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Mainstream, VOL LX No 31, New Delhi, July 23, 2022

When Accused Become Innocent and Innocent Are Made Accused | Sandeep Pandey

Friday 22 July 2022, by Sandeep Pandey

Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by Nathu Ram Godse. There are some people subscribing to Hindutva ideology who idolize Godse. Various leaders, and activists associated with the Hindutva ideology from time to time have portrayed Godse as a patriot. The question is Gandhi was the tallest leader of India’s freedom movement and even before India achieved independence Godse was making an attempt to kill Gandhi, so, how could Godse be a patriot? But by describing Godse as a patriot Mahatma Gandhi’s sacrifice is belittled. A school in Gujarat in 2019 asked its class 9 students in a question paper as to how Mahatma Gandhi committed suicide? If Hindutva ideology had its way, it may even convince people of the country one day that Gandhi committed suicide and was not murdered just as students in present-day China do not learn anything about the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre. Also, the Sangh Parivar would like to wash this taint as Mahatma Gandhi is globally the most respected Indian. This is the reason Narendra Modi chose him as an icon for the Swachcha Bharat Mission and at least pays him token respect abroad whenever it suits him.

When Babri Masjid was going to be demolished on 6 December 1992, both Prime Minister P.V. Narsimha Rao and Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Kalyan Singh swore allegiance to the Constitution and vowed to protect the mosque. However, after the mosque was demolished Kalyan Singh claimed that he was a member of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh first and a Chief Minister later. A number of leading politicians of the Bhartiya Janata Party including Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, etc., were made accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case. In 2019, the Supreme Court of India (SC) while admitting that the demolition of Babri Masjid was a criminal act awarded the land on which the mosque stood for the construction of a Ram temple there. As expected, the accused in the Babri Masjid demolition were also let off by a court in UP. Hence a criminal act was justified and now it is made to appear as if there is a consensus in the country on building a Ram temple in Ayodhya where the mosque stood once with even politicians of opposition parties like Congress contributing towards the construction of the temple.

More recently, Teesta Setalvad, R.B. Sreekumar, and Sanjiv Bhatt, who were trying to get justice for the victims of 2002 communal violence in Gujarat and bring to book the culprits are being made to appear as conspirers. Narendra Modi, the then CM, has been given so-called ‘clean chit’ by the SC about whom Sanjiv Bhatt, in an affidavit submitted to the court, has said that in a meeting on the evening of the Godhra train burning incident, Narendra Modi had told senior police officers to let the Hindus vent their anger for some time. Even if this meeting did not take place senior IAS officer Harsh Mander and IPS officer Vibhuti Narain Rai have claimed that any riot cannot go on beyond a few hours without the complicity of the government. The same SC which has pronounced judgment in 2019 in the Bilkis Bano case asking the Gujarat government to pay Rs. 50 lakhs and provide a government job to the gang rape victim of 2002 violence has now come down so heavily on an activist and former police officers who were helping the courts earlier so as to suggest that action should be taken against them. Question is, is Zakia Jafri wrong in seeking justice for the murder of her husband and former Congress Member of Parliament Ehsan Jafri, and is Teesta Setalvad wrong in helping Zakia Jafri? Are we to forget that communal violence took place in Gujarat in 2002, are we to forget that Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi were convicted for having participated in the Naroda Patiya massacre during the 2002 communal violence, even though the former was acquitted later and the latter given a bail, are we to forget that Narendra Modi was denied visa by the United States and some European countries for 9 years for his complicity in the 2002 violence?

Are we to forget that several police officers and Amit Shah were arrested in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kausar Bi, and Tulsiram Prajapati fake encounter case and the case had to be transferred from Gujarat to Bombay High Court, even though all accused were acquitted when BJP came to power at the centre, are we to forget the Justice B.H. Loya who wanted Amit Shah to appear in court died under mysterious circumstances?

A case has now also been registered against Medha Patkar for financial embezzlement in a trust Narmada Nav Nirman Abhiyan by a Hindutva office bearer. One V.K. Saxena, about whose background very little is known, published an advertisement against Medha Patkar and Narmada Bachao Andolan and since then has been embroiled in legal cases. V.K. Saxena’s affiliations became clear when he was elevated first as Chairperson of Khadi Village and Industries Commission and then as Lieutenant Governor of Delhi by the BJP government and Medha Patkar, who has committed her life to the struggle of marginalized sections of society facing any injustice, is facing a First Information Report and legal cases.

The latest is SC has asked activist Himanshu Kumar to pay a fine of Rs. 5 lakh for filing a petition seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the alleged killing of 16 tribals by police and security forces in 2009 at Gompad in Chhattisgarh. Himanshu Kumar has stated that seeking justice is not a crime and therefore he will not pay the fine.

Welcome to the new India where the accused will be made to appear as innocent and the system will try to protect them and the innocent will be portrayed in a bad light. Activism, fighting for human rights, and speaking the truth have become liabilities.

(Author: Sandeep Pandey is General Secretary of Socialist Party (India))

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