Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Human rights for terrorists, ministership for criminals, jail for Shankaracharya

Author: S.R. Ramanujan
Publication: Organiser

When the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Dr Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy allowed the Gujarat police to nab an alleged ISI agent, Maulana Naseeruddin from Hyderabad and within a few days helped the Tamil Nadu police to apprehend Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati from one of the Telengana districts, how can he or his police be faulted for any partisan approach? Obviously not. His hands were 'tied' as revealed by him as he had to uphold the rule of law.

But, it is not as fair as it appears. A closer look will bring out the subtle difference between the two incidents. Let us not forget the fact that in the case of Naseeruddin, the Gujarat police succeeded in their third attempt to take him into custody; that too, after having been forced to open fire in self-defence and in the process killing an activist. The Andhra police was reluctant to extend any support to the Gujarat police. Otherwise, the supporters (read agent provocateurs of ISI lodged in Hyderabad's old city) of Naseeruddin could not have snatched him away from the Gujarat police custody for some time. In the first attempt, Maulana's supporters laid a siege to the Police Commissioner's office and successfully prevented his deportation to Gujarat. This speaks volumes about the extent of ISI network in Hyderabad city which could organise a motivated crowd of thousands within minutes.

When some of the sants met Dr Reddy in connection with the arrest of Kanchi seer, he is reported to have said that everybody is equal before the law and law must take its own course. This is not just Reddy's stand alone and he was only adding to the chorus of other politicians and political parties. They are quite right. Rule of law must prevail in a democracy and only then democracy can be alive and kicking. But all these politicians owe an explanation to the people as to why some were considered more equal before law and why law did not take its course in many cases.

Let us take the case of actor Nandamuri Balakrishna, son of late thespian N.T. Rama Rao. He allegedly shot at his producer and his associate and critically injured them. Was the state police allowed to interrogate him in custody even for an hour? He was completely shielded by the powers that be and the medical profession, much against the medical ethics. All sorts of alibis were created to prevent the police from going anywhere near him. The Andhra Pradesh state administration collaborated with the medical fraternity to ensure that the police was denied access. Leading medical practitioners acted without any sense of shame. Only the rule of law was put in acute medical care ward while the actor was undergoing a 'massage' for his index finger which apparently had a sprain. The police was also prevented from interrogating the actor because the latter was under acute stress!

Sai Baba of Puttaparthi was definitely considered above law by the then rulers when three youth were brutally murdered in the bedroom of the Baba years ago. Did any police official dare interrogate the Baba in police custody? There was strong circumstantial evidence.

When the state government rolled a red-carpet welcome, in the name of peace talks, to the hardcore Naxal leaders on whose heads there were rewards of lakhs of rupees, what happened to the rule of law? If an ordinary criminal surfaces like the Naxal leaders, will the rule of law permit the government to extend five-star hospitality? Did not the government throw to the winds the constitutional guarantee of equality before law when it wanted to buy peace with the Naxals?

All this argument is not to suggest that Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati should not be taken into judicial or police custody if there is clinching evidence against him in connection with the murder of the ex-employee of the Kanchi mutt. This is only to expose the double standards of those who are in public life and some of the NGOs which are blatantly anti-Hindu. A Hyderabad-based Human Rights Forum criticised the protest against the arrest of Kanchi seer as meaningless and absurd. For them, human rights exist only for the Left extremists or terrorists. If a Naxalite kills an innocent branding him as an informant (and now the term is 'covert'), he has no human right.

When DMK leader, Muthuvel Karunanidhi, was arrested and sent to jail and was served prison food by Jayalalithaa, there was a hue and cry. When Shankara-charya was not allowed to cook his own food in the Vellore jail where he is lodged, citing the jail manual, 'equality before law' was invoked. What happened to the 'equality' when the now-expelled BJP-firebrand was lodged in a university guest-house because it suited the ruling junta for political reasons? Sharad Yadav of JD(U) also talks of equality. Any politician from Bihar cutting across party lines cannot talk of law, let alone equality before law. All the politicians of the state made Bihar a lawless state.

Will Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mulayam Singh Yadav, put his hand on his heart and say that there were no murder charges pending against his ministerial colleague Raju Bhayya, who was put behind bars under POTA by Mulayam's predecessor and who was subsequently inducted into his cabinet? Was there a whimper against this blatantly partisan action of cocking a snook at the Constitution and the so-called rule of law? Raju Bhayya or his father were not certainly treated equal before law. They are more equal before law.

We have another shining example for the 'equality' clause getting out of shape when it comes to the Shiv Sena supremo, Balasaheb Thackeray. Can those who are talking about the rule of law explain as to what happened to the Sri Krishna Commission report? For all his acts of omission and commission, has the law and order machinery touched at least the tail of the tiger, let alone caging it? Those who were implicated in the Tehelka scam were dropped and then taken back into the cabinet citing people's verdict. Now the new law as people's verdict can neutralise everything else, including the much-touted rule of law. Others have to be strictly equal before law. Politicians are the only exception before the rule of law.

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