Isn’t it awful how we refuse to learn from our mistakes?

On the day (February 16) he presented his 700-page report to the Maharashtra government on the findings of the officially appointed commission to investigate the communal riots of December 1992-January 1993 and the serial bomb blasts of March 1993, Justice B.N.Srikrishna spoke to Communalism Combat, in an exclusive interview. What his main findings were, the judge would not say except to emphasise more than once that the findings must be made public so that we all learn from the errors of the past. And, Justice Srikrishna did agree to share with us the Epilogue to Chapter VII of the commission’s report. We reproduce below excerpts from the interview with Teesta Setalvad and the epilogue:

How do you feel at the end of the whole exercise?
For all these years, sitting in this chair, being witness through real-life accounts to all that had taken place in Bombay, was an awful churning. Many times I felt angry and depressed. But now with the report submitted I have the satisfaction of knowing that it is a job well done. I feel relieved and satisfied.

Do you feel that your report will make any difference, effect any changes, be accepted by the government?
How can I say? That is the job of the wider public to ensure. So many worthwhile judicial commissions have sat in the past. Have their recommendations made any difference? All I can say is that every effort must be made to see that it is made public and that we all, the state included, learn from the grave errors of the past.

On many occasions during the commission’s work, you used harsh words against the police, even lost your temper?
Why remind me of that? It was impossible as a human being not to react. I was faced with victims who went through unspeakable horrors. That’s why the constant churning that I could not but experience. But more on that after the report is made public. As I am sure that it must be.
Just two days ago there were serial bomb blasts in Coimbatore. It has come two-and-a-half months after a terrible communal carnage. Does it not seem like a repeat of what happened in Bombay five years ago? Isn’t it awful how we refuse to learn from our mistakes? Its like the situation in any family. There is this younger brother whom I beat again and again till he is pushed to the corner. So much so that he is pushed to the wall. A point is reached when he can’t and won’t take it any more, he rebels and then he will take the help of any outsider to get back at me. That’s what happens. Anywhere.

Epilogue to Chapter VII of the Srikrishna report submitted to the Maharshtra government on February 14, 1998
The voluminous evidence produced before the Commission strikingly brings home the stark reality that the beast in man keeps straining at the leash to jump out; frictions, irritations and disputes based on colour, race and religion are but excuses.

The commission has noticed that most of the violent communal riots during December 1992 and January 1993 took place in areas called Prem Nagar, Shanti Nagar, Gandhi Nagar and so on. That vicious communal violence on such scale should occur in the land of ‘Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah’ and Mahatma Gandhi, only shows that the message of love and brotherhood preached by apostles is not internalized. Unless that is done, the spectre of communal violence would haunt the city again and again.

The Commission sincerely hopes that the calamitous events of December 1992, January 1993 and March 1993 would serve as eye openers and lead to introspection and that all concerned attain the maturity to accept constructive criticism and mend their ways. For, in the immortal words of Ramayana: “Sulabhaah purushaa rajan satatam priya vaadinah Apriyasya cha pathhyasya vakta shrota cha durlabah” ( Persons pleasing in speech are easy to find; it is difficult to find one who speaks or listens to the bitter, but wholesome truth).

Finally, before parting, the Commission would reiterate the ringing exhortation of Shankaracharya:“Tvayi Mayi chaanyatraiko Vishnuh, Vyartham kupyasi mayyasahishnuh” (The same God resides in you and me; why then be needlessly angry with me !!).
Mumbai Dated 14th February 1998 Justice B.N. Srikrishna epilogue:
Archived from Communalism Combat, March  1998, Year 5  No. 41, Cover Story



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