The Departure Of Anand Prakash, An Extra-Ordinary Crusader Who Stood Up For Justice


The news of the demise of the unassuming, down-to-earth Anand Prakash, who led the struggle for justice for Ruchika Girhotra tirelessly for 26 long years once again brought to my mind the words of a young woman relating the story of her fight for justice to me – “Power and pelf hold sway and ordinary folk like me stand no chance of being able to beat them and get justice.” The struggle of Anand Prakash – and his wife Madhu – is a shining exception to this “rule” and is a beacon of hope for the countless who suffer the pangs of injustice. To have attended 400 hearings in the trial court alone, and persisted in the pursuit of justice, the case going up to the Supreme Court that ultimately upheld the conviction of former Haryana DGP S.P.S. Rathore who was the accused in a case of molestation of the not-yet-14 years old Ruchika, was a herculean effort indeed that makes one both bow the head as a mark of respect and raise the hand in salute.

When folk like Anand Prakash take their leave of this world, one is afflicted by a deep sense of loss but at the same time feel inspired by the man and his crusade. What fills one with the greatest admiration for the couple is the fact that they fought this battle for a girl who was not their biological off-spring but the friend of their daughter. The quantum of punishment upheld by the apex court – six months in jail that had already been served, remitted – is another matter, though. This was something that justifiably left Anand Prakash and his wife only partially satisfied after the long, hard struggle they had waged from 1990, when Ruchika was molested, to 2016 when the apex court’s decision came.

We have, of course, been repeatedly witness to cases that have caught our attention because of the characters involved – especially those in power or near the centres of power. Occasionally, there have been cases that we were forced to take note of because of the sheer brutality involved. What is equally striking is that most of these relate to crimes against women. The Nirbhaya Case of 2012, the case involving the Dera Sacha Sauda chief and the Varnika Kundu case readily come to mind as the most recent. The way these cases were filed and were or are being fought to stand up to injustice is a beacon in an otherwise dismal scenario of crimes against women. This is the reason we need to salute people like Anand Prakash and others who have taken up this fight in right earnest.

This moment of remembrance of this crusader, however, makes one think in a wider context too – and look back a bit for lessons for the present.

Cases such as these are landmarks that need to be remembered and recalled every now and then in this age of short attention-spans. One aspect, though, is as to how the case is fought, how the courts and the prosecutors function to see to it that justice is done. The Dera case points to the significant fact that even though the wheels of justice still take years to bring justice home, it also involves some sort of a collective efficient functioning in moving against the accused.

Just to recall, we know of the two brave girls and journalist Ramchandra Chhatrapati who, in a sense, brought everything out into the open in the Dera Sacha Sauda Case. We also know of Chhatrapati’s son Anshul who did not relent and carried on with his father’s crusade. Also known now is the courage of conviction displayed by ASP Satish Dagar (assisted by Inspector R.K.Khajuria), entrusted with the investigation and gathering of evidence for the case; the steadfastness of M.Narayanan who headed the CBI probe, Special Public Prosecutor H.P.S.Verma and, of course the CBI Court’s Judge, Jagdeep Singh – and the Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court comprising Hon’ble Chief Justice (Acting) S.S.Saron and Hon’ble Justices Avneesh Jhingan and Surya Kant. These are names that need to be remembered and recalled every now and then in this land of ours in which justice is very often so very difficult to get – and even when one does get it, it takes years and energy out of one’s life before a decision is reached – and that too, not always the one that it should be.

The Power of One transformed into the Collectivity of Fighters for Justice is how the Dera case came to be successful. Even as we celebrate the individuals who stood their ground, it needs to be underlined that such success has a layered reality. Work has to be done at various planes and levels to ensure that all the functionaries of Law are working in tandem, towards the one goal of working for nothing but Justice for the one who knocks at its doors. The blindfolded holder of the scales of Justice has to act dispassionately – but for Justice.

It now stands revealed through cases such as these that courage and determination of individuals in the face of intimidation, threats and the heavy odds stacked against them, and the single-mindedness of purpose to see justice being done can bring power and pelf down to their knees. And yet, one does have to say that if even one of the links in the chain of justice is weak, even if one of these does not withstand the assault of inducements, intimidations and threats, the verdict might well not be what it should come out to be.

‘Power and Pelf hold sway…..” As my mind went back to the young woman’s words that were tinged with deep disappointment if not despair, this is the thought that struck me – in spite of the courage of one individual (may be even more than one) like Anand Prakash to take the first brave step, it needs the courage of at least a few working towards the common goal of Justice to bring things to fruition.

As one pays homage to the courage and determination of Anand and Madhu Prakash, one also imagines what such crusaders have to go through. One is filled with immense respect for the courage showed by such men and women as one thinks of their long years of struggle, their visits to the court, the discomfiting questionings and cross-questionings, the threats and intimidations that they most likely face, their moments of depression at times – and much more. Even as I say this, one is struck by the fact that in all these cases, including the one concerning the young woman whose observation I recalled at the outset, it is women who have been the sufferers as well as the victors through the glorious and heroic struggles they waged. The Last Salute to Anand Prakash is all the more poignant, for he fought for Ruchika-in-absentia, and won it for her, as if it were she herself fighting it out for her honour in court.

Ramnik Mohan is an Associate Professor (Retd.) based in Rohtak (Haryana) and has been actively engaged with organisations working in the fields of literacy, education, women’s issues and for progressive values.


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