Crimes of passion, motivated by deep love often receive extenuating treatment by the law. But what
of communal crimes borne out of deep hatreds?
Justice D.P. Wadhwa, a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India condemned Dara Singh, the criminal for burning Graham Staines and his two young sons alive but exonerated sanghi organisations like the Bajrang Dal, the RSS and the BJP for providing the intellectual motivation and sustenance for the crime to be cold-bloodedly carried out.
In the early hours of January 23, 1999 the deed had been committed. Days before his ministry instituted the inquiry, India’s home minister, L.K. Advani undermined the independent inquiry by exonerating the organisations who had inspired Dara Singh. Two days after the brutal murder, on January 25, when asked by the media whether sangh parivar organisations like the Bajrang Dal, VHP and the RSS, should also be investigated in connection to the Staines’ murder, Advani replied, “I don’t think so. I have known these organisations. They have no criminal record.” (The TOI, January 26, 1999). A month later on the floor of the Rajya Sabha, Advani was forced to admit that there were a total of 116 attacks against Christians in 1998 (PTI, February 24, 1998).
Advani abused his position as home minister of the country by passing judgement on outfits clearly then suspected of direct involvement. Is that surprising, however? Advani is himself co-accused in the criminal case of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The Liberhans Commission instituted to investigate the crime as well as another official commission to get to the bottom of the violence in the city of Ayodhya have been silenced by the BJP government in power.
The rath yatra led by him with the hate-ridden speeches and slogans raised in its wake have also been cited by Justice B.N. Srikrishna in his report as the broader provocation for the Bombay riots of December 1992-January 1993. He is therefore directly associated with exactly the crimes that the conspirator organisations in the Staines murder were accused of. Preparing a hate-driven climate that is conducive to inspiring the lunatic fringe into action.
By booking the criminal and letting off organisations that he was associated with for years, Justice Wadhwa, in his report submitted to the home ministry on June 21, 1999 and also re-enforced Advani’s convictions expressed to the media in which he exonerated the organisations of the sangh parivar.
Despite the evidence supplied by senior police officers in the administration, presented before him on Dara Singh’s connections with not just the Bajrang Dal but also the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Judge chose to arrive at exactly the opposite conclusions. Justice Wadhwa’s report will not only stand out for its rank dishonesty in refusing to challenge the powers that be. Wadhwa’s judgement bears comparison to the legal conclusions drawn following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, by Nathuram Godse. The RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha, despite the obvious connection of the assassin, Nathuram Godse with them, were formally exonerated.
Tushar Gandhi, great-grandson of the Mahatma in a piece written for The Statesman in August this year brings out this comparison admirably. (see box)
What is really shocking on a close perusal of the Wadhwa Commission report is, how blatantly the Judge has chosen to ignore the evidence presented by senior policemen and the administration before it.
Gopal Subramaniam was the senior counsel for the commission of inquiry. In his submissions based on the records submitted before it, he observes, “There is sufficient evidence to suggest that Dara Singh’s association with the RSS and the Bajrang Dal renders the matters open to further inquiry and investigation by the CBI “
The counsel with his three associates took the view that no organisation should be given a clean chit until further notice. He recommended in fact that a thorough investigation should be undertaken by the CBI. Instead of accepting this sound legal advice, Justice Wadhwa hurried through his investigation by exonerating them and submitting the report to the home ministry.