Justice can be a funny thing. As we followed the verdicts of those accused in the 1993 Bombay blasts case over the last few weeks, the sense of justice being done after 14 long years was palpable. Whatever one made of individual judgments, the machinery of the law was seen to be operating. One cannot say the same about bringing a closure to the horrors that preceded the terror attacks. After the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, communal riots broke out in the country. But it was multi-cultural Bombay that faced the worst after-effects of the Babri demolition. For five years, a commission headed by Justice B.N. Srikrishna examined victims, witnesses and alleged perpetrators of the December 1992-January 1993 riots. The panel reported that some 900 people were killed, more than 2,000 injured and that political parties, the Shiv Sena in particular, had instigated much of the violence that targeted Muslims.
It wasn’t much of a surprise when the Shiv Sena-BJP state government disbanded the commission, deeming the report “pro-Muslim”. But with the reinstatement of the commission in 1996, one would have thought that the administration would take cognisance of the Srikrishna report findings and act accordingly. It didn’t and hasn’t. Which is why it’s commendable that someone has jogged public and statutory memory that is liable to become a cobwebbed artefact in the nation’s attic.
By demanding to know why the present ‘secular’ Maharashtra government has done nothing during its eight years in power — in terms of prosecuting those indicted by the Srikrishna Commission — Congress president Sonia Gandhi has made it ‘legitimate’ again for all of us to ask that very same question. CM Vilasrao Deshmukh must have his own rationale for the navel-gazing. We suspect it has to do with Maharashtra politics, where the Sena is not as distant to the Congress in the Mantralaya scheme of things as it may seem from New Delhi. Which is why it is a political push — and, if need be, a shove — that could finally see to it that the commission’s reports lead to prosecutions that, in turn, could bring justice to those who still suffer the consequences of the riots. And bring to justice those perpetrators under political protection who still walk freely among us.