter III of the Constitution.
Legal position should be and is that judiciary can direct the executive to compel the citizens to perform the duties enjoined upon them and take action against those who violate it. I raise this point to highlight that even if the administration fails, the judiciary is not hand-tied in the face of Fundamental Duties under Chapter IV A of the Constitution and its blatant violation leading to a situation where the right to life guaranteed under Article 22 itself is endangered.
This is for serious consideration by all concerned.
[The writer is Aligarh based social and political commentator]