PUCL Bulletin, December 2002

Ansal Plaza killing - Can state be a law unto itself?

Also see,
PUCL condemns VHP attack on journalist

-- By Kuldip Nayar

I do not understand why the Bharatiya Janata Party and the police are trying to confuse the Ansal Plaza shooting incident. At issue are not the "so-called human rights activists" or their "anti-national stand." Nor is it the past record of Hari Krishna's "fraud and dacoity" as alleged by the police. The point to ascertain is whether the "encounter" in which the two terrorists were killed was genuine or false.
The doctor has said repeatedly - he called me on the phone on Monday morning- that he, his wife and his son, were at the parking basement when some men in plainclothes fired at the two men who looked as if they had not slept for many days. He says there was no exchange of fire.

The latest version of the police is that the doctor reached the Ansal Plaza two hours later. I doubt if there is any technology, which can trace the movement of a person on the basis of mobile telephones or calls. Still, the police have stuck to their stand that it was an encounter and that the doctor did not witness it.

I have come to be skeptical about encounters after reports from Kashmir and Punjab where innocent people were bumped off. Many cases challenging the veracity of encounters are pending before courts and the National Human Rights Commission. Just because the police say that it was an encounter, it does not become an encounter.

When I saw some clips of the shootout on TV, I felt that the police story had many gaping holes. Reports in print heightened my doubts. Still, I it at that. But when the eyewitness account appeared in two newspapers, I decided to pursue the matter. I met Justice Verma, Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, to request him to order an inquiry to find out the facts.

Why the BJP spokesperson rushed to defend the police while the inquiry was in progress is beyond me. And, why he should get irritated over my lending my name when I am one of the "so-called" human rights activists' and when he finds me the "over ground face of the underground." The problem with us is that we do not hold any discourses, political or other, dispassionately because those who constitute the establishment do not use arguments to defend themselves but resort to abuses to cover up their deficiencies. The BJP's spokesperson still young in politics, will attain maturity as years go by and probably imbibe the trait of humility.
However, his spat made the Foreign Office at Islamabad say the Indian media had suggested that the evidence of the terrorist's nationality was "fabricated." There has been no such discussion in the media. The terrorists may well be from Pakistan because it has been stopped cross border terrorism. The Lashkar-e-Taiba still has its headquarters in Pakistan.

My concern is with my country which is open and democratic and where the rule of law has preeminence despite limitations. Dr. Krishna's charge is a serious one not to be belittled or ignored on the ground that the police morale would be affected if the allegation were pursued. When there are persistent voices that law protectors have become law violators, the Government must sit up and ponder. The State can frame as many laws as it requires to fight terrorism. But it has to stay within the limits of the law. It cannot be a law unto itself.

Human rights activists are as much against State terrorism as against the terrorists. The activists do not want the voice of dissent to be muzzled. Nor do they want the right to differ to the misused. But governance is not worth a dime if human rights are not an integral part of it. I want to congratulate Dr. Krishna because he had the courage to speak out. He has refused to be cowed down by threats or influenced by cajoling. This trait to stand up and be counted is lessening in the country day by day. People are afraid to tell the truth lest they should land themselves in trouble. Such an attitude does not portend well fora free polity.
If the nations is to preserve the fundamental values of a democratic society, every person, whether a public functionary or private citizen, must display a degree of vigilance and willingness to sacrifice.

Without the awareness of what is right and a desire to act according to what is right, there may be no realisation of what is wrong! Over the years, for many, the dividing line between right and wrong, moral and immoral, has ceased to exists. This is the biggest problem we face, not withstanding what the BJP's spokesperson says.

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