The Weak Must Not Expect Justice

Justice is a luxury beyond the reach of the poor, minorities and tribals, writes MOHAMMAD ZEYAUL HAQUE

Over the last few weeks things have happened which have confirmed our belief (if we had any doubts) that in India justice is not generally available to the poor and the powerless. There are any number of glaring instances of institutional denial of justice to people seriously harmed for no fault of their own.

On June 2, the CBI filed closure reports in three FIRs filed in 2010 against SPS Rathore, former director general of police, Haryana. This man was given an 18-month prison sentence for molesting and torturing a school girl, Ruchika Girhotra. The sentence came after 19 years of hide and seek of the legal game. After serving six months of his prison term he got out on bail.

This influential person did everything to make an ass of the law. In 1990, after she complained that Rathore had molested her, she was expelled by her school for “indiscipline.” The school’s game was out soon as it was found that she had been expelled under the pressure of the omnipotent and almighty policewalla.

Soon, the police started filing false cases against her brother Ashu and torturing him in police custody. Under severe pressure and already broken by humiliation, she committed suicide in 1993. This was a clear case of abetment to suicide and destruction of evidence on part of Rathore and his henchman. Despite all that, the CBI court in Panchkula has found no evidence to substantiate the charges and closed the files.

After 22 years of chasing justice, Ruchika’s family has accepted its fate and the CBI closure. However, a Good Samaritan called Anand Prakash, whose daughter was Ruchika’s friend and witness to the molestation, has fought the case so far and got Rathore sentenced for his misdeed. He has announced that he would file a PIL soon against the CBI court’s decision. With people like him around we have the reassurance of God being just and fair.

There is another police horror story which makes one’s hair stand in fear. A famished tribal school teacher in Dantewada called Soni Sori was seen by the all-knowing police as a Naxalite. That was reason enough for the police to do everything to destroy her honour and human dignity.

According to a report in The Times of India-Crest, the police stripped and raped her, inserted stones in her vagina and rectum and gave her electric shocks. A Kolkata hospital reported “two foreign bodies of size 2.5x1.5x1.0 cm each from the vagina and foreign body of size 2.0x1.5x1.5 cm was removed from the rectum.”

Now, which law in India (or, for that matter, anywhere else) allows this? A letter quoting the Kolkata report was sent to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by Leisl Gerntholtz, executive director, Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch. The letter was signed by Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Aruna Roy and Harsh Mander. Brinda Karat of the CPM along with several women’s organisations, met President Pratibha Patil to protest against it. The superintendent of police directly responsible for Sori’s sorrow has been honoured with gallantry medal.

In late May this year came the 25th anniversary of a monumental crime committed by the State in which no criminal has been apprehended so far. On the night of May 22, 1987 Uttar Pradesh Provincial Armed Constabulary jawans herded fifty young Muslims from Hashimpura in Meerut in a truck, brought them to the Ganga Canal at Murad Nagar near Delhi (and some to the Hindon river nearby). They shot them and threw their bodies into the canal. Five of them survived and swam to the shore, later to be rescued by Ghaziabad police led by district police chief Vibhuti Narain Rai.

In addition, they beat three Muslim youths to death in their custody at the police lines and instigated prisoners (possibly in connivance with jail staff) to attack a group of Hashimpura Muslims brought to Fatehgarh jail. The prisoners lynched five of them and seriously wounded several others. Thus these eight deaths too were directly caused by the State in the same case. None of the uniformed criminals (identified by the duty register, the vehicle used, the logbook detailing travel and amount of fuel used for the vehicle etc.) has been brought to justice.

This happens to be the highest number of deaths in State custody, in which only the State machinery was involved and no private citizen was directly responsible for it. Many of the criminals have been promoted for “discipline” and “playing kabaddi” rather well. The wounds of Hashimpura have been forgotten by the State.

The sadder part is that the society too has forgotten them. The victims, several of whom still carry the scars from the PAC attack (at least one is paralysed from the heavy beating), had been expecting some gesture of solidarity from the society at large, if not from the Centre or state of UP. They have been disappointed.

In a democracy, poor, weak and marginalised people often look towards the media with some hope. Hashimpura expected some help, but the media by and large decided to keep quiet, even that part of the media which chirps and chatters noisily, ceaselessly.

Even today, the victims have some hope of bringing the culprits to justice and getting financial compensation at par with that for 1984 anti-Sikh riots victims. The wheels of justice turn slowly, sometimes so slowly that perpetrators of crimes against humanity reach old age and die a natural death before the so-called long arm of the law reaches them.     

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 June 2012 on page no. 11

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