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August 7, 1998


E-Mail this story to a friend Dilip D'Souza

Report, Yes. Justice, No.

Having never read it, I have no idea what the Srikrishna report contains. Having watched the wriggly manoeuvres of the Shiv Sena and the BJP - the Sena in particular -- during the Justice's deliberations and after the report was submitted, I have a good idea what the report contains. If the government we are saddled with in Maharashtra has rejected the report, I am sure what the report contains. And that's before reading even the excerpts the press has printed.

But let's skip the guesswork, shall we? If you were in Bombay in late 1992 and early 1993 and simply had your eyes and ears open, you could have predicted what would be in Justice Srikrishna's report yourself. It's no big mystery. I don't like to boast, but hell, I'll admit it: my eyes and ears were open. I couldn't help seeing, reading, hearing, watching, talking, even smelling, during those wretched riotous days: and one thing was crystal clear through the smoke that enveloped the city.

Thackeray's inflammatory rhetoric to his followers, and the actions of his followers, had everything to do with how we all suffered then. That simple.

Given that, the conclusions Justice Srikrishna has reached in his report are no surprise at all. Equally, what has come to pass with his report is no surprise at all. Exactly how is a government beholden to Thackeray, so in quaking awe of the man, to punish Thackeray himself?

Thus we have the incessant wriggling I mentioned.

Of course, to keep things interesting, the wriggles took on a number of avatars. During the Commission's four-and-a-half years of work, it was: delays, adjournments, absurd irrelevancies, lengthy cross-examinations, claims of "privilege," battles over legal points with delay being the real point, on and on. You could have seen some or all of this for yourself by the simple stratagem of attending the inquiry on even one day. And when the Sena-BJP tandem made it into office, there was the time they shut the Commission down altogether, which was its state for about five months in 1996. Work resumed only after then-PM-now-PM Vajpayee asked that it be reinstated.

The wriggles continued after the Justice submitted the report last February. First, Deputy CM Munde said it would be made public in a week. That was forgotten, as were several more dates on which either he or his boss promised to make it public. In May we had the inspiring spectacle of the Sena calling on the Prime Minister to demand that the report be shelved because it "might be biased against the majority community."

In July, there was the inspiring spectacle of the BJP asking the Maharashtra government to delay publicising the report till after the Lok Sabha session, so it would not have to face uncomfortable moments in Parliament. Leading up to the eventual tabling, Thackeray pronounced on television that the report was the work of a "biased mind." Some of his cronies told the press that the government planned to reject the report after tabling it.

And on August 6, it was indeed tabled. It was indeed rejected. Thackeray's boy in the hot seat, CM Manohar Joshi, described it as totally prejudiced against Hindus and said it would produce a lot of "false propaganda" about Hindus.

There you have it. Five years of slimy wriggles -- each one a brightly-painted signpost of where the guilt for the riots lies -- compressed into four paragraphs. Which brings us to today.

Now the Sena and BJP had their slick lawyers present all through the inquiry; they cross-examined every single witness; they presented piles upon piles of evidence to the Judge to support whatever their case might have been. In a word, or four, they had their say. But now that he has produced his report, it is biased, prejudiced, propaganda.

So I wonder: who can honestly doubt the guilt of these parties? So I wonder: what wriggling will Sena and BJP followers -- I can see you guys out there, with your itchy fingers -- resort to now? How will they explain this?

For the record, let me make a few points. It strikes me that Thackeray and his gang insult the intelligence of Hindus by saying this report is biased against Hindus. Justice Srikrishna blamed the actions of Thackeray and gang for the rioting: how and when did that equate to a bias against Hindus? The thing is, Thackeray has a smooth technique down pat: if you criticise him, he announces that you are "anti-Hindu." In this perverse climate we are living through -- a perversity engineered greatly by people like him and Advani -- Thackeray knows well the emotive power of that epithet.

But in reality, the vast majority of Hindus thoroughly dislike what the Shiv Sena is up to. That majority knows: the Sena's activities have nothing to do with Hinduism and will never have anything to do with it. Those activities only debase an ancient, respected religion.

Second, what are we going to hear from our country's BJP-dominated government? Will Prime Minister Vajpayee, the man who only two years ago specifically asked this same Maharashtra government to resume this same inquiry, speak now? Will he insist that its findings be accepted, not rejected, and acted on swiftly? Will he stake his party's and government's claims to be different, to be truly secular unlike the rest of us pseudos, to be a guiding light for India's future, on this one report? Or will he prove to be not one bit different from the scummy Congress regimes, which chose not to act against the thugs who massacred 3000 Sikhs in 1984?

Third, it is time we began agitating for changes in the Commissions of Inquiry Act. For one thing, governments cannot be allowed to claim, as they always do, that no penal action can be taken while an inquiry is in progress. For another, setting up an inquiry must become much more difficult. Governments must not be allowed the luxury of appointing one to deflect public outrage and so avoid punishing criminals immediately. Most important, the findings and recommendations of an inquiry must be binding on a government. The inquiry must be treated as a court of law, which it is not today. The Act must spell this out exactly, specifying a precise time -- weeks, not months -- in which the guilty will be arrested and sentenced.

Fourth, what else did we really expect from this government? From nearly any government in our land? For at least a generation now, we have quite consciously chosen a whole phalanx of venal leaders to rule us. They have all sold us similar bundles of wool to cover our eyes with: the BJP/Sena telling us they are protecting Hindu interests; the two Yadavs say they are protecting backward caste interests; Kanshi Ram, Dalit interests; Congress, everybody's interests; Jayalalitha, Tamil interests ... take your pick.

In truth, all have actually spat upon the very constituencies they claim. In truth, they have brought Indian interests -- your interests, my interests -- to ruin. Do we really expect them to dole out justice? No, that's just more bull over our eyes.

That is where we are today: at a point where the very people who engineered riots, who themselves were out rioting, can describe the findings of a judge as "anti-Hindu" and reject them. They can do that because they rode those riots into power, the very power they have to reject Justice Srikrishna's report on those very riots.

That is where we are today.

When I write in this vein, I am asked why I am anti-BJP/Sena. The real question is: why aren't you?

Dilip D'Souza

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