The Big Story: Alwar again
It is a story that has been repeated far too often about Alwar in the last few months. Another Muslim man accused of cattle smuggling and allegedly killed by cow vigilantes, another battle for justice launched with little hope. Six months after dairy farmer Pehlu Khan was lynched for allegedly transporting cattle, the body of 35-year-old Umar Khan was found on the railway tracks on November 10. His family have lodged a complaint saying he and two others were attacked by a gang of seven vigilantes. The police have already started pointing fingers at the victims, saying one of them has a record of cattle smuggling. Ummar Khan’s family have demanded arrests but also questioned the testimonies of his two companions and asked for a fair investigation. Given the precedents and the political climate that surrounds these attacks, it is unlikely that they will get one.
Already, the routine excuses and evasions have started. State Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria said they did not even “manpower” to “control every situation in all cities in time”. Of Pehlu Khan’s killing, he had said it was “alright” that people “illegally” transporting cattle were caught, though no one had the right to “take the law into their own hands”, that the “problem is from both sides”. Then, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi tried to deny that a lynching had actually taken place. It took Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje almost a month to break her silence on the Pehlu Khan case, when she said that violence would not be tolerated. Months later, the six men Khan had named in his dying declaration were let out on bail, even though they were on the run and had never been questioned. Of course, this culture of impunity stretches beyond Rajasthan, to the various states that have seen lynchings in the last couple of years: Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Assam, Gujarat. There have been few arrests, few trials and no convictions.
In Alwar in particular, the political acquiescence that accompanied Pehlu Khan’s lynching has emboldened murderous bullies. For instance, when activist Harsh Mander tried to take his Karwan-e-Mohabbat or Caravan of Love to Behror, the site of the lynching, they received threats from rightwing groups. When they pressed on, protesting crowds gathered at the spot as the local police claimed they were helpless to stop them. Never mind contrition, violence has only strengthened violence in Alwar, while the administration cheers on.
The Big Scroll
- In the Indian Express, Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes how the judiciary has created a crisis of credibility for itself.
- What human rights can Myanmar expect or Aung San Suu Kyi enforce under a military junta, asks Nilanjana Sengupta in the Hindu.
- In the Telegraph, Ruchir Joshi on fulfilling spaces to work in.
Alok Prasanna Raghav weighs in on the institutional crisis of the judiciary:
“The Chief Justice of India, like the Chief Justice of any High Court is the ‘Master of the Rolls’ – the judge with the power to decide the roster of the court: who hears which case and when. This was never in dispute. The ‘order’ passed by the ‘Constitution Bench’ reiterating the legal position makes no reference to the facts which prompted these proceedings. The writ petition was filed given that Misra’s conduct was in question and, when it came to a judicial inquiry about the same, he cannot be allowed to be a judge in his own cause. This cardinal principle of natural justice, the cornerstone of any independent and impartial judiciary, and one which courts in common law jurisdictions have recognised for over 400 years was violated with impunity. While the order cites case-law and precedent to assert his powers as a master of the rolls, it does not, even in passing, address the argument made by Prashant Bhushan and the petitioners that Misra, as Chief Justice of India, should have recused from hearing this case.”