In India and the United States, a story of two human rights movements, writes Salman Khurshid – analysis
For people who admire the oldest democracy in the world, events in the United States (USA) have caused great concern. If President Donald Trump’s policy remains baffling, the latest public outburst about the ruthless murder of a black man, George Floyd, was a terrifying validation of the thesis that democracy is in serious trouble. To think that four years after President Barack Obama’s comforting term, citing the Second Coming of William Butler Yeats, “things fall apart, the center cannot be sustained, and mere anarchy breaks out over the world.”
But there is still a bright light on the Miami Police’s spontaneous kneeling gesture to apologize for the inhumane conduct of a murderer in uniform. Nations do not have exceptional goodness. But if they know how to quickly contain moral aberrations and encourage acts of forgiveness and reconciliation, as the Miami police put it, their faith and confidence in democracy are preserved. What happened in Minneapolis is wrong, and even in a divided society, white supremacists have been silenced, and liberals of all colors and communities have been openly arguing that “black lives matter.” Interestingly, some Bollywood stars, who seem unmoved by recent events in India, have joined the United States’ chorus of justice.
As protests over Floyd’s death intensified in the United States, social media was flooded with posts about police brutality. However, amid news of riots, tear gas, and baton charges, there were also reports of police personnel in Miami joining the protesters’ cause and apologizing for the brutality. Police forces in various places placed their shields and helmets to express solidarity with those who speak out against racism and human rights, while some knelt before the protesters.
But here at home, some courts have not found the time to seek an explanation for police brutality, but are embroiled in the demands of the Covid-19 confinement. Jamia Millia Islamia awaits justice for brutal assaults on students protesting on two separate occasions in the wake of protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), even though the university’s management has publicly complained of unwarranted conduct from the police. Far from approaching the body of aggrieved students, the police issued warnings to dozens of them and arrested several under the Illegal Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) or the Indian Penal Code to begin, and immediately, if granted bail, under UAPA a period of imprisonment without bail.
The state could well inflict unnecessary pain on these young people, even derail their career prospects, but hopefully it will not crush their spirit and commitment to democracy and freedom. The State has a solemn duty to intervene wherever there is suspicion that any person works to undermine national integrity. There can be no cavillas with that proposition. But there is a difference between the state and the government of the day. The latter’s vigorous opposition cannot remotely be an anti-state stance. Much wrong has been done in history in the name of state security. We see the same thing happening in India today. If people and institutions do not intervene to expose this, this will amount to a situation in which the story is re-told.
Unable to support the charges of sedition, investigative officials are outwitting innocent political activists to surrender to their will and denounce their colleagues. This is a serious violation of human rights under the noses of the main courts of the capital. Similar breaches of the law in Uttar Pradesh (UP) were reported to the National Human Rights Commission by Congress Secretary-General Priyanka Gandhi several weeks ago, but there has been no progress. The pain is now, but the panacea will come at some distant time, and that too if the truth prevails.
Although the apparent aim of the investigation launched by the Delhi Police special cell is to get to the bottom of what they claim is a “bigger conspiracy” to create civil unrest at the time of Trump’s visit to New Delhi, the focus It seems to be in Jamia and Shaheen Bagh. People are asked why they participated in or organized the protests against the CAA and how they connected. The Northeast riots are used to conveniently blame the violence on innocent people.
Despite attempts to create a misleading narrative that includes the Home Secretary telling Parliament how proud he was that the Delhi police controlled the violence within 48 hours, the fact is that former Supreme Court justices took the transport public to visit the affected areas and noted clear neglect of duty by the police. The harsh remarks made by Judge S Muralidhar of the Delhi High Court before being suddenly transferred to Chandigarh, the unequivocal concern expressed by a trial court in remand proceedings that the “investigation was directed to an extreme”, and another superior court judge who granted bail to a defendant by claiming that the jail was for convicted prisoners and not under trial, all pointing to serious concern in the judiciary. But we are also witnessing government law officials speak of superior courts that run a parallel government, even when the government rewards them with commitments as special prosecutors. The coming months will be a serious dispute between the rule of law and the deception of the law.
Salman Khurshid is a former cabinet minister of the Union
The opinions expressed are personal.