Harsh Mander referred to communal violence as mass crime. Perpetrators of such crimes remain scot-free. They become dare devil to repeat and re-repeat such crimes and the survivors of the mass violence are not able to forget whatever happened. Harsh Mander referred this phenomenon as impunity. In India this impunity is assured.
Harsh Mander was giving the 1st Prof. Iqbal Ansari Memorial Lecture in the Conference Hall of India Islamic Culture Centre, New Delhi on 13th October, 2011, that was organised by Mahtab Alam, an activist cum journalist, and his friends. The venue was full to its capacity and many members of the audience had no option other than standing for hours! They did so without complaining!! The event was presided over by Prof. Zoya Hasan, Dean School of Social Sciences, JNU. Prof. Manoranjan Mohanti, Dr. John Dayal and Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan paid tributes to Late Prof. Iqbal Ansari.
Prof. Mohanti, while showering his love, affection and fond memories on Prof. Iqbal, wondered how a professor of English, besides command over his subject, was well versed in other streams of knowledge including law, history, political science and the like.
Dr. John Dayal said that the ‘Readings in Minorities’ by Prof. Iqbal are of so much value that anybody working in this particular field should consider these as must-reading material. One who has not read these may be taken as half read on the particular subject of studies of the minorities. Prof Iqbal articulated minority rights as the human rights of the minorities doing rigorous analysis; something that can only be compared with the quality of work done by Syed Shahabuddin in Muslim India.
Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan informed how hard Prof. Iqbal worked despite having meagre resources at his command. He participated in common man’s issues going above mere Muslim Issues.
Harsh Mander began his key-note address by paying rich tributes to the late Prof. Iqbal. He informed the house that Prof. Iqbal suffered when he saw injustice. But this suffering never went sour. He was always hopeful that we will be able to end the injustice within the framework of the democratic setup of the country and an India without violence can be achieved. His pain entailed him to act. His anger never turned into dismay. His was hopeful and worked incessantly to achieve his hopes and dreams of a just society.
The speaker said that India has a history of violence relating to the identities of individuals. Persons are persecuted because what they are born. Communal violence is not spontaneous but it is perpetrated by a committed group which aims at mass pogroms. Such riots are not engineered but these are engineered, rather manufactured. There is a systematic procedure of manufacturing hatred. Persons behind these crimes are skilled people associated with committed organisations who are continuously propagating untruths and half-truths. What is making them bold is that they are sure that they will not be caught. The speaker informed the house about the legal and procedural lacunae.
The state machinery serves the objects of the criminals. It rather enables the riots. No riot can continue for more than few hours if the state machinery is committed to control it. It is the dereliction of duty by the members of the civil services assisted by political administration that lets the crimes continue for days and weeks. Drawing from his own experience in civil service, the speaker talked about how things happen. This results in a heinous situation wherein majority of persons killed are Muslims, majority of persons arrested are Muslims and most of persons punished are Muslims. So what happens is not the collapse or failure of justice but subversion of justice.
The speaker ended his lecture by describing the contents of the Communal Violence Bill which is lurching in the air. It is getting an orphan-like treatment. He stressed the need of booking civil service members for crime for dereliction of duty. This would become a deterrent in recurrence of communal riots and if any trouble starts anywhere its early and effective control can be ensured.
Dr. Zoya Hasan in her presidential remarks highlighted the role of state governments in a federal structure and made the point that crimes cannot be contained by the civil administration alone. The political will and support from political administration is also required.