Friday, August 31, 2012

The acquittal of Faheem Ansari and some questions

The trial court in Ahmedabad created history of sorts by convicting a senior BJP leader and former minister in the Narendra Modi government, Mayaben Kodnani, and a former Bajrang Dal convener Babu Bajrangi along with 30 others for the massacre of innocent Muslims in Naroda Patiya. This is the first case in which political leaders, if one can call them that, have been found guilty. The tears streaming down the faces of the survivors of this terrible terrible massacre was indication of the suffering and trauma they have gone through in all these years.

The Supreme Court, while convicting Kasab, acquitted two Indian Muslims, Farheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed, who had been accused by the Mumbai investigators of being co-conspirators. The lower courts had acquitted them, but clearly the authorities had gone in appeal to the apex court that has upheld the acquittal. Significantly, except for a few newspapers no one even bothered to speak of this important acquittal, and even the sections of the media that reported the facts did not dwell on the trauma that the two men and their families must have gone through.

Who is going to compensate them? Rehabilitate them and their families? There isn’t even a hint of an apology from the state government and all those responsible for keeping two innocent men in jail for a crime they clearly had no part in. In fact more and more reports from Maharashtra suggest that such arrests have become a common practice with the police and the politicians totally unaccountable for the numbers of innocent people they arrest, torture and jail without any proof whatsoever. So while the nation exults over the death sentence for Kasab, it should also pause to pay some thought to the two innocent men whose lives have been ruined in the process.

The second case of Naroda Patiya also has an untold story, of the 97 victims who were brutally raped and killed by a 5,000 strong mob on February 28,2002 of whom 32 have been convicted by the courts. But what about the rest? Where are they? Why have they not been arrested? This along with the trauma and the suffering of the victims is a story that needs to be tracked down, and told. For, while justice has been dispensed, the country needs to assess whether it has been enough, whether there are several loose ends that need to be tied so that the secular and just foundations of India are not just strengthened, but protected against future assault.

The investigating authorities seem to be falling short in more ways than one. Innocent persons are arrested, tortured, jailed and released only after the court’s intervene. Guilty persons are able to evade the investigators and walk free as the investigating agencies fail to collect sufficient proof, or at times, even find the accused even though they are giving interviews to the media. The point here is that while the higher judiciary at least is trying to do its job with a modicum of responsibility and honesty, politicization and corruption has hit the police and the investigating agencies to a point where fiction often replaces facts.
Seema Mustafa in DNA. Here

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