Come on, there’s a limit to credulity. You start a chase with shouts like ‘stop thief’, and lead people on a wild goose chase by spinning further stories about it, and there seems to be just no end to it. Perhaps there IS no end to it, and the end is just the chase.
So Yogendra Yadav, known all over the country for his commitment to peaceful democratic methods of protest and resistance, and some even raise their eyebrows at it, was charged with “attempt to murder” as part of a “deep-laid conspiracy”, no less! At least that is what press-reports have said. It seems they cannot stretch it more and it must snap with a bang at some point. But no!
They argue the non-violence must be just play-acting because for a conspiracy to succeed it must be so deep-laid as not to leave a ripple on the surface. People appear to have no inkling of the fact that in a moment the earth is going to burst asunder under their feet.
So that is all there is to it. Thus, everyone is suspect. Your warmest friends, your familiar grocer or shop-keeper at the street-corner, your paper boy with whom you exchange a greeting when taking a morning walk, the professor whom you look up to for his learning, may be involved in a plot to bring down the Indian state.
And you just got to trust the acumen of sleuths to unravel on a thousand pages over months the hair-raising conspiracy. This is just the charge-sheet and the evidence may be unrolled over tens of thousands of pages.
And the judges who pore over them for weeks on end to form a rough idea of the charge for weeks have to go by the book when the bewildered accused ask for bail. The UAPA which is coming to look like a monster gas nebula hundreds of light years away from us seems capable of gobbling up anything that crosses its path. It may even draw into its cavernous maw things looking far enough away from it. Seems the poor judges are only to see to it if the charge conforms to the clauses of the Act. If not, bang goes the accused’s chance of getting bail. His family comes under a pall of suspicion in the neighbourhood. The other prison inmates may be guilty of the worst crimes. But every inch as patriotic as the citizens flaunting their ‘desh bhakti’ they fling their punches at him as soon as he leaves his cell.
Is this justice at work? The puzzled commoner wonders but prudently keep his doubts to himself. For who knows if that might get noticed by watchful sleuths helped out by scores of earnest volunteers.
In normal times and in a relaxed healthy society these signs in behaviour would be regarded as the syndrome of a serious mental disorder developing over the years. Given the complexity of human behaviour a healthy dose of scepticism or doubt is quite in order. But if such symptoms become regular and grow more starkly aggressive, one advises the other members of the family to consult a physician. And what does one do if the state itself develops such abnormal symptoms over a period of time?
Look at the reverse side. The masked intruders who entered the JNU campus under the very eyes of the security staff two years ago and beat up marked victims mercilessly and left the campus without a scratch on their bodies, rouse no suspicions and the investigation into the rampage is yet to start. Then the right-wing politicians whose tweets had been widely believed to have triggered communal tensions in Delhi some time later are yet to attract any attention from investigating agencies. These are no minor hitches but a terrible mess.
Common sense refuses to admit that these features are typical of a healthy system of justice or a healthy democratic society. But the wheels of Justice seem to be grinding on tracks towards an uncertain destination fraught with unspeakable dangers.
Does one just wait in tense anxiety for a disaster to happen or pull the alarm chain?
*The author is a highly respected Assamese intellectual, a literary critic and social-scientist from Assam. Views expressed are the author’s own.
Other pieces by Dr. Hiren Gohain: