“Where does the sky end?”
My father had asked me the question many years back when we had been to Puri (Orissa) for a summer vacation. I was being extremely naughty as a kid and the question was the only way to keep me engaged. I tried hard to find an answer and ran around the hotel’s dining hall asking every visitor that same question. They all found my curiosity cute and smiled.
I thought, it was a silly question to the elders because, obviously, they had an easy answer. Elders knew everything! Everything.
Last week India witnessed two deaths. One, we celebrated and the other, we mourned. However, as ever, I could not join the hysteria. I mourned, the ‘death’ of an Indian conscience!
I remember the recently delivered Hashimpura Judgement which, to me outlined the death of justice in India. It clearly had communicated the Indian majoritarian mindset, where there was no space for minority protection. Most of us, of course, did not even notice the sad verdict! We did not even remember the incident! So easy, isn’t it? Who after all, would bother about the brutal killings carried out by the PAC and Indian Army with direct instruction from the home ministry that believed that ‘lesson should be taught’ to the ‘Muslims’ protesting against the opening of the locks of the Babri Masjid. The then, ruling party was clearly using this as a political momentum to garner a clear majority public support. One could hear comments like ‘crush them’, ‘kill them’ and so much more.
The captured ‘Muslims’ were herded by the Provincial Armed Constabulary to the Muradnagar Ganga Canal, and were killed! Some pretended to be dead to narrate this tragedy by the state.
The case was being dragged for twenty eight years and was transferred to a Delhi Court, from the Supreme Court. Finally, the trial court acquitted all the accused for the killings. However, this verdict evoked no such uproar or public anger as did the Yakub Memon Hanging. We, are indeed, ever ready to celebrate a ruthless state sponsored killing but never willing to question a similar injustice!
What Chivalry, did we after all, show, by hanging a man after he had already served a prison term of more than twenty years. From every angle, to me, it was a double jeopardy! The Indian state cheated Yakub Memom. And like invertebrates, instead of bringing down the real culprits, we hanged a man who gave us some impetus in cracking the case!
Simultaneously, we were also celebrating the ‘exemplary life’ of a man named Mr APJ Abdul Kalam. But frankly, was he really any good? Keeping aside, his Hindutva affiliations, (no wonder, he accepted the Presidential position soon after the 2002 riots in spite of being a Muslim himself), was he also not a man of double standards? When the world criticized the deprivation of human rights in the Niyamgiri hills and Kundankulam, Mr. Kalam favored industrialization and nuclear power advancement at the cost of people’s rights. To him, economic growth was always of a larger priority than development. His research was about ‘hard power’ and show of strength, not freedom or democracy!
Elders are not always correct. They are humans too and are definitely not beyond criticism. We worshipped, Kalam, because our elders asked us to do so.
Salman Khan, the macho man of India, the ‘Dabbang’ guy retracted his statement and apologized for having an opinion at the age of 49, because his ‘Father scolded him for it’! And we are flooding all the social networking sites with elaborate ‘Free speech’ hash tags? How confused and suppressed are we? And why at all, are we pouring our frustrations on the system and making it as hideous as ourselves? What is the use of jurisprudence and an elaborate legal procedure when we are all so opiniated with the criminality of a person standing before us? Does a ‘terrorist’ too, not have a right to be heard?
Our sadism ends each night with the ultra patriotic jingoism of the single sided discussions of Arnab Goswami, as the nation gets to know, only what Mr. Goswami, wishes to say! And we carry on with our insensitive ordinary lives! A crony judicial system delivers as per the populist demands. Dissent tantamounts to national contempt and treachery.
Unlike before, I no longer blame the system or the state for such hypocrisy. I blame myself and I am every Indian. Mr. Modi and his party and allies are just a manifestation of our hatred and inability to accept dissent. This frustration has been brewing in our minds since a very long time.
The sky of freedom and rights is expanding. The times have changed, and mankind has evolved. The justice system is not about medieval punishments anymore. Criminal Jurisprudence is globally embracing reformation as a concept to replace the retribution and deterrence theories. The world is moving ahead. We have to accept that criminality breeds amidst us only and we are equally responsibly for every deviant individual as much as the individual himself.
Apparently, the 1993 Mumbai blasts were all revenge against the killing of Muslims in 1992. Now, we avenged that with Yakub’s death. Soon, someone will avenge us again. But, ultimately, only people will die. Innocent babies or Yakub, every loss of life is a failure of society and law. Perhaps, all the world needs is a little care and some love. Maybe, we should understand people and their stories a bit better. Because, everyone has a story to tell.
My father did not define my sky. He taught me to face the sky without fear. And today, I rejoice the character in me to question everything I see. I refuse to live in the garb of the culture that forces me to honor someone for an apparent relationship hierarchy. I shall not be afraid to question my father as much as I question myself and the world or to defy him when I have faith in my own principles.