Justice delayed…

Almost a year after the Srikrishna report was tabled in the Maharashtra Assembly and action promised by the government, things remain unchanged


"I cultivate hope and I see it wither daily; Alas, what does it serve to water the leaves when the tree is cut off at its root."

— Rousseau

August this year will mark the completion of one year since the tabling of the Srikrishna Commission’s
report in the Maharashtra assembly. Just as the anniversaries of the Babri Masjid destruction have come and gone, it seems that for the victims of the riots, August 6 will add to the list of dates serving simply to rub in the fact that the government seems neither to remember or care. The major findings of Justice Srikrishna on the dubious role of the Shiv Sena and widespread police bias against Muslims during the riots were summarily rejected by the Sena–BJP run government of Maharashtra as "anti–Hindu" and "biased in favour of the minority community" on this day last year.

The government, however, did promise action on two fronts — re-examining the ‘A’ summary cases (cases labelled ‘true but undetected’ by the police and closed down) and investigations into the partisan conduct of police officials specifically named in the Srikrishna report. Two separate committees were set up to look into the two matters.

The committee set up under the additional chief secretary (Home) in October last year, to look into the cases of delinquent officers finally issued notices to the 31 policemen (consisting of 15 police officers and 16 constables) named by the report, only in March this year. With the transfer of K.C. Srivastava, the earlier additional chief secretary, matters have not got much farther in the past three months.

Deputy secretary (Home), Dr. Sagar told CC that 28 replies had been received to the 31 notices issued. Asked when the other three were due, he said that three had "probably" asked for extensions and "their replies should have been due some time ago." No fresh time limit has been set for receiving these replies. However, he did assure that if the replies did not come in by the last week of June, a second notice would be issued to those concerned.

"The committee is now reviewing the replies of the 28 officers after which they will consider what action is to be taken," said Dr. Sagar. He predicts that the committee will be able to complete its investigations and take decisions on the action to be taken by the end of next month.

The 1,358 riots cases closed under the ‘A’ summary category have seen even less progress. After the government accepted the Srikrishna Commission’s recommendations to review these cases, a committee was set up under the director general of police, Arvind Inamdar. It was only recently that the committee decided to reopen seven cases of murder. "981 cases are to be scrutinised", says DGP, Inamdar. "Out of these, we have received reports on a total of 834 cases. 147 cases are pending with the investigating teams and 390 cases are yet to be distributed."

Four teams have been set up to look into the cases. "It is extremely exhaustive work", Inamdar says in defence of the slow progress. "Besides, there have been several transfers this month. That has really stalled the work even further. I think we will have a meeting next week to discuss the matter." (No meeting was arranged, as the DGP then went on tour). The committee has also been considering setting up one more team consisting of retired police officers to hasten the work for at least a month now. But no step has been taken in this direction as yet.

About 60 per cent of the riot cases were closed down by the police under the ‘A’ summary category. Justice Srikrishna in his report had stated, "It must be impressed upon the investigating officers that every classification of a registered offence in ‘A’ summary (which can only be done by the court) is a certificate of failure and admission of inefficiency. Figures of such classification in ‘A’ summary must count for the demerit rating of investigating officers."

But Inamdar does not agree. "We will investigate each case," he told CC. If we feel there was a deliberate attempt to scuttle the case, then we will definitely look into the matter and decide what action is to be taken against the offending officer. However, there is no trauma attached to the investigating officers simply because the cases are to be reopened."

The odds are still very thin. These cases have simply been numbers in police files for the past six years. Since evidence in criminal cases is easily erased, there is relatively little that can be hoped to be achieved now. Says P. Sebastian of the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR), "Government committees are often just an eyewash. The findings are routinely ignored." He points out that the Sena government had conveniently ignored Supreme Court directions issued by Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy and K.S. Paripoornan, to institute an inquiry into the police atrocities during the riots in 1996, two years before the Srikrishna report was made public. As Sebastian says, "They have reopened seven cases now out of 1,358. That doesn’t even touch the tip of the iceberg! The whole thing is a fraud. Do you think they will actually do anything? They have forgotten all about it."

This is not simply a cynical review of the situation; rather it reflects the absolute lack of credibility the government has in the matter. What is crucial at this point is that whether the government pretends to have forgotten or not, people must remember. Pressure must be brought upon the government and regular reports on the progress of the two committees sought. "Then at least", says Sebastian, "we can move the court again on the basis that they are really doing nothing."

However, the judiciary has proved as slow as the government committees. Of the several petitions filed demanding that the Srikrishna report be implemented, the one filed by a group of organisations that have come together to form the Action Taken Committee for the implementation of the Srikrishna report did come up in the Supreme Court on May 14. "But nothing was resolved", says Advocate Muchchala, who is one of the petitioners. "The state government applied for an adjournment, which justice Hegde accepted and the case is now scheduled to come up for hearing again in the last week of July as the Court is closed for vacations up to July 12. Justice Hegde did say, however, that the matter should be disposed of as soon as possible."

It remains very doubtful that by August 6 next month — a full year after Justice Srikrishna’s report was placed before the state Assembly, any real progress will have been made.


Findings of the Srikrishna Commission



From or about July 1992, the Bharatiya Janata Party orchestrated its campaign for construction of a temple at Ayodhya by holding Ram Paduka processions, Chowk Sabhas and meetings, using these occasions for delivering inflammatory speeches exhorting the Hindus to become united on the issue.


The immediate causes of the communal riots on December 6, 1992 were: (a) the demolition of Babri Masjid, (b) the aggravation of Muslim sentiments by the Hindus with their celebration rallies and (c) the insensitive and harsh approach of the police while handling the protesting mobs which initially were not violent.


From January 8,1993 at least, there is no doubt that the Shiv Sena and Shiv Sainiks took the lead in organizing attacks on Muslims and their properties under the guidance of several leaders of the Shiv Sena from the level of Shakha Pramukh to the Shiv Sena Pramukh Bal Thackeray who, like a veteran general, commanded his loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate by organised attacks against Muslims.


The response of police to appeals from desperate victims, particularly Muslims, was cynical and utterly indifferent. On occasions, the response was that they were unable to leave the appointed post; on others, the attitude was that one Muslim killed, was one Muslim less.


Despite knowledge of the fact that the force had been infected by communal virus, no effective curative steps were taken over a large period of time as a result of which communal violence became chronic and its virulent symptoms showed up during the two riot periods.


As far as the causes for January 1993 phase of the rioting are concerned, the Commission does not accept the theory that it was merely a backlash of the Hindus because of the stabbing, Mathadi murders incidents and the Radhabai Chawl incident.


There is no material on record suggesting that even during this phase (January 1993) any known Muslim individuals or organisations were responsible for the riots, though a number of individual Muslims and Muslim criminal elements appear to have indulged in violence, looting, arson and rioting.

Archived from Communalism Combat, July 1999, Year 6  No. 51, Update



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