Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Missing Mirror

The Indian State should have been as relentless as Zakia Jaffri has been.

It should have heard every allegation, pursued every lead, tried the accused, and jailed the guilty.

That it hasn't will haunt this nation for a very long time.

After 9/11, even as America reeled, it didn't unleash a murderous frenzy on its own people. Even its incensed bigots knew that the American State would not tolerate such murder. 

Indian bigots, on the other hand, knew full well that the Indian State looks away during such pogroms. The consequence was 1984 and 2002.

In the law, the Indian State may not be the accused. On moral grounds, it is fully guilty.

I don't know what Mr Modi did or say during those fateful hours.

I do know that Indians were charred by the hundreds and nobody came to their aid. I also know that men in power have systematically hounded those who've accused them of vile acts of commission and omission.

I'm not a lawyer but, just on this, I can argue for a prima facie case of obstruction of justice.

It matters little if the obstructor is innocent or guilty of the original crime. That he takes overt actions to prevent the airing of all possible evidence is in itself an affront to justice. That he does so using the authority of the State makes him still more culpable.

Even so, I doubt if the Indian State will press obstruction charges. That's not what it does.

Instead, it smothers the uncomfortable silences of places like Gulbarg Society and Trilokpuri.

The process of so-called justice takes deliberate decades. In this time, the victims - traumatized widows mostly - fade away into death or shadows. Numbness and forgetting constitutes justice for them.

If justice forces society to confront its own reality in the mirror of truth, India doesn't even have a mirror.

History is kinder to victims.

Aurangzeb may have been the Emperor in his time, but his legacy is that of cold-blooded murder.

He wasn't present at Sis Ganj in the November of 1675. Yet, it is he - not the executioner - who we remember. We spit at Aurangzeb's name and revere the unflinching Guru Tegh Bahadur.

That's how history is. That's how history will be.

It will silently record the failures of the Indian State and the cowardice of her people who - repeatedly - have failed to use democracy to show their own moral spine.

It will record that India voted for a leader who rationalized mass murder in 1984. It will also record that Gujarat voted for a leader whose abominable political views, at a minimum, set stage for 2002.

And, history will never forget Zakia Jaffri for her unrelenting efforts to unearth the truth. It will walk in her shoes and see with her eyes.

In her shoes, we would all do exactly what she has done.

What about those who wield words to dismiss the wail of widows? For them, history reserves obscurity - its ultimate contempt.

Their politics is cynical pandering to the insecure impulses in human nature. Their justice is clever arguments, brazen intimidation, and a technical reading of the law. Their closure is a self-congratulatory game of blaming the victim for her own unfathomable sorrow.

History will not care for any of this. It will ask where they stood in the deliberate decades of injustice.

With the powerless widow helping her in every possible way to uncover the truth? Or, with the powerful State helping it at every step to delay, deny, and diminish the widow's wail?

And that is the bottom line.