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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.

सिर्फ़ छलावा है आतंक पर चीन का बदला सुर

[राज एक्सप्रेस में 9 जून 2016 को प्रकाशित] 

चीन ने पहली बार खुल के माना- पाकिस्तान की आतंकवादी गतिविधियों में संलिप्तता, ठहराया 26/11 हमले का जिम्मेदार. भारतीय मीडिया के हवाले से देखें तो शायद ऐसा लगेगा कि चीन ने अपनी विदेश नीति में कुछ बड़ा और क्रांतिकारी परिवर्तन कर डाला है. यह भी कि अब वह अपने केवल शीर्षक पढ़ के आह्लादित हो उठने वालों के लिए खबर बेशक बड़ी है, पर अफ़सोस- बस खबर ही है. कूटनीति समझना यूँ भी इतना आसान नहीं होता और फिर यह तो चीन की ठहरी.

सो साहिबान, अफ़सोस, राष्ट्रवादी हलकों में चरमसुख सी पैदा कर देने वाली यह खबर दरअसल अभी बस खबर ही है. भारत-चीन- पाकिस्तान संबंधों की दृष्टि से देखें तो यह दरअसल एक ऐसा अर्थहीन बयान है. फिर इस बयान की जरुरत क्यों कर पड़ी? इसलिए क्योंकि इसका वास्ता जेहादी आतंक प्रभावित चीनी क्षेत्रों से पाकिस्तानी और अफ़ग़ानी तालिबान को दूर रखने के लिए पाक सरकार और सेना पर और दबाव बनाने की कोशिश से है. पर उस तरफ बढ़ने से पहले चीन के इस ‘बयान’ और उसके वास्तविक फैसलों पर एक गंभीर निगाह डालते हैं.

सो पहली बात यह कि यह कोई बयान नहीं बल्कि मुंबई हमले में पाकिस्तान नहीं बल्कि लश्कर-ए-तैयबा की संलिप्तता को लेकर चीन के सरकारी टेलीविजन पर प्रसारित एक वृत्तचित्र है. जी- यह वृत्तचित्र मुंबई हमले पर पाकिस्तान की आधिकारिक स्थिति के खिलाफ नहीं जाता. पाकिस्तान ने हमेशा ही दावा किया है कि इस हमले में पाकिस्तान सरकार/एजेंसियों की कोई भूमिका नहीं थी और यह उन गैर-सरकारी तत्वों की हरकत है जिनसे पाकिस्तान खुद ही परेशान है. अब इतनी सीधी सी बात का भारतीय मीडिया में आते आते चीन की आतंक में पाकिस्तान की संलिप्तता स्वीकारने जैसी बात बन जाना भारतीय विमर्श की गैर-जिम्मेदारी ही दिखाता है.

दूसरी बात यह कि यह वृत्तचित्र पहली बार नहीं दिखाया गया. इसका पहला प्रसारण दरअसल भारत के राष्ट्रपति प्रणब मुखर्जी की चीन यात्रा के ठीक पहले प्रसारित किया गया था और इस सप्ताह इसका पुनर्प्रसारण किया गया.

तीसरी बात यह कि इस वृत्तचित्र के ठीक पहले पाकिस्तानी आतंकवाद पर चीन की ठोस कार्यवाही क्या थी? यह कि उसने संयुक्त राष्ट्र संघ में पाकिस्तानी आतंकी समूह जैश-ए- मोहम्मद के सरगना और भारत में हालिया पठानकोट हमलों सहित भारत में तमाम हमलों के सूत्रधार बताये जाने वाले मसूद अजहर को प्रतिबंधित करने के भारतीय प्रस्ताव को वीटो ही नहीं किया था बल्कि इस वीटो को उचित भी ठहराया था.

चीन के हालिया बयान को इस रौशनी में देखें तो तमाम बातें साफ़ होती हैं. चीन सच में पाकिस्तान जमीन से दहशत फैला रहे संगठनों पर गंभीर होता तो फिर मसूद अजहर पर भारतीय प्रस्ताव को खारिज क्यों करता? ऐसे प्रस्तावों पर समर्थन और विरोध के परे मतदान न करने का विकल्प भी होता है. साफ है कि इस प्रस्ताव के पारित होने की अवस्था में पाकिस्तान की वैश्विक स्तर पर छीछालेदर होती और उसके अभिन्न मित्र चीन ने उसे बचाने के लिए ही वीटो किया.

उसके बाद की कूटनीतिक गतिविधियाँ देखें तो मामला और साफ़ होता है. ऐसे कि संभवतः चीन की इस हरकत के विरोध में उस पर दबाव बनाने के लिए भारत ने उसके आत्मनिर्वासित उईगुर नेता डोल्कुन ईसा और असंतुष्ट नेताओं लु जिंगुआ और कार्यकर्ता आर. वांग को हिमाचल प्रदेश के धर्मशाला में लोकतंत्र और चीन विषय पर एक सम्मेलन में शिरकत करने के लिए पहले वीजा दे दिया. पर फिर चीन के तीखा ऐतराज पर उनके वीजे रद्द भी कर दिए. भारत की इस कार्यवाही को सारी दुनिया में उसकी हलकी कूटनीति के उदाहरण के बतौर देखा गया.

अब अगर चीन के इस कदम पर वापस आयें तो इसके निहितार्थ और साफ़ होंगे. चीन के भीतर, खासतौर पर उईगुर बहुल जिनजियांग प्रांत में हाल के दौर में जेहादी इस्लाम के लिए समर्थन भी बढ़ा है और हमले भी. फिर इन हमलों में पाकिस्तान-अफ़ग़ानिस्तान के सीमावर्ती इलाकों से काम कर रही 1993 में स्थापित तुर्केस्तान इस्लामिक पार्टी नाम के संगठन की बड़ी भूमिका है. चीन लंबे दौर से अपनी सीमा के भीतर असंतोष से निपटने के साथ साथ इस तुर्केस्तान पार्टी को कमजोर करने की कोशिश करता रहा है और इसके लिए 2000 में तब अफगानिस्तान की सत्ता पर काबिज तालिबान से समझौते की हद तक गया है.

हाँ उसके ठीक बाद हुए 11 सितम्बर के हमलों के बाद बदल गयी भू-राजनैतिक स्थितियों की वजह से चीन के अपनी सीमाओं के भीतर असंतोष और तुर्केस्तान इस्लामिक पार्टी को नियंत्रित/ख़त्म करने के प्रयासों को भारी धक्का लगा है. चीन के बदले सुरों के पीछे शायद यही असहजता और पाकिस्तान सरकार पर दबाव बनाने की कोशिश है कि वह अपनी पूरी ताकत ऐसे समूहों को ख़त्म करने में लगाए जो चीन के अन्दर अस्थिरता पैदा करने की कोशिश कर रहे हैं.

इससे ज्यादा इसके कोई निहितार्थ हुए तो वह मसूद अज़हर को प्रतिबंधित करने के खिलाफ उसके वीटो की मियाद सितम्बर में ख़त्म होने के साथ साफ़ हो जायेंगे. वैसे चीन पर नजर बनाये रखने वालों में से किसी को ऐसा नहीं लग रहा कि चीन मसूद अज़हर या पाकिस्तान पर अपना रुख बदलेगा- उसने जो दबाव बनाना था वह बना लिया है. हम फिर जितना चाहें प्याली में तूफ़ान लाते रहें.

July 21, 2016

Turning Cows Into Man-Eaters

[This is an AHRC ArticleRepublished in Counter Currents and the Kashmir Monitor.] 
Gujarat is simmering again. Dalits are agitating over criminals indulging in criminality. These criminals, who are fondly referred to as “cow vigilantes” by the mainstream media, have recently stripped and flogged four Dalit youth in Una. The resultant protests have claimed two lives: a policeman has reportedly been killed in stone pelting in Amreli and a youth consumed poison in protest.

These deaths are the latest in the spate of violence caused by criminal cow vigilantism. Worse has been inflicted across India. Three men were similarly stripped and flogged in Pratapgarh, Rajasthan, last month. Two more were lynched, one a minor, in Latehar, Jharkhand, a couple of months back. These two were then hung by a tree. Even earlier, members of such a group had killed another in Nahan, Himachal Pradesh. One can count numerous such attacks since the incumbent regime came to power in May 2014.

The attacks imply something sinister, something the Republic should be taking notice of, and addressing urgently. The criminals operating in the name of cow protection have become a law unto themselves. There is something even more sinister: these criminals have the Republic’s law enforcement agencies on their side. The Dalit youth were tied to a car and flogged in Una right in front of the City Police Station; the cops looked away. Consider also the transfer of the Station House Officer of Chhoti Sadri Police Station in Pratapgarh. He was transferred for “arresting the cow vigilantes who had assaulted the suspects” under the pressure of Gau Raksha Dal (Cow Protection Force).

And it does not stop here. Law enforcement agencies are not only offering support to these criminals; often they are right beside them too, particularly in Haryana. There are similar allegations about the same happening in Punjab and Rajasthan.

Ironically, Haryana government which miserably failed to protect the lives and property of citizens during the quota unrest a few months back, is also actively considering forming a Gau Rakshak Taskforce along the lines of the Home Guards, an auxiliary police force. Clearly, protecting cows, even at the cost of killing humans, is crucial to the current regime.

Nothing wrong in this, perhaps, for a country that has acknowledged this as a task in its Constitution itself, despite the idea being impossibly absurd when considering both political economy and implementation. Article 48 of the Indian Constitution directs that:

“The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.”

Any misconceptions about this Directive Principle allowing for the slaughter of animals that have stopped giving milk (non-milch) or are no more useful for agriculture work (non-draught), for whatsoever reasons, were cleared by the judgements of the Supreme Court in Mohammed Hanif Quareshi v. State of West Bengal (AIR 1958 SC 731) and State of Gujarat v. Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kassab Jamat (Appeal (civil) 4937-4940 of 1998) that imposed a total ban on the slaughter of cow and its progeny.

But then, the State must do it by protecting cows and not by killing, or letting self-appointed vigilantes kill its citizens. Let the State make budgetary provisions for the upkeep of cows and their progeny that are abandoned by owners in old age, when they are past the age of utility, for milk and draught purposes. Let the State make budgetary allocations and have them passed in Parliament, even as around 42 percent of its children remain severely undernourished because the State does not having enough resources to nourish them back out of malnourishment, stunting, and even wastage.

If the State and the citizenry see cow protection (read: the protection of cows abandoned by the citizens itself), as far more important than investing in the health, wellbeing, and future of its children, then so be it.

What the Republic cannot do, however, is what it is doing at this moment. It cannot share its monopoly over the legitimate use of coercive force, or violence, with criminals, even if they may come across as vigilantes carrying out their own will. If it does that, it cannot survive for long. The cyclical violence that such devolution of the power, in terms of using coercive force, would unleash, would prevent the Republic from lasting.

This is exactly what the Supreme Court of India said in its verdict in the Nandini Sundar & Ors vs State of Chattisgarh (Writ Petition (Civil) NO. 250 of 2007) case, when declaring Salwa Judum, a State appointed vigilante group, unconstitutional. The Court had made it absolutely clear that Indian states cannot allow any group to operate that “… in any manner or form seeks to take law into private hands, act unconstitutionally or otherwise violate the human rights of any person.”

So, the operation of any group, including, but not limited to, Salwa Judum and Koya commandos, which, in any manner or form, seeks to take law into private hands, is deemed to act unconstitutionally and violate the human rights of persons.

And that is exactly what has started happening in India. The cow fanatics are on a rampage for a while now. They have attacked, assaulted, maimed, and killed many. The citizenry duly approached the law enforcement for redress and got none. Citizens tried even more, through political mobilization, protests, and other democratic means.

However, the law enforcement has remained hand in glove with the criminal vigilantes, filing First Information Reports against them, under anti cow slaughter acts while taking no action against the criminals.

The Dalit citizens learnt their lesson, and the lesson is that the State will fail to protect them. And, this lesson shows how the State has lost the very basic reason behind its existence.

The citizens did what they could in this situation – took the matter to the streets – and the results are in front of us in the shape of lives lost in protest and in the efforts to contain it. The State must consider what the situation would be if aggrieved citizens themselves were to take a step forward and take the law into their own hands, just like the criminal vigilantes have. Despite its love and devotion for cows, it is unlikely the State is not enthusiastic to witness the mayhem that would unfold.

Cows have always been herbivorous animals that eat grass. The State must not turn them into man-eaters. And, the only way to do ensure this is for the State to reclaim its authority of being the sole source of legitimate coercion, to prosecute the vigilantes, and to send them where they belong for their criminal actions: the country’s prisons.

July 02, 2016

Ruby Rai, 'toppers' scam' and the joke called Juvenile Justice

[This is an AHRC article.] 
Bihar police have arrested Ruby Rai, a 17-year-old girl, under Sections 420, 465, 467, 468, 471, and 120(B) of the India Penal Code on 26 June 2016 and have duly sent her to jail, i.e. an adult jail. Her alleged crime is that of cheating to secure top rank in the state senior secondary school examination. Questioned by a journalist after the exam, she couldn’t correctly answer even the most elementary questions. She is not the only one to be caught red-handed. There are three others who all failed to answer basic questions on subjects they had just “topped” in the exam.
The rot in the educational institutions of most Indian provinces is near total. They are so infested with various syndicates engaged in cons, corruption, and forgery that their being institutions is a fact that has become secondary to the institutionalised Mafiosi that rules within. This Mafiosi, duly known as cheating mafia, admission mafia, selection mafia, and so on, have grown like parasites to take over the hosts.
The most infamous of them all has operated in the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB), popularly known by its Hindi acronym, Vyapam. The Vyapam exam scam is now under a Central Bureau of Investigation probe for the suspicious serial deaths of 43 people associated with the scam.
Ironically, from the state to the common people, everyone knows this. They know that most of the teachers they are paying to teach their children have, in fact, bought not earned their degrees. They know that the cops the state pays to protect them have done the same. There have even been instances when the top administrative jobs of provinces being bought and sold becoming public, with the emergence of open rate lists. Ravinder Paul Singh Sidhu, ex-Chairperson of the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC), for instance, was arrested in 2002 and convicted in 2014 for openly selling jobs to aspirants.
The parasitic education Mafiosi rules in Bihar as well, and if the cycle is to be broken, the syndicate must be smashed. Arresting Ruby Rai, a minor, and that too after flouting the law of the land, cannot be the way ahead for society. Firstly, she could not have done this cheating on her own. She, after all, is a minor, and someone completely dependent upon her parents, who likely made the deal for her. They are roaming scot free, uncharged! Then there would be administrators in the school where she was tested, right up to the board that governs the examination and prepares the question sheets, and everywhere in between. Some charges have been made and a few arrests too, but the full nature of the racket has not been exposed.
The moot point here is how could the police send a juvenile to an adult jail in complete violation of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 (hereafter JJ Act)? When confronted over this travesty, Manu Maharaj, the Senior Superintendent of Police, who is leading the investigations into the alleged crime, asserted that it is Ms. Rai’s responsibility to prove that she’s a juvenile. He promised that she would be produced before the Juvenile Justice Board if she did so.
The top cop has got it the wrong side up. The JJ Act, promulgated on 15 January 2016, stipulates, in no uncertain terms, that it is his responsibility to prove the age, and not that of a child in conflict with the law. Furthermore, the JJ Act makes it absolutely clear that the birth date recorded on the matriculation certificate or birth certificate by a civic body would be proof enough and only in the absence of either of these can the child’s age be medically determined. The police should have verified her age using her matriculation certificate; failing to do so exposes the real worth of their investigative prowess.
Section 94 (2) of the Act states the following:
“(2) In case, the Committee or the Board has reasonable grounds for doubt regarding whether the person brought before it is a child or not, the Committee or the Board, as the case may be, shall undertake the process of age determination, by seeking evidence by obtaining —
(i)             the date of birth certificate from the school, or the matriculation or equivalent certificate from the concerned examination Board, if available; and in the absence thereof;
(ii)           the birth certificate given by a corporation or a municipal authority or a panchayat;
(iii)          and only in the absence of (i) and (ii) above, age shall be determined by an ossification test or any other latest medical age determination test conducted on the orders of the Committee or the Board: Provided such age determination test conducted on the order of the Committee or the Board shall be completed within fifteen days from the date of such order.”
Top cop Many Maharaj would also know that the JJ Act, through Section 4, is the supreme authority in dealing with the children in conflict with law, and overrides any other law that might exist.
The police cannot justify its epic ignorance by invoking the bogey of heinous crimes. Yes, in the case of heinous crimes, the JJ Act allows – despite major opposition from civil society and despite being in contravention of many international laws – the trial of children as adults. However, the police cannot use this as justification because the Act defines heinous crimes as those carrying a minimum sentence of 10 years. The charges slapped on Ms. Rai under Sections 420, 465, 467, 468, 471 and 120(B) of the IPC are that of forgery and cheating and none of them carries a minimum sentence of 10 years.
Furthermore, even when a child in conflict with law commits a heinous crime, if it is so recognised, the police are not allowed to simply go ahead and treat the juvenile as an adult. In such cases, Section 15 (i) of JJ Act orders a verification of the child’s mental and physical capacity to commit such an offence before proceeding:
“15. (1) In case of a heinous offence alleged to have been committed by a child, who has completed or is above the age of sixteen years, the Board shall conduct a preliminary assessment with regard to his mental and physical capacity to commit such offence, ability to understand the consequences of the offence and the circumstances in which he allegedly committed the offence, and may pass an order in accordance with the provisions of subsection (3) of section 18: Provided that for such an assessment, the Board may take the assistance of experienced psychologists or psycho-social workers or other experts.”
Evidently, the police have flouted the JJ Act and made a mincemeat of it in this case. The joke that passes of as investigation doesn’t stop here. The police can merely arrest an accused. Only a magistrate can send him or her to judicial custody. Alas, our magistracy has hardly ever been found wanting in obliging police requests for sending people to jail, whatever the (de)merits of the case may be. No wonder the man in black robes chose not to bother with the procedure and showed scant regard for the law in sending Ruby Rai to jail.
So why was she sent to jail flouting all rules? Perhaps the reason is in the fact that the scandal has come hot on the heels of mass scale cheating in the same exams last year, which hit eyeballs across the world and thus outraged local people. The outrage forced the political leadership to be seen to be doing something; in turn the pressure may have forced the police to act and hence the arrest of red-handed student.
Would the arrest, even if wrongful, help deter the same kind of cheating? It was likely her parents that planned it. And, it was society’s emphasis on the ends, not the means, which assisted the same. It was the corruption endemic in the institution that made it possible. And, it is society’s active collusion and a broken criminal justice system that will make the corruption persist.
The system cannot be cleaned up by individual cosmetic acts of arresting children least responsible, and perhaps not even fully aware, of the criminal acts. It calls for a systemic overhaul of the educational institution of the states and weeding out rackets in examinations and admissions and all other aspects in which the syndicates are most infested.
It calls for enrolling the police and judiciary in a refresher course to ensure that they know the law they are supposed to enforce.
The case of Ms. Rai has exposed the decadence in Bihar’s education system. Her arrest has exposed the dysfunction in the police and judiciary.
Rai’s re-examination is one thing.
But who will join the call for a re-examination of the police officers and the magistrate complicit in sending a child to adult jail?