Thursday, October 16, 2008

Well, is India really all that bad?

Television debates in these turbulent times have left me completely shocked and bewildered as journalists, intellectuals and activists have fallen over backwards to condemn the Indian state, society and civilisation as fascist and intolerant. The mood of the moment seems to be: India is failing as a modern nation state and a secular democracy. The litany seems to be: there is no justice in India. Period. No justice. The most dangerous thing is that many of us are swallowing this drivel without even questioning the insidious propaganda. Has nothing positive happened that can give some hope for the future?

India has seen many riots before 2002 when Muslims and Sikhs were massacred, often with active police help. Delhi in 1984, Meerut and Bhagalpur in 1989 and Bombay in 1992-93 come to mind immediately. Justice was surely denied to the victims. And what about Gujarat in 2002 and its aftermath? The Best Bakery case was transferred out of Gujarat and the accused criminals were convicted, despite Zaheera Sheikh – the prime witness – turning hostile. This happened largely due to a proactive media and social activists. How many riot cases of the past can you think of where the accused have actually been convicted? Take another example of Gujarat. A decorated and high profile IPS officer D. G. Vanzara is behind bars for the alleged false encounter case of Sohrabuddin. That was again thanks mainly to media and activists. Take the case of Syed Geelani. Despite the best efforts of Delhi police, Geelani was released by the courts. Take the case of the horrific killing of Graham Staines and his two children in Orissa in 1999. The courts have sentenced the prime accused Dara Singh to life.

Go back to the Priyadarshani Mattoo case where the prime accused was the son of a top IPS officer. Think for a while about the brutal murder of Jessica Lal, where the prime accused was the son of a top Congress leader. You must surely still remember the murder of Nitish Katara, where the prime accused was the son of an alleged don and top politician of Western UP. In each case, the accused have been convicted, despite valid allegations from the media and activists that the prosecuting authorities were out to protect the accused. Surely nobody believes that brothers Sushil and Gopal Ansal were directly and personally responsible for the Uphaar Cinema tragedy? Yet, they have been convicted and the Supreme Court has even cancelled their bail. The super rich Sanjeev Nanda has been convicted in the notorious BMW case and strictures have been passed against lawyers.

You might say that justice has been obtained in these cases because the victims belonged to middle class urban families and they had access to the media and activists. Those who believe in ‘all is bad with India’ think that the poor and the marginalised never get justice. But what about Bhaiyyalal Bhootmange, a Dalit of Vidarbha whose family members were brutally killed by an upper caste mob in 2006? In September 2008, a court gave the death sentence to six of the accused.

Sure, there is much that is rotten in India and the system. But lets also not forget these ‘positives’. Think, read and enjoy this Double Issue!


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