Justice Verma and his two colleagues on the commission set up to examine laws dealing with sexual abuse and terror have served the nation well in making a thorough examination of the subject in its widest amplitude and coming up with a range of pertinent observations and recommendations. This elaborate report was prepared in just 29 days with exemplary speed without falling short on data, analysis and findings. It now remains for the government and Parliament to match this dedication and legislate a new legal framework without the endless delays and side-interventions that have marked the working of the commissions headed by Liberhan and Nanavaty. The main recommendations have been widely discussed and one should now expect the Centre to take counsel with the states and introduce and pass a new framework law in one or more enactments that honors and protects the girl child and women of India from rape, molestation, neglect and patriarchal discrimination. The legislation should, hopefully, find backing from all parties and social groups and be enacted not later than in the monsoon session. Among the matters examined by the commission are police reforms which are fundamental to every aspect of law and order and criminal justice. Evidence of the police’s participation in the recent Dhule riot in which Muslims were targeted by them, shows how deep the rot has spread. Unfortunately, there has been limited progress in implementing police reform despite the Supreme Court’s directive on the subject. The opposition comes from across the political spectrum. All political parties are determined to retain the police and intelligence agencies as handmaids to serve their partisan agendas rather than as efficient and effective instruments for ensuring a safe and orderly society, and as the bedrock of the criminal justice system. This aspect of the Verma report should not be fobbed off yet another time as parties continue to play their dirty little games. One other matter merits emphasis. There are a plethora of laws on the statute book and many matters could be ameliorated or resolved if only they were strictly and promptly implemented. Delay leads to evasion, immunity and impunity. Influential and moneyed persons are differentially treated. A lecherous politician like Narayan Dutt Tiwari or a convicted criminal like O.P. Chautala have sought consideration on grounds of age and status. These demands are accepted only at the cost of the hallowed principle of equality before law. Unequal justice is an injustice and justifies criminality in angry young minds because of the outrage it breeds as some are placed above and beyond the rigors of the law. The Trinamool Congress is fast becoming addicted to violence and bluster against all dissidents, internal or external. A dehorsed Nitin Gadkari, charged with financial misconduct, has claimed that the income tax investigations against the Purthi group of companies with which he is associated was timed to sabotage his reelection as BJP president! Further, he has warned the officials who have merely done their duty to beware the wrath of the BJP when it is returned to power in 2014.This is taking resort to threats and blackmail. Meanwhile, the Home Minister, Sushilkumar Shinde, has stirred an avoidable controversy by charging the RSS and the BJP with training and unleashing Hindu terror. He was referring to bombing incidents in Malegaon, Ajmer, Hyderabad and elsewhere in 2007 when people like Swami Asseemanand, Sunil Joshi, Sandeep Dange and others bearing “Hindu” names were apprehended.
The cases are pending and nothing has been conclusively proven though strong circumstantial evidence has surfaced. The RSS and the BJP have reacted strongly against the use of the phrase “Hindu terror”, arguing that terrorists cannot be labeled by faith.
This is true, though “saffron” is more commonly used to denote Hindu right-wing connections. The BJP has threatened to prevent Parliament’s functioning unless Shinde apologizes or is sacked. The Congress has dissociated itself from the phrase “Hindu terror” but has otherwise defended Shinde.
The fact is that it was the Parivar that first used the phrase “Muslim terror” with glee. Men like Narendra Modi openly spoke of “Miah” misdeeds and declared that while not all Muslims were not terrorists, all terrorists so far apprehended were Muslim. The RSS and the BJP, therefore, protest too much, though it is true that all sides should eschew associating terrorism with faith.
Be that as it may, obstructing Parliament yet again would be irresponsibly to punish the nation for Shinde’s faux pas and once again stall important and urgent legislation and hold the country to ransom. The marked communal tendencies that are surfacing in the country are most worrying, The Sachar Committee’s recommendations have been tardily implemented and open discrimination against the community persists.
After being given a state funeral out of fear of Shiv Sena hooliganism, permission to build a memorial to him in Shivaji Park in Mumbai is being mooted after a first refusal. Communal elements of all hues once again targeted the Jaipur Literary Festival on frivolous grounds while in Chennai, the release of Kamal Haasan’s new film, “Viswaroopam”, has been stayed on the ground of alleged anti-Muslim bias that could cause law and order problems. Once again, a film passed by the Film Censor Board is being censored by groups alleging hurt sentiment though it has been released elsewhere without disturbing the peace. Appeasement of communalism only encourages the same.
Externally, the sentencing of David Coleman Headley, a US-Pakistan double agent, to only 35 years in prison in the US for his central role in staking the killing fields for the 26/11 attack in Mumbai in close collaboration with the Lashkar-e- Taiba and Hafiz Saeed has come as a grave disappointment. Even the trial judge stated that Headley deserved the death sentence but was saved from that only because of his plea bargain with the US authorities who milked him for some very damaging information of the sequence of events but not fully shared with India. Requests by Delhi for his further interrogation by Indian sleuths or extradition to India have been turned down by Washington. The US war on terror is obviously selective at the expense of Indian lives.
And now comes another confession by a Pakistani Corps Commander, Lt-Gen Shahid Aziz, in 1998 that it was Musharraf who planned and pushed the utterly deceitful Kargil war that resulted in “total disaster”. No Mujahideen were involved but only Pakistani troops who crossed the LoC. This is no new revelation but only a further confirmation of the history of malicious lies and crass denials that Pakistan has repeatedly lived off since 1947.
No wonder that President Mukherjee said in his Republic Day address that while India seeks friendship with Pakistan, Islamabad should not take this friendship for granted. Let the Pakistan government respond to this latest piece of “literature” as the Pakistan High Commissioner, Salman Bashir, would so elegantly phrase it.