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06 October 2011

Discrimination against Muslims: A question that India needs to answer

I owe it to Barkha Dutt who brought out in a recent programme of hers how 21 Muslim youth from Hyderabad were wrongly implicated in the Mecca Masjid blast. That was not all. They were subjected to third degree torture, which was done to force them to admit to a crime which they had not committed. The government failed to find any evidence against them and said sheepishly that they were arrested on wrong grounds.
This only confirms how the police in India picks up young Muslims whenever there is a blast. Most in the majority community are so biased that they accept the official version readily. The truth is out only when the authorities failed to prove the charges. In this case, they remained in jail for five years. In fact, the credit goes to the court which acquitted them.
The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has recommended a compensation of Rs 300,000 each. The victims have justifiably expressed cynicism over the NCM’s decision. How can money erase the stigma which they will carry for the rest of their lives? The Muslim youth have gone on record to say: every time there is a festival or trouble in the city, the police come looking for us. We are falsely implicated in the first place and even after acquittal we carry the stone of anti-national around our necks. Dr Junaid, who runs a clinic at Hafizbanagar in the old city of Hyderabad regrets that the “payment of a few lakhs cannot make up for the sufferings we underwent because of our religion.”
Naturally, Muslims wonder whether secularism means anything when it comes to punishing Hindus. What happens to equality guaranteed by the constitution of India?
This is the question which India has to answer. Take the case of Gujarat. Even 10 years after the killings, there is no real punishment. How does the Muslim community put faith in the polity? Thetamasha that chief minister Narendra Modi puts up every now and then does not impress anyone about the sudden rekindling of faith in communal harmony. He is not even sorry.
When this incident came to light, parliament was in session. No member mentioned it either in the Lok Sabha or in the Rajya Sabha. There was a short debate on the Gujarat government’s action against two senior police officers who have redeemed the honour of the force to some extent by exposing Modi’s complicity. One of them, Sanjiv Bhatt was first suspended and now prosecuted for having filed public interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court against Modi’s involvement in the state riots. Bhatt’s conscience stirred him after some years and he submitted an affidavit to say what he had seen. The other officer, Rahul Sharma, DIG, was given notice for passing on telephone call records of certain BJP leaders to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court.
Strange, the SIT has been dissolved without the Indian public knowing the contents of its report. The Supreme Court has also sent the case back to the trial court for hearing. The judgment is faulty but the worst part is that the court has not commented on what the two officers disclosed. At least their submissions should have been noted because they dared the state government.
No doubt, small mercies, but Home Minister P Chidambaram has at least said that the centre had the option of protecting the officers who belonged to the all India Police Service under the supervision of the central government. As expected, the BJP jumped at Chidambaram’s throat. How can a step to protect the officers be taken as interference in the state affairs? Understandably, the BJP is trying to save Modi. But the party should realise that he would be punished, however late.
By Kuldip NayarPublished in The Express Tribune:


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