When scribes keep mum

Supreme Court notice on 4 March to Advani and other Sangh leaders, in connection with the Babri Masjid demolition, has once again brought their role back in the limelight. Next day, almost all Delhi newspapers carried the news, hence, articles/editorials in national dailies were expected on the issue. But unfortunately all newspapers preferred to turn a blind eye. It is unreasonable to think why the pen of all the prominent journalists and columnists, who have the ability and also the responsibility, to write in the interest of a healthy democracy, fell silent.

Our heads hang in shame whenever an unpleasant incident takes place in our society. Not only because it takes the country a few steps back but also because it earns us a bad name globally. If we browse through the pages of recent history, we can find that some riots in the country have been so disastrous that one hardly dares to visit the place, though now it might be entirely calm and peaceful.

However, we have a fascinating history of freedom of expression and speech. Our journalists have invariably exposed scandals and the black sheep in our midst. Only last year a series of major scams were exposed and the culprits are cooling their heels in jails. This could not have been possible without the media focus.

On Mar 1, the special trial court in the Godhra incident awarded death sentence to 11 accused and life imprisonment to 20 others, while acquitting 63 others of all charges against them. The court termed the case as “rarest of the rare,” stressing that it deserved nothing less than death sentence. Now if they had committed the crime, they deserve punishment and there should be no remorse as Islam strongly prohibits the killing of any person without lawful reasons.

The following statement from the Holy Qur’an demonstrates how strongly Islam prohibits murder: “Whoever kills a believer intentionally, their reward will be Hell, to abide therein forever, and the wrath and the curse of Allah are upon them, and a dreadful penalty is prepared for them.” (Holy Qur’an, 4:93)

Now, those who received death and life sentences, got justice and media coverage they deserved, but did the 63 others, who were acquitted after nine years in prison, get justice? What can compensate the social stigma, physical torture and financial loss they suffered for a role they  never played. The nine-long years which they can never get back nor the lost opportunities of their careers and personal lives.

Most importantly, no article in any prominent daily newspaper appeared advocating justice and compensation for the acquitted. This mystifying silence is not a good sign for a pluralist society.

If media professionals, journalists and columnists, along with others, keep an eye on the developments and keep advocating an eye for an eye, fair judgements could be expected in all other cases in which justice is due.

Shafaque Alam

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 March 2011 on page no. 2

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