By M. Hanif Lakdawala
One of the parameters to judge a civilized society is its impartial judiciary and application of law equally to one and all, no innocent being punished and none of the guilty, howsoever high and mighty, spared.
The family members of 1,500 people killed, 1,829 injured and 165 missing in the gruesome riots of December 1992, and January 1993 in Mumbai are denied justice till this date. A society which denies justice to its citizens cannot be called just and civilized.
Setting up commissions of inquiry is a knee-jerk response by those in authority whenever they anticipate a building-up of public outrage. The public in turn has become cynical of these commissions and their reports.
In the case of B.N. Srikrishna commission report, however, the citizens cannot afford to be cynical. The psyche of the city after the 1992-1993 riots had been ruptured. Mumbai, till then a land of opportunity and amity between the different strata of the society, turned out to be a requiem for a voice of sanity and peaceful co-existence, after the riots.
Inspite of the Shiv-Sena Government's efforts-to, first put the report in cold storage, then a shameful act of maligning the character of an honest and an upright judge by playing communal card, the truth has come out in open exposing the perpetrators of the holocaust to public scrutiny.
The commission has submitted its report in two volumes. The first consists of seven chapters, covering the background leading to the riots of December 1992 and January 1993 and gives its finding and recommendations commensurate with its terms and reference.
Volume II of the report discusses the evidential nuances and detailed narration of events, in respect to 26 police stations under the jurisdiction of the Mumbai Police Commissionerate.
Besides, it contains the analysis of the statements by political leaders, journalists and certain police officers.
Displaying exemplary courage, justice B.N. Srikrishna has produced a report that is unflinching in its conclusion that it has implicated the Shivsena and its leadership in the Mumbai riots of 1992-93. The report has squarely blamed Shivsena supremo Bal Thackeray, who commanded his loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate by organised attacks against Muslims.
Equally important was the Srikrishna's report's indictment of the Chief Minister, Mr. Manohar Joshi, and M.P. Mr. Madhukar Sarotdar for their defence of the sort of incendiary propaganda that ignited the riots of January 1993 in their exposition of a "doctrine of retaliation" suggesting the "Shivsena's terror" was the "true guarantee of the safety of citizens".
As expected, justice B.N. Srikrishna does not spare the Congress for its "vacillation", "effete political leadership", and for allowing factional feuds to fuel the mayhem that tore Mumbai's social fabric asunder. Both Mr. Sharad Pawar, the then defence minister and his adversary, Mr. Sudhakarrao Naik, the Chief Minister, are hauled up in the report.
Justice Srikrishna had a detailed analysis of police role during the 1992-93 riots. In his report he has indicted 15 police officers including then joint commissioner of police R.D. Tyagi, and 16 police constables for their 'delinquency' during the riots.
The commission has traced the roots of the riots to L.K. Advani's Rathyatra and the celebration of the demolition of Babri Masjid by some Hindus. The commission has taken exception to certain slogans like "mandir vahee-banayenge" and "Is desh mein rehana hoga to Vande Mataram Khana hoga".
For the riot's victims, the Srikrishna commission has held a significance that goes beyond the merely therapeutic. It remains the last hope of a traumatised populace for settling the record straight, for identifying loopholes in the administration and above all, for securing justice.
Of the Maharashtra government's logic of 'Let bygones be by gones', justice Srikrishna opines that, "By that logic, you would have to scrap the entire criminal law. It is based on the theory of retribution -identify the criminal and punish him. As a judge it is my duty to see that the guilty are punished. If a judge says, "Let bygones be bygones", he is abdicating his responsibility."
British, Jurist Sir Cyril Salmon, in a lecture on 'Tribunals of inquiry' had observed that in all countries, certainly in those which enjoy freedom of speech and free press, moments occur .. causing a nation-wide crisis of confidence in the integrity of public life.. when it does, it is essential that public confidence should be restored, for without it no democracy can long survive.. " Indisputably, the Mumbai riots of 1992-93 constituted such a moment.
There is a conspicuous tendency within political and official circles to minimise the scale of the murder, mayhem, arson and sheer human suffering in the riotous anarchy which convulsed Mumbai during 1992-93 communal riots.
Regrettably, most of the criminal cases lodged during the riots by the police were abruptly closed pending the commission's report. Action against errant police officers was also withheld on the same grounds. Justice Srikrishna, has now said that the time has come for "retribution" and for the guilty to be exposed.
Laxity in enforcing the writ of the law and meting out the punishment prescribed by the law will send out all the wrong signals to both law-breakers and law enforcers all over the country.
Yet it needs to be re-emphasised that the enforcement of the law and due process is almost entirely depending upon the pressure of public opinion, because given half a chance, politicians and policemen-who one can safely assume are guilty of dereliction of duty, if not worse-will scuttle or ignore the commission's recommendations. It is for the people of this great country to build up enough pressure through peaceful means to ensure that justice is not only done but also seen to be done.
The irony is that the individuals and the party accused of committing the crime are in power. It is up to them to act upon the recommendations of the Srikrishna commission and punish the guilty. The Sena-BJP alliance government, instead of making expiation for their sins, is busy offering oblations and paying obeisance to their Chief Bal Thackeray.
Democracy means the ruler must serve the interest of citizens. In a republic, there are no divine rights. To preserve the pluralistic nature of our social and political order, and by that same token, ensure that fanatics, irrespective of their religious affiliations, are kept on a tight leash, can only be achieved through providing justice to all, at any cost. Only justice can act as an anodyne for our fractured social fabric.
Prof. Dr. Mumtaz Ali Khan
Srikrishna Commission Report is a well argued, well evidenced and thought-provoking document produced by Justice Srikrishna, a God fearing, socially sensitive and judiciously conscious judge of the High Court of Mumbai. The Commission was set up primarily to look into the causes, courses and consequences of the riots which disfigured the fair image of the cosmopolitan city of Mumbai in December 1992 and January 1993. This commission was set up by the Congress government in Maharashtra. The Report was submitted to the present BJP-Shiva Sena combined government of Maharashtra.
This Report which was reluctantly laid on the table of the houses of Maharashtra Legislature has become a controversial one. It is equally significant as it contains many pertinent sociological inputs. It exposes the deeply
poisoned mind and foul hands of some activists of BJP-Shiva Sena. It upholds the great social and moral values that the vast majority of Hindus have retained despite the riots initiated by some Muslims and Hindus. The tolerance preached by the broad philosophy of great sages and scriptures of the Hindus is now seen practised by a vast majority of them.
Let me analyse in brief the reactions of the press and people at large to the contents of the Report. What are the reactions of the various political parties? In general, as said earlier, the vast majority of the Hindu intellectuals
have condemned the unruly behaviour of the Shiva Sena, namely Bal Thackeray, who alone is responsible for the well planned and executed attacks on the Muslims. The heavy losses in terms of both lives and properties are said
to be unprecedented. All the political parties barring Shiva Sena BJP have outrightly condemned them and appreciated the commission. The press which reflects the realities of the society has condemned them. Thus, the Report of Srikrishna is accepted by the whole nation barring a microscopic section of the Hindu population.
The prejudice of Shiva Sena BJP is seen from the two decisions of the Maharashtra government run by Shiva Sena BJP. This government had dissolved the commission itself on frivolous grounds as it knew the music it had
to face when the Report was out. It is only the great Atal Bihari Vajpayee during his first short lived tenure as the Prime Minister who asked the Maharashtra government to allow the commission to renew its work. Perhaps Shiva Sena might be cursing Vajpayee today.
The Report is simply rejected by the Shiva Sena BJP government on the ground that it is "Pro-Muslim and anti-Hindu". There cannot be anything more absurd and illogical than this. How can Srikrishna be pro-Muslim?
It is true that his reasoning is virtually opposed to that of this combined ruling party. While the former is a judge free from biases and prejudices, the latter are just the opposite. While Srikrishna says that the main provocation
for the Muslims was the demolition of Babri Masjid and this provocation was spontaneous, the Shiva Sena BJP rulers say that they have a different understanding of the genesis. It argues that the special civil code for the minorities, the reversal of the Supreme Court Judgment in Shah Bano Case, the Muslim opposition to the signing of Vande Mataram, the use of loud speakers for Namaz, honorarium granted for the Maulvis and the concessions given for the Haj pilgrims and so on are the real causes for the bitterness among the Hindus.
These feelings are confined to the BJP Siva Sena groups only and as such do not vouch for the entire Hindus. No other group or party has ever raised these issues so far. In fact, Muslims in general are not demanding subsidy for the Haj. Muslims want honest implementation of the various constitutional rights and safeguards for them. If they demand and if the government does it, how does this assume communal colour?
It is of great importance to point out what some great Hindus have said about this controversy. Mr. Tushar Gandhi, the great-grand-son of Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of peace and harmony, filed a public interest writ
petition in Mumbai High Court for directing the Maharashtra government and the Director General of Police to register Criminal cases against all those responsible for the 1992-93 riots. He has argued that the government
cannot summarily dismiss the Report and the remarks made against Srikrishna are highly derogatory, contemptuous and unjustified.
Former Mumbai High Court Judge Justice H. Suresh has said "Srikrishna Report is a fair document and it was prepared on the evidence which was brought before justice Srikrishna. He has further said, (with reference
to Bal Thackeray) "Today, even a former Prime-Minister like P.V. Narasimha Rao can be prosecuted, a former Chief Minister like Laloo Prasad Yadav can be prosecuted, US President Bill Clinton can be prosecuted". He means
thereby why not Bal Thackeray be prosecuted.
In sum, if rule of law has to prevail, the Central government should dismiss the present Maharashtra Government, and ensure legal processes against the culprits not merely for the riots but also for insulting justice
Srikrishna. The report and also the reactions of the secular Hindu leaders and the press should make Muslims in particular throughout the world realise that Hindus in general are the well-wishers of Muslims who are safe in
By Andalib Akhter
NEW DELHI : At least 300 minority groups from Maharashtra have jointly petitioned the Supreme Court against the state government's rejection of the Srikrishna commission report finding on the 1992-93 Mumbai riots.
Named as "Action committee for the implementation of Srikrishna commission report" the petition filed on August 21, seeks a direction from the court to declare invalid, the Maharashtra government's, "memorandum of action to be taken" on Srikrishna report. By that memorandum, the state government had rejected the Srikrishna report and declared it as "biased".
The committee also appealed the supreme court to abolish the Article 3(4) of Inquiry Commission Act, which enables the government to reject the commission without any reason.
The action committee also seeks direction from the SC that the victims of Mumbai riots be given compensation as was done in case 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
Later addressing a press conference the spokesman of the Action Committee Mr. C.M. Ibrahim said the rejection of the commission report by the Maharashtra government was a unusual step.
He said by rejecting a report prepared by a judge of High Court and terming it biased the state government has insulted the judiciary.
By terming the report anti-Hindu, the state government wanted to give a communal colour to the issue.
Meanwhile Maharashtra Chief Minister Manohar Joshi on Aug 24 said here that he would prefer to resign than to take action against Bal Thackery and Shiv Sainks.