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जेएनयू की एक बहुत पुरानी शाम से उतने भी प्यारे नहीं देशभक्तों, भारत माता के वीरों (मुँह खुलते ही स्त्रियों को गालियाँ देने वालों को सप...

August 09, 2016

From PM Modi's 'shameful silence' to 'shoot me' call to cow fanatics

[This is an AHRC Article
Also published in the Counter Currents.]

Narendra Modi’s high octane poll campaign was littered with the promise of Development, a capital D. Big business, in India and abroad, had bought his promise too. And now, after a little more than 2 years old premiership, the developments under his watch have rattled most of them. The ‘developments’ were not the “development” they were looking for. Further, the consequences of developments under Modi were harming their prospects.

The growth he had promised was nowhere to be seen in economy. The only thing that had really grown under him was violence- be it large scale ones for quotas that crippled Haryana and Gujarat for weeks or its MSME version- Micro, Small and Medium level violence committed by self-appointed and regime supported cow vigilantes running amok and bleeding everyone in their way- from farmers to people traditionally dependent on skinning dead cattle and dealing in hides.

Leather industry was an obvious loser with almost 10% decline in exports in 2015 as compared to 2014. Yet, it was not the only one. For instance, cricket, the religion that unites Indians, was an unlikely victim with balls costs soaring multiple times. They had to, as the best balls are made of cow skin sheets and they were nowhere to be found in Modi’s India. The industry, overall, was worried and it showed in its clarion calls.

Others were worried about violence too- albeit more over its social costs than economic ones. The media was one of them, of course with the notable exception of most of Indian electronic media. The New York Times summed up the anger in its editorial that slammed PM Modi’s ‘shameful silence on cow vigilantes’. The ever so conscious of his image abroad PM was expected to take note, and that he did the day after, fittingly in an event mimicking ‘Townhall’ addresses of President Obama.

The outburst against Gau Rakshaks (cow protectors) was stunning to say the least, more so from someone who had made his political career attending cow protection events and slamming an imaginary “pink revolution” based on cow slaughter. Yes, imaginary, as the statistics showed that even as Modi talked about large scale cow slaughter, the population of cows in India grew by more than 6%. The outburst was even more spectacular in its sustainability, PM Modi slammed the cow vigilantes again in less than 24 hours, this time in a meeting with Bhartiya Janata Party members in Telangana.

Unfortunately, a closer look at, or listening to, the outburst must have sent shivers down the spine of those who believe in democracy and rule of law and all that both these terms entail. In the townhall meeting at Delhi, named MyGov anniversary meeting, Modi expressed deep anguish at cow vigilantes and termed 80 percent of them as rank anti socials. He accused them of wearing the garb of cow protectionism to hide their criminal activities.

He went a little further a day later, in Telangana meeting, and pleaded for stopping the violence against his “Dalit Bretheren” at once! Here is what he said exactly:

“I would like to tell these people that if you have any problem, if you have to attack, attack me. Stop attacking my Dalit brethren. If you have to shoot, shoot me, but not my Dalit brothers. This game should stop”.

Nothing wrong in the statement itself, unless one notices the spectacular omission. The omission of Muslims, the prime target of the violence by the cow vigilantes till the focus shifted towards Dalits! Yes, he had not even bothered to mention the need of stopping the cow vigilante violence against Muslims, forget expressing any anguish for them!

Not that he could be unaware of the facts. He had to break his silence on Dadri where a mob had lynched a man over suspicion of beef consumption. The news of similar attacks in Pratapgarh, Rajasthan, lynching and hanging of two Muslims, one a minor in Latehar, Jharkhand, killing of another in Nahan, Himachal Pradesh and recent attack on Muslim women in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh were all over the place.

Why, then, PM Modi singled out his ‘Dalit Brethren’ while leaving Muslims, equal citizens of India out completely? The only possible explanation for the bizarre, and unbecoming of the leader of the country, omission can be an attempt to create a rift between Dalits and Muslims- tied together both by economics of leather and attacks by vigilantes. Both the communities have come together strongly in the recent past to take on the cow vigilantes and their political handlers, and it must have rung alarm bells among PM’s right wing Hindutva party. Howsoever divisive his past could be, a PM doing this is plain shocking and ominous for the Republic.

Sadly, the problem with his outburst doesn’t stop at polarizing. It rather went several notches up with his melodramatic, almost Bollywoodish call of ‘come and shoot me, but not my Dalit Brothers’. Was that some sort of admission that law enforcement agencies of India cannot take on these outlaw vigilante groups? Or it was a backhand message to them to read through what he omitted and not take his outburst seriously? It is not every day that a PM of a country aspiring to be a superpower pleads to criminals for attacking him and sparing his brothers!

This also exposes the final chink hidden in the armor of this supposedly anguished outburst. It was not really an outburst- it was rather a 20 to 30 percent controlled shrewd political statement. PM Modi did not stop at asking for identifying and cracking down on 70 to 80 percent criminals among the ranks of cow vigilantes. He also called for identifying the real ones and respecting and supporting them. In plain words that is nothing but legitimizing and institutionalizing vigilantism and that’s dangerous for a democratic country that operates by rule of law. Vigilantism is illegal in any form in a country that follows rule of law. All the grievances in such a country should be channeled by public institutions of justice and law enforcement not by vigilantes. Even if they are, as PM insinuated, true cow worshipers.

Looking at it whichever way, the outburst doesn’t augur well for our beloved country.

August 08, 2016

जीएसटी उर्फ़ वस्तु और सेवा कर के मायने

[राज एक्सप्रेस में 8 अगस्त 2016 को प्रकाशित।] 

सरकार और विपक्ष किसी मुद्दे पर एक हों, ऐसा कम ही होता है। उससे भी कम यह कि अर्थशास्त्री, उद्योग जगत, मध्यवर्ग सब के सब सहमत नज़र आएँ। पिछले हफ़्ते वस्तु और सेवा कर विधेयक के राज्यसभा में पारित होने के बाद यह हुआ। होना भी चाहिए था क्योंकि14 साल भाजपा और अगले 2 साल कांग्रेस के जवाबी विरोध के बाद इस विधेयक का वनवास ख़त्म हुआ है।

पर सवाल उठता है कि क्या यह सुधार दरअसल उतना क्रांतिकारी है जितना इसे बताया जा रहा है? बेशक यह है वह भी सिर्फ़ कराधान के मामले में ही नहीं, राजनीति के लिए भी। विकेंद्रीकरण पर ज़ोर होने वाले दौर में राज्यों के कर लगाने के अधिकार को छीन कर केंद्र को दे देने वाला यह विधेयक अभूतपूर्व है। इसमें भी कि बावजूद इस तथ्य के ज़्यादातर राज्य इसके समर्थन में हैं भले ही इसके लिए उनकी  शराब और अचल सम्पत्ति पर कर लगाने के अधिकार को बचाए रखने और फ़िलहाल पेट्रोलियम उत्पादों को जीएसटी से बाहर रखने की उनकी शर्त को केंद्र सरकार ने मान लिया है। अफ़सोस कि इस विधेयक के पारित होने से देश के संघीय ढाँचे पर पड़ने वाले असर को के सवाल पर भारत की कम्युनिस्ट पार्टी (मार्क्सवादी) और ऑल इंडिया अन्ना द्रविड़ मुनेत्र कड़गम (एआईडीएमके) के सिवाय किसी दल ने चर्चा तक नहीं यह ज़रूर है कि मज़बूत संघीय ढाँचे वाले देशों, जैसे संयुक्त राज्य अमेरिका में केंद्रीय कराधन की कोई व्यवस्था नहीं है और यह अपने आप में बहुत कुछ साफ़ कर देता है। अफ़सोस अब इस असर को देखने के लिए वक़्त के इंतज़ार के सिवा कोई चारा नहीं है।

पर फिर भारत में जीएसटी पर हुई सारी बहस कर प्रक्रिया और कर वसूली को आसान बनाने, भ्रष्टाचार कम करने, राज्यों के बीच वस्तुओं की आवाजाही सुगम करने जैसे आर्थिक नुक़्तों पर टिकी हुई है सो राजनैतिक सवालों का दरकिनार होना लाज़िमी ही था। आर्थिक पहलू से देखें तो पहली नज़र में यह विधेयक अर्थव्यवस्था के लिए बेहतर लगता है। दो साल बाद ही सही, इस विधेयक के लागू होने के बाद चौराहे चौराहे दिखने वाली तमाम चुंगियाँ नहीं दिखेंगी। चुंगियाँ ग़ायब होंगी तो उनके साथ जुड़ी तमाम रिश्वत, निजी वसूली और भ्रष्टाचार भी ग़ायब हो जाएगा। इसके साथ एक और बड़ा बदलाव होगा- यह कि तमाम राज्यों में चीज़ों की अलग अलग क़ीमत की वजह से महँगाई वाले राज्यों के नागरिक कार जैसी महँगी चीज़ें अक्सर पड़ोसी राज्य से चीज़ें ख़रीद लाते हैं। इससे उस राज्य को होने वाले राजस्व नुक़सान के साथ साथ उनके बीच होने वाली आपराधिक तस्करी में भी कमी आएगी।

पर इन सबसे कहीं ऊपर वो फ़ायदा है जो उत्पादित सामान में जोड़े गए मूल्य भर पर कर लगाने से न केवल उनके ऊपर कर कम करेगा बल्कि उनके लागत को बढ़ा और मुनाफ़े को कम कर दिखाने के करचोरी के प्रयासों को भी नुक़सानदेह बना देगा। ऐसा इसलिए क्योंकि उन्हें इस विधेयक के तहत अपनी लागत और विक्रय मूल्य दोनों को साफ़ साफ़, दस्तावेज़ों के साथ दिखाना पड़ेगा और अगर वह ऐसा नहीं करते तो उनके ऊपर कर बढ़ेगा, घटेगा नहीं। इस दस्तावेजीकरण से अब तक राजस्व विभाग की निगाह से छिपी रहने वाली पूँजी का एक बड़ा हिस्सा सामने आएगा।

इस विधेयक से एक और बड़ा फ़ायदा यह है कि इसने अब तक उत्पादन वाले राज्य में कर वसूली की व्यवस्था को बदल कर इसे उपभोग आधारित बना दिया है सो इससे उत्पादन और उपभोग आधारित राज्यों के राजस्व अंतर में कमी आएगी। इसको और आसान शब्दों में कहें तो अब तक उत्तर प्रदेश या मध्य प्रदेश जैसे उन राज्यों को जहाँ उत्पादन गतिविधियाँ कम हैं अपने निवासियों द्वारा उपभोग किए जाने वाली वस्तुओं पर कोई राजस्व नहीं मिलता था। वह सारा राजस्व उन राज्यों के पास जाता था जहाँ इन वस्तुओं का उत्पादन होता था। अब इस नए कर के बाद उन्हें भी अपना हिस्सा मिलेगा और यह एक बेहतर निर्णय है क्योंकि उपभोग यानी माँग ही न हो तो आपूर्ति के लिए निर्माण होगा ही क्यों?

यह वही बात है जो सीपीएम के अंदर मतभेद के रूप में सामने आयी थी जब केरल के वित्त मंत्री टॉमस इज़ाक ने जीएसटी का खुला समर्थन करते हुए इसे केरल जैसे उपभोग आधारित राज्यों का राजस्व बढ़ाने के लिए बेहतर बताया था। यह वह नुक़्ता भी है जिसकी वजह से तमिलनाडु जैसे उत्पादन आधारित राज्य इस विधेयक के अब भी विरोध में हैं।

यह विधेयक अभी तक तो आम उपभोक्ताओं के लिए भी बेहतर ही लग रहा है। उम्मीद है कि अब तक अलग अलग करों के साथ सभी वस्तुओं और सेवाओं पर 30-35 प्रतिशत तक पहुँच जाने वाला कर नीचे आकर 20-25 तक सिमट जाएगा सो आम तौर पर चीज़ें सस्ती होंगी। पर फिर यह उम्मीद ही है क्योंकि बाज़ार का अपना एक अर्थशास्त्र होता है जिसमें क़ीमतें ऊपर तो जाती हैं, पर नीचे कम ही आती हैं। सो यह देखना होगा कि इस बार वह बदलता है या नहीं।

अभी के लिए बड़े सवाल सामने हैं जिनके जवाब इस विधेयक के लागू होने के साथ ही मिलने शुरू होंगे। संघीय ढाँचे का सवाल उनमें से सिर्फ़ एक है। एक और बड़ा सवाल है कि राजस्व जुटाना राज्य सरकार की ज़िम्मेदारी न रही तो उन्हें फ़िज़ूल खर्ची से कैसे रोका जाएगा। यह भी कि अब तक जनता शिक्षा, स्वास्थ्य, बिजली, पानी सड़क जैसी राज्य सूची वाली ज़रूरतों के लिए राज्य सरकारों को चुनती रही है, पूरा न करने पर हराती रही है। कर वसूली के पूरी तरह केंद्रीय सरकार के पास चले जाने पर इन वादों/सुविधाओं को पूरा ना करने पर जनता क्या करेगी? 

August 06, 2016

शुभम श्री को मिले भारत भूषण अग्रवाल पुरस्कार पर हुए दंगे पर खरी खरी

शुभम श्री को भारतभूषण अग्रवाल पुरस्कार मिला अच्छा हुआ। न मिलता तो हम जैसे हिन्दी साहित्य के शाश्वत बाहरियों को फ़ेसबुक पर मौजूद इतने सारे आलोचकों और उनकी प्रतिभा का पता ही न चलता। इसे तो छोड़े हीं, कविता दरअसल क्या है, और क्या नहीं है इसका भी। ख़ैर, अच्छा हुआ हम सब हुए, कवि नहीं हुए- कविता लगती ही नहीं हमें कि कर दें! हाँ, पढ़ते ज़रूर रहे, जो अच्छी लगीं अच्छी लगीं। जो नहीं लगीं, नहीं लगीं। जो अजीब लगीं वो अजीब लगीं। नागार्जुन की ओम याद आती है, बाल ठाकरे याद आती है। निराला की ताक कमसिन वारि भी। किसी आलोचक की भुजाएँ फड़कते न देखीं इन पर। फड़कते तो दिनेश कुमार शुक्ल के उस संग्रह पर भी न देखीं डेढ़ दशक पहले इलाहाबाद की एक उदास दोपहर को जिसको पढ़ सालों हँसते रहे- जिस भी दोस्त का मज़ा लेना होता था उसे 'कभी तो खुलें कपाट- तुम्हारी बुद्धि जोड़कर देते रहे। कुछ कविताएँ तो शब्दश: न सही, याद अब भी हैं-
बंदर बैठा पेड़ पर करता टिलीलिली- ले गुलबकावली ले गुलबकावली।
मैं रात की पेंदी से खुरच लाया हूँ सपने, फुटपाथ पे सोने वाले सब हैं मेरे अपने
मैं उठा लाया हूँ काजल और बना ली है स्याही- सुनानी है सबको कहानी
पी मैंने छाछ फूँककर फिर जीभ क्यों जली- बंदर बैठा पेड़ पर.....
वह भी जिसका गंगा की कछार में बैठ- रसूलाबाद हो या झूँसी- सस्वर पाठ किया करते थे- उसके पहले क्या किया करते थे समझ ही गए होंगे!
ले चंद्रकटार सखी तुम धीरे धीरे
उठीं तीज की रात गगन में धीरे-धीरे
भरकर तुम विस्तार पसरती जैसे सृष्टि अपार
तुम्हारा बिखर गया मणिहार
दमकते तारे कई हजार
गगन में धीरे-धीरे....
पर फिर उस संग्रह में सबसे विध्वंसक कविताएँ यह दोनों नहीं, एक तीसरी लगी थी- शब्दश: याद है आज भी-
"सो गया हूँ मैं
हृदय के पर्यंक पर
दहकते दो सूर्य
मेरी कनपटी पर --
हृदय है
कि सेज है
कि चिता है ?"
आपको समझ आए तो मुझे समझाइयेगा, आज तक इसका अर्थ तलाश रहा हूँ।
बखैर, दिनेश जी की तमाम कविताएँ अतिप्रिय भी हैं- इस संग्रह वाली भी। अवध्य नहीं है कवि, सिंघाड़े का ताल तो सहज याद आती हैं, स्मृति में बनी हुई हैं। उनका ख़ास ज़िक्र सिर्फ़ इसलिए कि वह अद्भुत संग्रह है- बेहद शानदार, अर्थपूर्ण कविताओं के साथ इन कविताओं का भी सो स्मृति से निकला ही नहीं कभी- ठीक कुमार विकल के निरुपमा दत्त मैं बहुत उदास हूँ की तरह। इस फ़र्क़ के साथ कि इस संग्रह की कोई कविता खिलन्दड़ई के वक़्त कभी नहीं याद आयी- हाँ जब भी उदास हुआ मन तो चंडीगढ़ लौट जाने की ख़्वाहिश वाली उस लड़की की याद ज़रूर आयी- उसके उस भाई की भी जो 26 डाउन- या ऐसी ही कोई ट्रेन पकड़ कहीं चला गया था। ख़ैर, कुल जमा कहना यह कि कुंठा के इस विस्फोट में मुझे कवयित्री नहीं, कुंठित आलोचक ही हास्यास्पद लग रहे हैं। कविता पर बात की जा सकती है- की जानी चाहिए।

 मुझे पोयट्री मैनजमेंट शानदार कविता लगी थी- बुखार हो या भावना, चरम उन्माद (डिलीरीयम) में लिखी गयी कविता जैसी पढ़ी जाने वाली कविता- दुनिया की तमाम भाषाओं में ख़ूब मिलती हैं- जाने क्यों हिन्दी में बहुत नहीं दिखीं। 

ख़ैर- ज़्यादा लिखा थोड़ा समझिएगा। वैसे भी हिन्दी साहित्य का शाश्वत बाहरी हूँ तो दिल पे न लीजिएगा, ले भी लिए, बाक़ी, तो मेरा क्या जाएगा। 

पुनःश्च: अपनी बात सिर्फ़ कविता पर है। पुरस्कार मंडल वाले उस उदय प्रकाश पर नहीं जिनको मैं दुनिया भर घूमते हुए अपनी विपन्नता का रोना रोने वाले, दूसरों की निजी जिंदगियों की त्रासदियों का मज़ाक़ उड़ा कहानियाँ गढ़ने वाले, और हर सफल असफल अन्य से जलने वाले अति-कुंठित व्यक्ति के रूप में ही जानता हूँ।

August 04, 2016

State supported mob violence against Dalits and Muslims not internal matter of India

[ This is an AHRC Article.]
One doesn’t often see a respected international media house asking a democratic republic’s prime minister to break his silence in an editorial. Even more rare is it to see this “silence” tagged with the adjective “shameful”. The New York Times did exactly that today, 8 August 2016. The editorial forewarns Mr. Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, of the bleak future awaiting him and his political party if he “does not break his shameful silence on cow vigilantes, and reset his political compass on a course of economic opportunity, dignity and justice.”
Poignantly, the newspaper has done its homework. It has recounted a number of instances of vigilante violence against the country’s Dalits and Muslims. It has also documented the very visible and vocal support these vigilantes are getting from elements entrenched in the regime. It quoted the President of the Bhartiya Janata Party, a right wing political party in power, as well as elected members of the country’s legislative bodies.
As a result, the newspaper cannot be faulted by say anti or post-colonial victimhood pretensions, racism, or even the time tested patriotic “don’t interfere in our country’s internal affairs” ruse.
The government of India has in the past claimed caste issues as an “internal matter of India”. It did that, for instance, when it opposed demands to make caste based discrimination an aspect of racial discrimination at the Durban World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, 2001 and also in its failed opposition to Britain’s decision of including caste based discrimination as aspect of racism in its Equality Act, 2010.
It has repeatedly asserted that the Indian State was making all attempts to put an end to caste-based discrimination. This, ironically, goes against its own glorious legacy of struggle against apartheid in South Africa. One can simply ask, as was asked earlier too: “If caste issues are an internal matter of India, would not apartheid be an internal issue of the governments of apartheid-era South Africa?
Vigilante violence is essentially lawless, and any government supporting it either by commission or omission cannot claim to be a government abiding by the rule of law and thus immune to the international community’s scrutiny in its internal matters. Sadly, the incumbent government of India has supported such violence since it came to power in May 2014. Instead of strengthening police and justice institutions, it has been accused, often convincingly, of trying to align law enforcement with vigilantes affiliated with regressive politics.
India has witnessed numerous cases of cow vigilantes attacking those they suspect of smuggling cows, with the law enforcement agencies choosing to look away. The police have mostly remained a silent spectator to such attacks/beatings/lynchings and have then booked the victims, not the tormentors, under the animal cruelty act.
Ironically, it would be difficult to fault them for what India has become today: It is an India where the remarks of Bihar M.P. Rajesh Ranjan, alias Pappu Yadav, were expunged from the records of Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian Parliament, for privileging the life of a human over that of a cow, and thus offending sensibilities of a few fellow parliamentarians!
Yes, you have read right. The Parliament of India found the statement privileging life of a human over that of a cow being unparliamentarily and expunged it!
Now, the recurrent and increasingly violent cow vigilante attacks on Dalits and Muslims should have put the government in a fire-fighting mode and restore the law and order, at least. Its tacit support to the lawless crowds, on the other hand, has sent a different message altogether: any group capable of indulging in violence can get whatever it wants. The country has seen the gory consequences of the message ever since: the violence that rocked Gujarat when the Patels, a caste community, demanded reservation; when Haryana burned for days over a similar demand by the Jat community; and when in Andhra Pradesh the Kapus came to the streets.
This time, however, the stakes have gone up; is not merely the vigilantes who are on the streets. The victims, dejected with the State’s failure in protecting them, and convinced of its tacit support to perpetrators, are on the streets too. Gujarat has been on the boil, as Dalits are on the streets seeking justice. Had they turned violent like the vigilantes, it would have resulted in mayhem.
Alas, it is not about Gujarat alone. Both the attacks and anger against these attacks are at a tipping point, at the very least in the states of Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh. This is almost half of India in terms of population. With Gujarat alone having caused so much consternation, the message is on the wall.
It is high time for the government of India, and its Prime Minister, to take heed of the advice, act against cow vigilantes, and invest in providing economic opportunity, dignity, and justice. It must also remember that just reigning in the vigilantes will not suffice; disbanding them altogether is the only way ahead.

August 02, 2016

Save yourselves, women of India, as the Republic will not

[This is an AHRC Article.] 

Delhi, the national capital of India, has witnessed another gory incident involving the rape-murder of a minor. This time, a 16-year-old was allegedly raped, strangled, and then set on fire in her own house in East Delhi. The police reportedly tried to pass off the crime as suicide, filing a case of rape and murder only after the autopsy proved them wrong.
The police, incidentally, had motive in trying bury the case. The girl had complained to them about her stalkers, who had been harassing her, and it was their inaction that led to her murder. The police have now easily apprehended the suspects that had been on their radar for months; alas they had to wait till the girl was murdered to act against the suspects.
The rape-murder comes hot on the heels of another – that of a 14-year-old Dalit girl – who died on 24 July 2016. A daughter to parents who work as sweepers in a hospital, she had seen it all in a small life span. In December 2015, someone named Shivshankar, “allegedly” raped her; and her family had dared to seek justice despite knowing the odds.
They approached the police and got a First Information Report filed under Sections 363 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code and 4/6 of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, in Burari Police Station on 2 December 2015. Inexplicably, the police did not press the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Preventions of Atrocities) Act in this case, despite the girl being from the Dalit community.
That said, perhaps this is all rather routine in a country with a deadly mix of no witness protection mechanism, both inefficient and corrupt policing, and impunity that criminals with means enjoy. Not imposing the Act ensured that the accused was out on bail soon, and he promptly started threatening the family to withdraw the case.
The family did not relent, however, and complained to the police about the threats on 15 May 2016. The police, however, did not take any action. Emboldened by this, the accused allegedly abducted the girl on 19 May 2016, just a couple of days before the first hearing in the rape case was scheduled.
The girl was recovered on the night of May 26-27, profusely bleeding from the head; she narrated her ordeal to the police and parents. She told them that the accused had abducted her and kept her in captivity, repeatedly having her gang-raped, and even forced her to drink an acidic, corrosive substance. This substance led to severe damage to her internal organs. The police, still unfazed, reportedly sent the girl to a Nari Niketan (shelter home). They did this instead of sending her to a hospital, where she could avail immediate emergency medical help, and instead of filing a medico legal case, as mandated.
She was rushed to a hospital only after a couple of days later, when her condition deteriorated rapidly. Her parents took her there; subsequently the Delhi Commission of Women (DCW) learned of the incident, and also intervened. In her statement to the magistrate, the girl narrated how the Delhi police forced her to change her statement. Despite all the failings of the police, and what appears to be in spite, after the girl’s death, the police booked the Chief of the DCW for disclosing the girl’s identity. The police have had the gall to do this despite their inaction being a primary factor in the murder, and even as all accused barring one still roam free!
One can easily guess the status of safety of women in the rest of India, if this is the predicament of those living in the capital city, which is under constant media attention. One may also easily guess how the police in the hinterlands respond to distress calls of women, if their cohorts in national capital are responding in this fashion.
The criminal apathy of the police forces across India in terms of women’s safety was exposed further hours before the 14-year-old was raped and burned in Delhi, when criminals abducted a family on a highway in Uttar Pradesh. They robbed the family and then gang-raped the mother and her teenage daughter for three hours just 2 kilometers away from a police post in Bulandshahr. To add insult to injury, the police failed to respond to the family’s distress calls on 100, the universal police helpline number in India.
One may explain away this sorry state of affairs with hundreds of tried and tested excuses that the State and other stakeholders keep offering. The political parties in power often bring out crime statistics and show how they are performing “better” than other states. The ones in opposition, on the other hand, slam them hard without explaining how the same situation prevails in the states ruled by them. A few heads in law enforcement agencies roll, from time to time, with some officers transferred and some suspended.
Further, some civil society activists “outrage” over some such select cases, though this outrage often depends on media coverage of the issue. The rape-murder of the Dalit girl in Delhi was not covered that well by media, so there was not much of an outrage. Yet another similar repeat gang-rape of a Dalit girl was also largely ignored by the media, so the ensuing outrage died down soon as well.
The Bulandshahr case, however, happened to take place in a poll bound state ruled by an opposition party, so the outrage sustains, at least for now, with angered media debates, politicians’ bites, and everything that comes in such a package.
The real questions, however, get lost in both cases- the cacophony of such faux outrages and in the eerie absence of any outrage in others. Why must a victim of crime, any crime for that reason, need an outrage to get redress in a republic that claims to adhere to the rule of law? A rule of law jurisdiction would treat violent crimes against its citizens as crimes against the society as a whole. It obligates the State to prosecute the culprits and get redress to victims. A State that fails to do that can only be a lawless state.
Also, how can police officers in a rule of law jurisdiction, clearly guilty of serious dereliction of duty, as is evident in all three cases discussed here, escape scot-free? Suspensions (often involving restoration with full salary) and/or transfers are not punishments. Furthermore, what emboldens them to ignore the complaints of the victims coming from marginalized section of society? Is it not the rampaging rule of impunity devoid of fixed command responsibilities that makes them behave the way they do?
History bears witness that many of the changes are not brought from the top; societies get what they proactively seek and deserve. India has shown its penchant to seek everything under the sun but justice, even if the society is under the influence of divisive forces with vested interests of their own.
India, for instance, has demanded cow protection and is getting that. No police officer in most Indian states can ignore the distress call of a cow vigilante, not unless he is okay with rioting mobs taking over his area.
Indians have never demanded justice institution reforms with any seriousness. Whenever they have, they have gotten a step close to justice. Remember the protests across country against atrocities on Dalits, which ushered in the SC & ST (POA) Act and helped in the struggle against caste-based atrocities.
One can also remember the protests after the infamous 16 December gang-rape-murder in Delhi. In this case, the protests were fierce but they did not sustain, so all they achieved was a few cosmetic changes, some even regressive, in terms of statutes, and nothing else.
There is no one in sight seeking justice institutions reforms to ensure safety of women in India, and so there is no pressure on the political and justice institutions to offer any such safety. Women should take note and ensure their own safety; the Republic is too busy saving cows, as demanded by a section of its citizens.

July 31, 2016

Cow worshippers chew up the rule of law

[This is an AHRC Article. ]
A magisterial / judicial order directing the police to register a first information report and investigate a family that lost its provider in a mob lynching would seem impossible for anyone living in a rule of law system. But in the self-designated largest democracy of the world, this is what happened on 14 July 2016.
Here is a quick recap for the uninitiated. On the evening of 28 September 2015, a mob set out for the house of Mohammad Akhlaq, 52, after a public announcement from the local temple that the family had consumed beef in Bishahra Village in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh. The consumption of beef, read “cow or its progeny” is not banned in the Province – unlike some other provinces because of the majority Hindu community’s treatment of cow as sacred. This fact did not deter the fanatical mob in the least.
The mob reached Akhlaq’s house, dragged him out, and lynched him, while also grievously injuring his son, Danish. The police officers who reached the scene confiscated the meat remaining in the family fridge, and sent it for forensic investigation, confirming if it was really beef or not! Instead of arresting the culprits and providing security to the surviving members of the family, this was the first thing they did. A preliminary inquiry by the Uttar Pradesh Veterinary Department, three months later, in December 2015, found it to be meat of “goat progeny”, and not beef. No one knows when it changed/mutated, but then another 6 months later, in June 2016, University of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry, Mathura, found it to be beef, or meat of “cow or its progeny”.
And, lo and behold, the recovery memo prepared by the police had duly recorded that this meat was collected from the place where the mob allegedly gathered to attack Akhlaq, not from his fridge! The judge would not have any of this. That the fact of the public announcement of the family having consumed beef, followed by the attack, and the site of recovery of the aforesaid ‘beef’, reeks of outright conspiracy has not bothered him. He has nonchalantly ordered registration of an F.I.R and consequent investigation, against the still traumatized family, for cow slaughter.
It is not the fault of the judge alone. The case has exposed the rot that runs deep in the system as few cases have done before. Here is a state probing what ‘progeny’ the meat was from – cow or goat – instead of prosecuting the murderers. If that was not absurd enough, here are the police collecting the meat from a place where the lynch mob gathered, and not from the fridge of the family, for which the family members were lynched. Here is a judge who did not even blink over this huge sham and passed an order to investigate the family, instead of throwing the petition out of the window.
But wait a minute. Where was the public prosecutor to oppose such miscarriage of justice and argue against passing such an unjust order? Was he in the court in the first place? Did the government of Uttar Pradesh remember to ask him to be there in court? And if it did, and he was indeed in the court, whose brief was he carrying? Also, did the victim’s family have their lawyer present in the court to intervene against precisely this eventuality? Could the family afford to have one monetarily? Could it also find one ready to go and represent them in a court full of hostile relatives and friends of the accused without fear of bodily harm?
And what of the civil society? Where were the champions of justice, liberties, secularism, and other isms? One remembers them duly “outraging” after the lynching, after the meat was sent for “forensic investigation”. Where did they disappear after that? One cannot be naïve enough to think that they are ignorant of the labyrinth of injustice that is the Indian judicial system. How could they simply move on to ‘other cases’, of which there is no dearth due to this system that underpins it all.
And all this while similar lynch mobs kept committing such “beef murders” across India on mere suspicion. They happened in Jharkhand, in Haryana, in Himachal Pradesh, and elsewhere, with perpetrators hardly ever brought to book. The last of these beef murders occured in Una, Gujarat, wherein the perpetrators were brazen enough to beat up 4 Dalit youth right in front of a police station.
Blaming it all on the right wing Hindutva regime that has come to power in the country in 2014 is a mere easy way out. The regime, of course, wants to hammer in its beliefs and values on the body politic of the Republic, with utter disregard to pluralism. But, food habits are not the only thing it wants to alter. It has also attempted, and failed, in many other endeavors, toppling democratically elected opposition governments in the provinces for instance. It failed to have its way, first in Uttarakhand and then in Arunachal Pradesh, with the Supreme Court of India striking down the imposition of President’s rule and even the installation of a government later.
Why does the same Judiciary fail to do justice to the victims of criminal lynch mobs – that are often referred to as cow vigilante groups in the media – by taking the criminal tag away? The answer to this question exposes the facade that the justice system of the country has successfully maintained despite its gigantic failures in delivering justice to the poor and the needy. It has failed the victims of mass violence repeatedly: remember sectarian carnages from Nellie in Assam, Delhi, or Gujarat. It has also repeatedly failed to deliver justice to victims of other mob crimes, more so if they are poor and needy.
Why does it fail to deliver justice to those who need it the most, like Akhlaq’s family in this case? It fails, because it is just as much, if not more corrupt than any other organ of the state. It fails because it is biased against the poor and the marginalized and is infested with the vested interests organized around the hundreds of fault lines, like those of caste, religion, ethnicity, and gender that define the country.
It was not for nothing that the prosecutor, public or otherwise, did not point out to the judge that meat was not from the victim’s home in the first place. It is not for nothing that the victim’s family, likely, had no lawyer to defend it from such travesty.
The justice system of the country has already been chewed up virtually entirely. Cow defenders are now grazing on the last clumps of grass left.

Gang rape survivor gang raped again, by the same accused.

[This is an AHRC Statement.
In a rule of law jurisdiction, the story of a victim of gang rape being raped by the same accused against whom court proceedings continue, might be outlandish. But, in India today, these are the common stories that confront anyone willing to see reality: A Dalit gang rape survivor has allegedly been gang raped again by the same five accused of raping her earlier.
The assault took place in Rohtak, Haryana, 66 kilometres from Delhi, the national capital. The young woman was reportedly waylaid by the accused when she stepped out of her college, raped, and left to die in the bushes. The survivor was rushed to the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences in Rohtak where she is currently recuperating.
The mother of the gang rape survivor has claimed that the motive of the assault was to force the family into withdrawing the case they had filed after her daughter was first gang raped in October 2013. Two of the accused, arrested and jailed, were granted bail last month.
The incident, arriving not too long after the country outraged over the gang rape and murder of a young student in Delhi in December 2012, shows how hardly anything has changed on the ground, despite the lip services and cosmetic changes offered to assuage feelings.
The survivor had alleged that the first gang rape had happened in Bhiwani, where she originally lived in her own house with her parents. After making their complaint, the family had to flee the town and relocate to Rohtak, to live in rented accommodation, to escape the continuous harassment by the kith and kin of the accused.
The fact that they had to do this despite meagre means – the father of the survivor weaves coir mats for a living and the mother augments family income by working as a tailor – is a telling comment on the cost of seeking justice in India. The alleged repeat gang rape and murder attempt at the site where the family had relocated shows how seeking justice is a deadly affair in India. The accused will find you out and hunt you down so better suffer in silence rather than complain seems is what is being communicated.
One may wonder how the accused could even dare to think about doing this, when anti-rape laws had been made far more stringent, and when the death sentence has been added to the list of punishments to those convicted of the crime. It is simple. It is because the accused know that mere words on a statute like the Criminal Procedures Code or Indian Penal Code mean nothing if they are not implemented. They also know that law is enforced in India often as an exception, and even more so when the victims come from marginalised communities.
This is the state of affairs in the country that has no concrete victim and witness protection mechanism, despite repeated orders and directives of the Supreme Court and recommendations of Law Commissions. For example, the Supreme Court had lamented the absence of any law or even a scheme by the Union or even state governments to protect the witnesses in the National Human Rights Commission v. State of Gujarat case (Writ Petition (crl.) No. 109 of 2003).
The Law Commission had acknowledged the lack of a witness protection mechanism in its 198th Report in 2006 and recommended this mechanism be put in place. It had also recommended two amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure, in sections 195A and 275, for heavily penalizing attempts to threaten witnesses and providing for evidence testimonial by video. More than a decade after the recommendation, nothing has changed, as the Union government did not take the legislative initiative in follow-up to change the laws.
Today, Delhi remains the only state to have started a witness protection scheme, and that too came into effect only in January of this year. The Union government, for its part, has sat idle, barring a guideline it was forced to issue under the directive of the Supreme Court, in the Savelife Foundation & Anr. v. Union of India & Anr. on 30 March 2016 (Writ Petition (C) No.235 of 2012). The guideline covers only those “Good Samaritans” who help the victims of road accidents.
This is what stops many victims of violent crimes from seeking justice. This is also what leads to far worse crimes committed against those who dare to defy the system and seek justice. This case of alleged repeat revenge gang rape is testimony to the joke that passes for justice institutions in India. It is just that it adds insult to the injury by exposing how futile an exercise it is to get more and more laws enacted.
This applies just as much to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, which arrived in the aftermath of the December 2012 gang rape in Delhi, and the outrage it caused. If only the citizens, the civil society, and the government get the point and push for structural changes in institutions to ensure the implementation of law. Without this understanding, all one will get will be new laws enacted to to temporarily quell the ‘outrages’.

कई के दामन काले करेगा कोयला घोटाला

[राज एक्सप्रेस में 14 जुलाई 2016 को प्रकाशित] 

कहते हैं कि भ्रष्टाचार भारत की जीवनशैली भी है और जिन्न भी. यह हर जगह हैं- राशन कार्ड बनवाना हो तो क्लर्क को घूस देने से लेकर अचानक कहीं जाना पड़े तो रेलगाड़ी में निरीक्षक को घूस देकर सीट लेने तक में. पर फिर जिन्न की तरह ये दिखता भी नहीं, कम से कम न्यायिक व्यवस्था के साथ तो लंबा अनुभव यही रहा है.

पर फिर, कल कोयला खदान घोटाले की सर्वोच्च न्यायालय की निगरानी में चल रही जांच में आये नए मोड़ ने बहुत कुछ बदल दिया है. सर्वोच्च न्यायालय द्वारा ही नियुक्त विशेष जांच दल ने पाया है कि केंद्रीय अन्वेषण ब्यूरो (सीबीआई) के पूर्व (और तत्कालीन) निदेशक रंजीत सिन्हा के इस घोटाले के तमाम आरोपियों से अपने आधिकारिक निवास पर मिले. इस पुष्टि के बाद भारत के महान्यायवादी मुकुल रोहतगी ने भी स्वीकार किया है कि इन मुलाकातों की वजह से सिन्हा के खिलाफ प्रथम दृष्टया जांच को करने की कोशिश का मामला बनता है.

यहाँ एक क्षण को ठहर कर सोचें तो साफ़ दिखता है किस यह भारत में भ्रष्टाचार के सर्वव्यापी होने के सच के आत्म-साक्षात्कार के साथ साथ उससे लड़ाई की जरुरत- दोनों के लिए एक निर्णायक पल है. सर्वव्यापी होने का ऐसे कि भारत की केन्द्रीय जांच एजेंसी के निदेशक का खुद उस आरोप के अपराधियों से अपने सरकारी निवास पर मिल सकने का ही नहीं, बार बार मिल सकने का साहस निर्वात से नहीं आ सकता. दंडाभाव (इम्प्युनिटी) की लंबी परम्परा ही नहीं बल्कि सत्ता का साथ पाने की निश्चिन्तता हुए बिना यह साहस आ ही नहीं सकता.

ऐसा नहीं है कि यह कोई दबी छुपी बात रही हो. इसके ठीक उल्ट दरअसल यह एक ऐसा खुला राज था जिसे आम जनता से लेकर सत्ता के शीर्ष पर बैठा हर व्यक्ति जानता था. याद करें तो यही सर्वोच्च न्यायालय इसी सीबीआई को सरकारी ‘पिंजड़े में कैद तोता’ बता चुका है. पर फिर, खुले राज को, उससे निकले गुस्से को आवाज देना एक बात है, और कार्यवाही करना दूसरी. जनता हो या न्यायपालिका, पिंजड़े में कैद तोते पर दोनों सिर्फ उबल सकते थे, कोई कार्यवाही नहीं कर सकते थे. अब, पहली नजर में ही सही, जांच को प्रभावित करने का मामला बनना गुस्से को आगे ले जाता है, कार्यवाही करने पर मजबूर करता है.

और इसी जगह से एक दूसरा नुक्ता निकलता है. ऐसा नहीं है कि भ्रष्टाचार पर पहले कभी कार्यवाही नहीं हुई. इस देश ने पूर्व केंद्रीय मंत्रियों जैसे ए राजा, और उससे भी बहुत पहले सुखराम, और सांसद कनिमोझी जैसे तमाम बड़े नामों को भ्रष्टाचार के मामलों में जेल जाते देखा है. पर फिर, उन मामलों और इनमें एक बुनियादी फर्क है- पहला यह कि सामान्य भाषा में कहें तो ये सभी छुटभैये या दूसरी तीसरी कतार के नेता थे जिन्हें सत्ता शीर्ष पर बैठे लोगों को बचाने के लिए दाँव पर लगाया जा सकता था. 

यह पहली बार हो रहा है कि लपटें पूर्व प्रधानमंत्री से लेकर जांच एजेंसी के निदेशक तक, माने सीधे शीर्ष नेतृत्व तक पहुँच रही हों. दूसरे शब्दों में कहें तो यह युद्ध अपराधों से निपटने के लिए अंतर्राष्ट्रीय न्यायशास्त्र के ‘शिखर उत्तरदायित्व’ (या यामाशिता/मदीना मानक) नाम के उस सिद्धांत का अंततः भारत में पहुँचना है जो बाकी दुनिया में प्रशासन, व्यापर समूहों तक में आपराधिक विचलनों से निपटने के लिए कबका इस्तेमाल किया जाने लगा है.

पर फिर, वर्तमान सरकार की नीति और नीयत दोनों देखें तो अभी बहुत उत्साहित नहीं हुआ जा सकता. कुछ तो वजह होगी कि सरकार अब तक हुई प्रारंभिक विवेचना के दस्तावेच सर्वोच्च न्यायालय के विशेष जांच दल को देने से इनकार कर रही है. वह भी इस तथ्य के बावजूद कि यह घोटाला भी विरोधी दल की पिछली सरकार के समय का है और तत्कालीन निदेशक नियुक्त भी उन्हीं के द्वारा किये गए थे. साफ़ है कि प्रारम्भिक विवेचना में कुछ तथ्य तो ऐसे हैं जो इस सरकार को भी कटघरे में खड़ा करने के लिए काफी हैं.

यही इस मामले का फ़िलहाल अंतिम नुक्ता है. यूँ तो उनकी पकड़ कभी कमजोर नहीं थी, पर अर्थव्यवस्था के खुलने के बाद कारपोरेट घरानों की सत्ता पर पकड़ दलीय मतभेदों के बहुत पार चली गयी है. वर्तमान केंद्रीय मंत्री नितिन गडकरी की विपक्षी नेता रहते हुए कही यह बात याद करें कि चार काम वो हमारे करते हैं , दो हम उनके तो यह बात और साफ़ हो जाती है. कोयला घोटाले की आंच अब तक राजनेताओं और नौकरशाहों तक टिकी हुई है पर फिर खदानें तो उद्योगपति घरानों ने लीं- सो अब जांच आगे बढ़ी तो तपिश उन तक पहुँचेगी. फिर हमने एस्सार से लेकर तमाम मामलों में देखा है कि वे किस स्तर तक जाकर इसे रोकने की कोशिश करते हैं, अक्सर सफल भी होते हैं.

फिलहाल बस ये उम्मीद की जाय कि सर्वोच्च न्यायालय अपना सुरक्षित रखा फैसला जब खोलेगा तो रंजीत सिन्हा के खिलाफ प्राथमिकी दर्ज करा अपनी निगरानी में जाँच का आदेश भी देगा, और अपने जाँच दल को प्रारंभिक विवेचना के दस्तावेज भी. ऐसा नहीं हुआ तो यह पूरी कवायद फिर बेमानी साबित हो जायेगी.