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Crime, but no punishment

Until those who created the mob terror of December 1992 and 1993 are punished, the Indian republic cannot claim that justice has been done, writes Teesta Setalvad.

india Updated: Feb 16, 2007 16:56 IST

Months after the July 2006 bomb blasts in Mumbai trains and 13 years after the serial blasts ripped through Bombay in 1993, a judgment was delivered. Now, over 100 accused await the final sentence. As much as it seems inevitable that punishment for the perpetrators of the bomb violence is a necessary form of redressal for the 200 families who lost dear ones in the serial blasts, it becomes important and critical that Mumbai and India remember the truth of what tore India’s cosmopolitan Mecca apart that December (1992) and January (1993).

An act of national terror was perpetrated at Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, in public view. A historic mosque was pulled down amid macabre celebration. In Bombay the first victory procession celebrating this act of vandalism was taken out (and allowed) in the Dharavi area at 2 pm that Sunday afternoon, with slogans of victory.

From Monday, December 7, 1992, irate Muslim groups, alienated at the letdown by the Indian State, demonstrated and there were instances of some destruction of public property. Yet for many in the media, the earlier provocations of December 6 were ignored and ‘angry Muslims carried the blame for having cast the first stone’.

Detailed investigations by human rights groups and, finally, the official Srikrishna Commission report directed prosecutions against policemen and civilians, many of whom have political clout. So while the recent convictions in the blasts case surely send a message that the Indian system delivers justice to all for crimes, a gross lacunae remains: how are those pinpointed as guilty of the December 1992 to January 1993 mob violence scot-free?

Justice BN Srikrishna who conducted the official probe into the violence had this to say, “One common link between the riots... and bomb blasts of March 12, 1993, appears to be that the former appear to have been a causative factor for the latter... The serial bomb blasts were a reaction to the totality of events at Ayodhya and Bombay in December 1992 and January 1993.” The Srikrishna Commission has concluded that the resentment against the government and the police among a large body of Muslim youth was exploited by Pakistan-aided anti-national elements. They were brainwashed into taking revenge and a conspiracy was hatched and implemented at the instance of Dawood Ibrahim to train Muslims on how to explode bombs near vital installations and in Hindu areas to engineer a fresh round of riots. “There is no doubt that all the accused, except two or three, are Muslims and there is no doubt that the major role in the conspiracy, at the Indian as well as foreign end, was played by Muslims,” says the report.

Over 45 accused in the bomb blasts case have made a fervent appeal. Among them are simple hamaals (whose only participation in the crime was unknowingly carrying parcels that contained substances used in the crime), others innocent women, who were similarly clueless. They have argued that they have been victims of a system that has pre-determined their guilt and the long trial lasting 14 years has amounted to a pre-conviction punishment.

While Sanjay Dutt’s plea for removal of Tada charges was accepted, 91 accused of far less in abetment than him have been denied parity. Incidentally, the day the Tada court started pronouncing the verdict, there were about 96 accused on bail. They surrendered the moment the Tada court summoned them, which is not the behaviour of criminals.

As the bomb terror of March 12, 1993, has been recalled in the public mind with the delivery of the verdict, the mob terror of December 6, 1992, in Ayodhya needs to be rehauled in public memory and condemned for what it was. None of the criminals responsible for the demolition of the Babri masjid and incitement and abetment of the crime have been convicted. Few have borne punishment for the loss of lives and property all over the country.

If the soul of India was seared on December 6, 1992, the soul of Bombay was forever scarred by the mob violence of December 8 to January 20, 1993. Mobs stalked the streets that were likened to Nazi Germany and the Bombay police connived with mobsters in mass arson, murder and even rape. Worse still, the political leadership watched as Bombay burned.

Justice for all and injustice to none is the credo on which independent India was conceived and built. Those guilty of the mob terror of 1992 and 1993 must be punished with the same determination as those responsible for the bomb terror that followed. The Indian republic today falters on the tombstone of discriminatory justice.

Teesta Setalvad is co-editor, Communalism Combat

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