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Millennium Post

United in massacres and impunity

Last year, on 3 June 2011, the Bhajanapura village of Forbesganj block in the Araria district of Bihar, witnessed a police firing on a number of its villagers, while they were protesting against the blockade of a road that connected the village to the Idgah, Karbala and market by a private company. The firing was ordered by the then superintendent of police, Garima Malik. In the firing at Bhajanpura, four civilians, including a woman and an infant, were killed on the spot and nine badly injured. During my visit to the village, I was told that in addition to the SP and the SDO, a local councillor [with political links to the BJP and deputy chief minister, Sushil Kumar Modi] was also present, and, not only did he instigate the police, but he had also personally fired at the villagers. The protestors were chased into their homes and killed. Later, a gruesome video recording of a policeman jumping and trampling upon the faces and bodies of injured, half dead young men surfaced. It exposed the depths to which the state machinery had fallen in the name of upholding ‘law and order’, and the reality of ‘good governance’.  

One year after the brutal killings, the victims are still waiting for justice. The one man commission instituted to investigate the matter is yet to submit its report, though it was supposed to submit it within six months of its institution. Similarly, the report of the fact-finding team of the National Commission of Human Rights (NHRC), which visited the village in the month of July last year is yet to be made public. So far, compensation has not been granted, saying that the matter is under investigation. Not a single officer or police personnel or private parties involved in the firing have been suspended or charged. Moreover, when a PIL was filled at the Supreme Court of India seeking CBI enquiry into the matter, the Bihar government did not take notice of the Supreme Court seriously, initially. Later, through an affidavit, it termed the killings as a ‘minor incident’. But this is not the first time that the state and its apparatus have denied justice to its citizens. Looking after various cases of police firing and state supported violence, it is evident that it has become a pattern of ‘governance’.

Take the case of Gopalgarh village of Bharatpur district of Rajasthan. On 14 September last year, 10 people were killed and 38 injured while praying inside the Jama Masjid. The incident took place when the police resorted to indiscriminate firing on the mosque amid tension between Gujjars and Muslims. Some of the policemen even joined the armed Gujjar mob that stormed into the mosque and lynched the worshippers. The firing was ordered by the Bharatpur collector Krishna Kunal. After much pressure and state-wide protests, the collector was suspended for his failure to control communal violence. But recently, in a quiet move following a stay granted by the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), the Congress-led government in Rajasthan has reinstated former Bharatpur collector Krishna Kunal.

But the list of massacres and impunity does not end here. Here is a similar story from Kerala. On 17 May 2009, the Kerala police entered a Muslim fishermen colony of Beemapalli and opened fire at the locals, killing six and injuring 52. The deceased included a 16-year-old boy playing cricket at the beach, who after being shot at, was attacked with the bayonet of a gun. Three years down the line, similar to the cases mentioned above, nothing has yet been done. The judicial commission instituted under the chairmanship of justice K Ramakrishnan in August 2009, which began functioning on 17 March 2010 and collected evidence from almost 60 witnesses, submitted its report to the chief minister on 4 January 2012. However, the report is yet to be made public, leave alone the question of implementing its recommendations. The firing took place when the Communist Party of India-Marxist led Left Democratic Front government was in power. Now, the state is ruled by the Congress-led United Democratic Front, with its major ally, the Muslim League. Despite the change in power and with the ‘secular’ Congress, and the ‘champion of the Muslim cause’ — the Muslim League — being at the helm of affairs, there is no sign of justice.  

Here, one is also reminded of the cases of communal violence in Rudrapur (Uttarakhand), Moradabad (Uttar Pradesh), and many others like it. However, the classic case out of all these is the case of Hashimpura, a town near Meerut district of Uttar Pradesh, which took place 25 years ago. On 22 May 1987, in Hashimpura, 42 innocent Muslims were killed in cold blood by the personnel of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC). Trial in the case, which was transferred from Ghaziabad court to Tis Hazari in Delhi, on the orders of the Supreme Court, is yet to conclude. The matter is still in the court and the victims are still in the hope of getting justice.

All these places and others might not have any direct geographical or political connection but there is something which connects all these places together, which is massacres and impunity. Crime, nay terror and violence unleashed by state and its various agencies, denial of justice to the victims of these massacres and killings.

At all these places, while the victims live in fear, the perpetrators roam free under the patronage of the state government. Notably, it does not matter which political party is in power. These can be the ‘secular’ Congress, the communal BJP, the ‘torchbearers’ of social justice, the JDU to BSP to the Marxist – CPM.  When it comes to punishing police personnel and state officials, all are alike. In short, it can be said that all these governments may be divided by parties but are united in massacres and impunity.

Mahtab Alam is a civil rights activist and independent journalist based in Delhi.
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