Image: Narendra Vaskar / The Indian Express
The deaths of at least 13 people, apart from the ill-health of hundreds of people, should be classified as “social murders” as Friedrich Engels called them. These were a direct result of state negligence; they took place at a State government-organised event for the aggrandisement of politicians and the so-called spiritual leader in whose honour the spectacle was organised in Kharghar in Navi Mumbai on April 16.
This calls for a judicial inquiry as anyone aware of basic Parliamentary norms would bear out. The most essential element is very much there, the involvement of the state government which was so direct and even a most unscrupulous State would not be able to deny it. It was a State government organised event, adverstised through with front page advertisements in many newspapers.
Formerly there used to be regular judicial inquiries into disasters of even small magnitude. One will find any number of such reports in the state legislature library. Now, the opposition in the State is so feeble and for a long time one has not heard of demands for judicial inquiries.
Shamefully, a section of the NCP (Nationalist Congress Party), now appears all set to join hands with the ruling network in clear betrayal of the legacy of Phule, Shahu and Ambedkar. If not a judicial inquiry, people can (should) hold a people’s court, a jan sunwai, in which witnesses and others can be called and the proceedings recorded and publicised.
Often the government machinery routinely harasses social organisations wanting to take out morchas, all kinds of permissions have to be taken, and those upholding democracy are treated like criminals. And here, the government and the alleged spiritual organisation in a joint exercise organised this mega event at a cost of some Rs 12 crore to the government without preliminary precautions.
The least that the government can do now is to ensure that organisers of such mega events including corrupt politicians and others organising cricket matches, should ask the attendees to use public transport. In any case the size of such events ought to be restricted to a manageable degree.
For years we have been hearing disgraceful arguments being made by the government machinery that trade union and political morchas should be discouraged as they are a hindrance to traffic. But they have no problems with huge traffic jams caused by monopolisation of road space by motor cars.
A few years ago there was a spiritual guru called Pandurang Shastri Athavale, he was trained in philosophy, he helped many to give up drinking liquor, improve their lot, he had a mass following but he never went to such absurd lengths as organising these monster events.
The Navi Mumbai deaths remind one of the Hillsborough tragedy in which 97 football fans were killed and many injured during an FA cup semi-final in Sheffield in 1987. The police were severely indicted for their mismanagement in an inquiry that lasted years. The deaths are remembered every year to this day with floral offerings. The disaster had occurred on April 15, datewise, just a day before the State-caused deaths.
(From the author’s FB post dated April 17; he is a senior journalist formerly with The Times of India)