Friday, January 30, 2009
THE DAY OF THE OUTBURSTS
Thursday, January 29, 2009 could have been a very star crossed day as it caused flare-ups in public arena at two different locations across the world. One at India‘s Supreme Court and the second at Davos meeting attending jointly by Israeli President Simon Perez and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan.
In Delhi, the venue was the venerable highest justice portal of the land, India‘s Supreme Court. The TOI reports:
“Delay in riot cases raised in SC
Senior Lawyers Engage In War Of Words Over Srikrishna Report
Dhananjay Mahapatra I TNN
New Delhi: Muslim organisations for long have been urging the Supreme Court to ensure in toto the implementation of Srikrishna Commission’s caustic report on 1992 Mumbai riots, but their counsel — both reputed senior advocates — had a bitter face-off in full public view in the Chief Justice of India’s courtroom on Thursday.
Seconds after a bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices P Sathasivam and J M Panchal left the courtroom for lunch after adjourning hearing in the case, senior advocates Rajeev Dhawan and Colin Gonsalves traded charges.
Gonsalves, who was unhappy over the way the other senior advocate was conducting himself during the hearing, charged Dhawan of “compromising the case”. An angry Dhawan, generally erudite in his arguments on constitutional issues, was equal to the task with a below the belt remark, calling Gonsalves “an entrepreneur of minority rights”.
Responding angrily to the continuing muttering by Gonsalves reiterating that his colleague had “compromised” the stand of the petitioners in the case, Dhawan termed his opponent as “the tail piece in the tale”, indicating the latter’s late entry into the riot case litigation in SC.
The two grey haired lawyers were finally dissuaded from a full fledged war of words by another, who said, “It does not look nice when two seniors fight in the court.” Though both left the courtroom without looking at each other, the verbal sniping continued till they were out in the open.
Before breaking into the slanging match, Gonsalves, representing Shakil Ahmed, made a serious grievance before the bench about the manner in which the prosecution and judiciary had discriminated between the two inter-linked events — 1992 Mumbai riots and 1993 serial blasts.
“While trial in blast-related cases have been over, majority of the accused convicted and handed down death, life and other harsh sentences, there has not been a single conviction in riot-related cases,” he said.
In the 1992 riots, over 900 people were killed and the commission indicted several policemen, yet there were only acquittals and no action against the erring policemen, he complained.
Maharashtra counsel Ravindra Adsure raised a technical objection. Verdicts of trial court acquitting the accused had to be challenged in proper forum and the SC could not entertain a PIL on this issue, he said.
Agreeing with him, the bench said the apex court could at best issue some general guidelines relating to the manner in which these cases could be dealt by the police, prosecution and the trial court. It adjourned further hearing on the case, pending since 1998, to March 19.
Gonsalves alleged that as many as 30 officers were indicted for their involvement in the riots and most of them had been recommended to be dismissed from service, but though the state government has accepted the recommendations, it has instead given promotions to these officers.
Since Times of India is India‘s most widely read English newspaper, the news spread like wildfire. Both lawyers are supposed to be liberal and secular. But they apparently differ in degrees over their commitment to liberalism and secularism. The petition is from people of Mumbai, who had been enraged on how the supposedly secular political parties coalition of Sonia Congress and Sharad Pawar’s National Congress Party, has been stonewalling the persecution of accused singled out by Sri Krishna Commission as criminally involved in 1992-93 Bombay Riots in which Muslims were the major sufferers. While the culprits in Mumbai Bomb Blasts were promptly rounded up and all of them have been judged and guilty among them were sentence in quick order, the culprits in Bombay Riots, especially the 30 police officers that were found guilty and recommended by Justice Sri Krishna for dismissal had been, on the contrary, promoted. This is slap on the face of Muslims and at the face of Justice Sri Krishna too. A public litigation appeal was filed by several organizations, with the Supreme Court, pleading them to intervene in the matter and instruct the Maharashtra Government to speedily process the cases, so that those innocent could find freedom and justice. Both Congress and NCP governments are in the hands of Marathas and even though Muslim voters have voted overwhelming to elect both these supposedly secular political parties, their stark communalism is open for all to see how differently they have treated the accused in Mumbai blasts and those in Mumbai Riots. The difference is between Muslim accused and non-Muslim accused. The Muslim accused were swiftly tried and sentenced. The non-Muslims in Mumbai riots cases, including the non-Muslim police, has been given preferential treatment and there are chances that they will never be brought to justice, unless Supreme Court intervenes in the matter of equal justice for all.
The public behaviour of both coalition partners is all the more surprising, as elections to Parliament are due within next three months and Sharad Pawar is desperately trying to aim for the next Prime Minister’s post. Both secular parties need Muslim vote and both are overconfident that Muslims have nowhere to go and will vote for them, come what may. They could be surprised as Indian elections are famous for their surprises.
The petitioners are joined ironically by a former Congress Muslim minister, while his own government is involved in stonewalling. The public impression is that he was deliberately pushed into his role, to frustrate the ends of justice. The difference of approach by the two lawyers, Rajeev Dhawan and Colin Gonsalves could be the result of some attempt behind the scene to water down Muslim demands. One hopes, the truth will be revealed in the public arena, thanks to TOI reporting. Urdu Media is already on the trail.
The second outburst of the day widely telecasted on BBC, CNN, Reuters and Aljazeera, is datelined in Davos, Switzerland. Two supposedly friendly nation’s leaders were seated next to each other on the dais. They were Israel‘s President Simon Perez and Turkey‘s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Perez thundered in his baritone voice, breathing fire on Hamas in Gaza and showing no remorse on the 1200 dead and over 5000 injured in Israel’s land, sea and air onslaught on defenseless civilians. He was clapped and applauded by the European audience in the meeting. Turkish prime minister, Israel’s only Muslim friend in the Middle East, was boiling at the way Perez was showing off his triumphal boasts. He further angered Erdogan, when he addressed him directly and asked the question, how he will feel if his country is hit by rockets. When Perez finished, the anchor started to declare the meeting close, but Erdogan intervened and repeatedly stopped him saying, one minute, one minute. Ignatius of Washington Post deferred to him and said only a minute if you please as we are already late for dinner. In fact, Ignatius had realised that there will be fireworks if he allowed Erdogan to speak as he has seen Erdogan fuming and referring to his notes again and again. Erdogan had his say. He addressed Perez directly, saying you are elder to me and I see that you have a good voice; still you had to shout as possibly you had guilty conscious. He said, I saw your forces shooting children on the beach. Your two former prime ministers gloating over invading Gaza on the backs of tanks, and these people here are applauding. That is inhuman. He said, your own commandment says, you should not kill, and all you do is kill. He cited a Jewish Oxford professor who had come out heavily against Israel’s invasion of Gaza. He said, I am not being given time, as I have lots of points to take up. While he was struggling to speak, Ignatius kept on touching his shoulder and asking him to stop. Erdogan said, Perez spoke for 25 minutes and you are not giving me the right to reply for even half the time. I am finished with Davos, and I will never come to Davos again. Gathering his papers, he calmly stood up, ignored Perez and moved on towards the exit. While Erdogan spoke, Perez face was completely changed. Gone was the earlier cockiness and the show of bravado. Israel has lost in those moments, a vital Muslim ally that had stood with Israel in worst of days. Gaza massacre had touched all the people of the world across all divides, except die-hard Muslim haters. The reckoning for Israel is unfolding, as the blood of innocents will not go unanswered. Each day that dawns brings in news of new moves unfolding to haul Israel and its leaders for an accounting.
Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai