PUCL Bulletin, May 2002

Should We Maintain a Calendar of Disorder?
By K.G. Kannabiran

Should we maintain a Calendar of Disorder, for that alone will chronicle a true history of the people? History as it is chronicled does not tell us of the daily lives of the people, their insecurities, their anxieties, their fears, their apprehensions as members living in a society. It is not right to life that lawyers and judges talk about in seminar halls; by human rights activists in hall meetings. These are trained to entertain us to Barmicides feast. We are not talking about all these things. When we are talking about the Calendar of disorder. We are talking about the Right to be alive as a collective in a society. The state protects itself by draconian laws when its security is threatened or public order disturbed. Disorder pertains to the ordinary people and the way it plagues their lives. It deals with their Right To Be Alive.

Our right to be alive was ruptured even as we got our Independence. We wrote in our Constitution our human collective's objects. A society riven with vast social disparities, which engendered violence, did not deal with these disparities honestly. Religions, mainly Hindu and Muslim, had lived together in the past, revolted against the Imperial Rule in the past, but the relationship has always been fragile. Every Government of India Act introduced a dose of what the British called parliamentary democracy. With the Government of India Act 1935 the British gave us as much democracy as would serve their Imperial purposes. We failed to understand that democracy is a way of life an that operating representative institutions needed a change in the social structure and it needs a change in our attitude to the religious structure; that religion should aid in bringing about social change and the if that is not possible it should take a back seat in the process of transformation. We demanded of the British to have our own constitution with equality as a key concept, when we were fully aware that even a rudimentary form of equality was not possible and would not be conceded with in the Hindu community, and as between Hindu and other religions in this subcontinent.

Our understanding of representative institutions has always been flawed. We understand these institutions in terms of power. We perceived these representative institutions as instruments for capture of power without physical battle or violence. Pursuit of adversarial politics for its own sake has converted even this into a violent exercise. It is within these representative institutions that we thought we could regulate religious and caste practices and our relationship with other religions, class and race. This we did not manage unregulated, frequent violent clashes have been used for maintaining a level of disorder which would prevent the minorities laying claims to substantive equality.

Even at the threshold of independence we found out that our religions and their practices are such that they can never live together and so Pakistan separated and the violence of partition was with us for several years. The disorder created by our politics of partition continuing even after Independence and the Constitution; continued to be characterized as communal violence. It does not sufficiently highlight the role of religions in the politics of capture of power. Law does not regulate this violence. Religious violence completes its cycle, dies down invariably without any effort by the state. The violence of partition left scars in the communities perpetuated distrust between them for several years and as long as this fear lasted the poor who lived together were leading lives of insecurity unable to even guess when and where the violence will erupt and when their right to be live will be terminated. From the time of our Independence the tenuous relationship of the Hindus and Muslims has been made a part of adversarial politics. This ensured the continuous presence of disorder. Religious festivals of these two principal religious communities have always the occasion to unleash this Religious violence.

People were killed in large numbers by the outburst of large-scale religious violence; we always thought that religious violence would be confined to Muslim minority. We were to realize that Operation Blue Star in Amritsar brought in the Sikh minority into sharp focus, the mass scale massacre of Sikh community in 1984 still remains unredressed. So we have Darshan Kaur, witness to the killing of her husband in 1984 going around looking for justice. The Government knew that she would be targeted and have provided her a security guard. The Khalistani "terrorists were liquidate in large numbers and advocate Khalra was killed because he dared to audit the dead among the Sikhs. And such of those who escaped liquidation are prosecuted under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act 1987. Quite a few thousands were administratively liquidated.

The Ayodhya Rath Yathra in the beginning of 1990 was a galloping incitement to Religious violence. It was planned to achieve the demolition of the Mosque. This disorder has acquired legitimacy. It led to the demolition of the Mosque. This led to the large scale unleashing of Religious violence which led the killing of more than a thousand and quite a few thousands became refugees in the cities and towns where they lived and were eking out their livelihood till the previous day of the riot. Godhra in Gujarat is more blatant than all the previous episodes of religious violence. No doubt that the accurate scholarship we have will soon unearth the sequence from Godhra to the vengeance that followed leading to over seven hundred killed and burnt alive. Religious violence has taken a larger toll of human lives than terrorists have over a ten-year period commencing from 1990.

The question is when are we going to upgrade this "disorder " into a threat to Public Order and "threat to security of state" and frame a proper Penal and Procedure Code and safeguard the Right to be Alive? Or will legal pundits say that minorities are neither part of the public nor the state and therefore not entitled to be upgraded? The International Criminal Code recognized targeting a religious group as genocide. Will this fact not be recognized and will not this "disorder" qualify for heavier penalties and stringent preventive action.? Should we not introduce the principle of constructive liability leading to political ostracism for complicity by the leadership? Merely because these hordes use articles of every day use for mayhem should we refrain from calling them terrorist? Mr. Home Minister possession of ordinary torch light cells were considered sufficient for framing charges under TADA or POTO

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