Legitimate Rights of Victims

Time the ruling dispensation decides whether it is committed to rule of law and protection of rights of victims and survivors of heinous crimes or their perpetrators ?

in jail

Truth has an uncanny ability of popping up suddenly when you are least aware of it.

PM Modi and his closest confidant Amit Shah must be realising it of late.

Thanks to the intervention by the Supreme Court – prodded by the bold initiative of leading women activists, journalists who approached it to cancel the remission of sentences of convicts in the Bilkis Bano case that a very ‘inconvenient fact’ regarding this shameful episode has come to light.

Documents submitted by the Gujarat government itself after they were instructed by the highest court make it quite explicit:

One, the complicity and connivance of the Centre itself in the premature release of rapists and murderers on the grounds of ‘good behaviour’;

Two, approval of this remission by Home Ministry led by Amit Shah despite strong objections raised by the CBI and the Special judge who had deliberated over the case.

As per the Supreme Court the document filed by the Gujarat government is “very bulky” and “factual statement” is missing from it(https://indianexpress.com/article/india/bilkis-bano-gangrape-case-supreme-court-gujarat-government-remission-convicts-8215266/) making it obvious that it involves lot of word jugglery to hide the real motive

Of course, what has been left unsaid in the said document should not remain unmentioned.

Such a major decision, which was related to PM’s home state itself and had a lot of bearing on the coming elections to the state, would not have been taken without taking him into confidence

The Supreme Court’s two member bench led by Justices Ajay Rohatagi and C T Ravi Kumar – which is handling the case – has fixed 29 th Nov as next date of hearing  and asked both the parties to to file their responses.

Right now it is bit unclear what will be the outcome of the legal intervention.

Whether it will result in some weird judgement – after a long drawn legal battle – glossing over obvious facts which will leave the victims and survivors further diminished with some sealed envelope being provided to it as evidence – as has happened few earlier cases ?

Or it will be a trendsetter in the sense that it will challenge and reject this brazen intervention by the Home Ministry and order a cancellation of this remission order and send all the now released ‘convicts’’ to jail, and thus try to help restore a sense of confidence among victims and survivors that henceforth there will be no impunity to such perpetrators.

No doubt such a verdict will also help rein in the executive which is increasingly resorting to such steps where it seems more concerned about the ‘rights of the convicts’ and not to the the safety, security and emotional wellbeing of survivors and victims of their depredations.

As one writes these lines Dera Sacha Sauda Chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim – who is a convict in multiple cases of rape, murders and is also being tried for castration of his disciples – is delivering online Satsangs for his disciples after receiving his fifth parole, where regional and district leaders of BJP are seen seeking his blessings ( https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chandigarh/gurmeet-ram-rahim-haryana-prisoner-bjp-z-security-8220493/)

This controversial Guru received his first conviction by the CBI court in Panchkula in 2017 for rape of his women disciples in Dera headquarters in Sirsa and is serving a 20 year jail term ;  he has also been convicted in the murder of journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati (2002)- who stood with these women disciples and fought for their struggle for justice  in 2019 ; has also faced his third conviction for hatching  a conspiracy to kill Dera’s former manager Ranjit Singh, who was shot dead (2002) in 2021.

It is no coincidence that this parole period coincides with Panchayat elections in the state of Haryana and by-elections to Adampur seat and it is common knowledge that Dera Sacha Souda chief – despite his multiple convictions – wields lot of influence in this area and his release on parole is expected to benefit the BJP .

When CM Khattar was asked why this controversial guru was released on parole whereas other convicts with less charges never get any such benefit, he underlined two things – it has been done ‘according to procedure’ and his government is concerned with ‘legitimate rights of convicts’.

Right from the remission of sentences of rapists and murderers in the Bilkis Bano case and their premature release, citing their ‘good behaviour’ to the leniency shown towards a Controversial guru convicted for rape and murder, one thing is increasingly clear that tremendous brazenness has crept in the executive, which seems to have no concern for the plight of victims and survivors.

Perhaps it is better to say that all the talk of government’s concern for ‘rights of convicts’ is just a fig leaf to bulldoze every such voice which still yearns for justice, and their concern for silencing victims, suppressing voices of survivors and invisibilising their long odrawn struggles for justice and peace.

This alleged concern for the ‘legitimate rights of convicts’ gels easily with the way these convicts are received in the society.

The reception of the Controversial Guru in the society where people are ready to pay obeisance before him or the way convicts in the Bilkis Bano were felicitated by people after their release, shows light on the tremendous degradation of the moral compass of the society where it seems to have sense of what is just, what is right and is deciding things as per its own faith or its implicit hatreds.

Such things are passe at least in ‘New India’

Facts tell us that since last more than eight years such glorification / felicitations of people accused of murder, rape and other crimes against humanity or sanitisation of their images has become quite common.

One can easily recall how Jayant Sinha, then a cabinet minister garlanded lynching convicts ( https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/union-minister-jayant-sinha-garlands-8-lynching-convicts-faces-opposition-flak/articleshow/64901863.cms) or how the alleged killers of Pehlu Khan, a Muslim dairy farmer from Haryana, a self-proclaimed band of cow vigilantes, were compared to the likes of Bhagat Singh. ( https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/sadhvi-equates-alwar-lynching-case-accused-with-bhagat-singh/articleshow/58277683.cms) or how body of one of the accused in the Dadri lynching case was covered with the Indian tricolour (https://thewire.in/law/draping-national-flag-on-body-of-dadri-lynching-accused-by-bisada-village-unconstitutional) We can even recall how a  Twitterati even ‘celebrated’ journalist , activist Gauri Lankesh murder’ on his twitter handle.

Instances galore which show how in the last eight years girls, women who faced sexual assaults have consistently received raw deal.

May it be the case of rape and murder of an eight year old Bakkarwal girl Asifa in Jammu, when ministers associated with the ruling dispensation  joined demonstration on streets demanding release of the accused who were put behind bars for their alleged role in the Sexual assault of this little girl.(https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/kathua-rape-murder-case-mastermind-sanji-ram-five-others-convicted-by-special-court-1545855-2019-06-10) or even the Unnao case where a local MLA belonging to ruling dispensation had come under scanner of the police for his alleged role in the rape of a teenaged girl in 2017 and it took a long time it to formally dissociate from him

It may be a puzzling question that what makes such impunity towards rapes, sexual violence and murders possible among Hindutva Supremacists.

Whether it would be proper to say that it flows from the way in which Sangh’s second supremo Golwalkar talked about religious minorities and communists in his famous book ‘Bunch of Thoughts’ where he categorised them as internal threats (https://www.cpiml.net/liberation/2021/02/exposing-golwalkar-in-his-own-words)

Or it would be more proper to say that this attitude has roots in the way Savarkar the ‘pioneer ideologue of Hindutva ‘ has talked of politics of revenge in general and the way he talks about rape and sexual violence against the others.in his ‘‘magnum opus’ Bhartiya Itihasatil Saha Soneri Paane (‘Six Golden Epochs in Indian History)’ In this much discussed book Savarkar propounds the thesis of the ‘collective guilt of Muslims.’ He lays down the thesis that Muslims need to be punished not only what they themselves have done but what their coreligionists had done.

One of the most reprehensible but also the least known part of Savarkar’s life is the way he criticised Shivaji for his chivalry towards the daughter in law of Nawab of Kalyan who was captured and brought before him by his army. He calls this act perverted virtue. ( Bhartiya Itihasatil Saha Soneri Paane, Chapter 4 and 5, P. 147-74). The legend goes that when one of his enthusiastic assistants presented before him the daughter in law of Nawab expecting to get some special favour, Shivaji not only reprimanded him for such act but also punished him and sent back the women to her place with full honour. ( Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History, P. 461, Delhi, Rajdhani Granthagar, 1971.)

Savarkar condemns this act by Shivaji and says that he was wrong as this cultured and human treatment could not evoke in those fanatics the same feelings about Hindu women.

For a layperson also it is easy to comprehend that his condemnation of Chhatrapati Shivaji, a great icon of Hindu-Muslim unity inadvertently or so provides a theoretical justification for brutalisation of women when fighting the ‘enemies’

Subhash Gatade is a left  activist associated with New Socialist Initiative

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