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Indian judiciary and the end of Dalit bonhomie
Indian Judiciary and the End of Dalit Bonhomie, the reform agenda of previous regimes in which Dalits have enjoyed bonhomie is being melted down.
On April 16, 2012, the Patna High Court acquitted all the accused in the most notorious case of burning 23 untouchables alive at Bathinatola by Bhumihars of Bihar in the year 1996. It was reported that out of 21 victims, 11 were women, 6 children and 4 infants. The Patna High Court has said that, “the evidence at hand was more than sufficient to uphold the judgment passed by Ara sessions court”. There was lot of hue and cry and wide media coverage of the issue at that time and the Bihar government was made to appeal against the judgment in the Apex court. About 5 years before the incident in Bihar, near home, eight untouchables were butchered in daylight by Kapu-Reddy accused on August 6, 1991 in Tsundur( Chundur) in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. A division bench of the AP High Court made a slight change in the now popular alleged method of cut and paste judicial pronouncement on April 23. It is reported that, “almost every witness examined by the prosecution, hailing from the village pleaded that he is a Hindu - Mala or Madiga. The defence cross examined the witnesses at length to prove that they have been converted to Christianity. Since we are taking the view that the very criminal acts attributed to the accused are not proved, the issue relating to the social status of the accused pales into insignificance".
Interestingly, it did not attract the attention of the national media who are otherwise busy with NaMo. Sadly, it has also not attracted the attention of NGOs, some of them alleged to have influenced the untouchables to be converted as Christians. Are the above cases, the rarest of the rare? There seem to be no word in the Legal lexicon to describe the crimes of this kind or Khairlanji that are routine. The patriots of this great Bharat are so impervious to take them serious and pass them as matters of fact not to react emotionally. If the learned judges seem to have disposed of them as procedural, what is it the ordinary mortals can do?
It is not out of place to look at the institution of Judiciary and the impact of the class background of some of our Law Lords on their verdicts. Sanjay Ghosh, an Advocate of Supreme Court, in one of his articles said that, “While “democracy” is now hailed as part of “basic structure” of the Indian Constitution, the Judiciary is the only non-democratic wing of government.” We may extend the argument further to understand the academic value of such an exercise as the Judiciary in India has reticent to itself certain functions and developed some concepts exclusively for their use.
It is almost difficult for common man to access to these resources and privileges as the hegemony is legalised through Contempt proceedings.
In a way it has harmed the judiciary for its inability to elicit public opinion and capacity to incorporate the wisdom of the contemporary thinkers and traditions. Thus, the institution, as Sanjay Ghosh remarked, has remained as an extra-constitutional may be exceptional? There seem to be very few who have crossed the narrow confines of caste, race, religion, sex and place of birth and their childhood biases in the process of coming to a conclusion on social issues. That is why in both the cases, the supporters of the victims have attributed prejudices due to the tittles that they sport at the end of their names. However, a judge according to Justice A M Ahmadi, former Chief Justice of India quoting Justice Cardozo as saying that, “he is to draw his inspiration from consecrated principles. He is not to yield to spasmodic sentiment, to vague and unregulated benevolence. He is to exercise a discretion informed by tradition, methodised by analogy, disciplined by system, and subordinated to 'the primordial necessity of order in the social life'. Wide enough in all conscience is the field of discretion that remains." How many of the functionaries in the judiciary do qualify under these criteria?
The Tsundur case has a very interesting dimension that came exposed, though some of those who deal with such cases knew about it, the religious background of the untouchable victims. There seem to be double jeopardy here as the victims are untouchables and Christians. Both categories are despicable as they seem to have not attracted IPC 301 and 302.Our learned judges seem to have disposed of the case on the so-called technical grounds and pushed the case to (the Supreme Court) Kanchi, the place where our Telugu stories are supposed to reach ultimately. But, it has brought out the fact that in Coastal Andhra the dominant caste among the scheduled castes, Mala is almost finished and may disappear in due course like Mastin.
The way the leaders and their petty quarrels manifest even at an opportune time like this indicate the malaise so deep-rooted that needs a Babasaheb to reform them. That is why; no political party as per P S Krishnan is interested in talking about the social issues in their manifestos except benefitting few individuals to show case.
The leaders are not anxious about the society, but individual agendas and self-aggrandisement. The situation is not so bad with other socially backward castes like OBCs, adivasis and Muslims. It seems they have learnt lessons from their past experience and some of them are happy about the emergence of Modi as BC PM, while Dalits keep Mayavathi or someone else at bay. Perhaps, these social manifestations do have their bearings on other sectors including the judiciary in considering their issues as trivial and brush them aside. Would the institutions treat small communities that are well organised with the same contempt as the so-called untouchables or dalit Christians as in this case. Doubtful!
The judiciary as an institution not only in India but in all class societies (read caste here) is a superstructure that protects the iniquitous socio-economic base. It is said that “If somebody twists it …, he is transforming that proposition into meaningless, abstract, absurd phrase. The economic situation is the basis, but the various components of the superstructure- political form of the class struggle and its consequences, such as constitutions drawn up by the victorious class after a successful battle, etc juridical forms, and even the reflections of all these actual struggle … juristic, philosophical theories, religious views and their further development into systems of dogmas--also exercise their influence upon the course of the historical struggles and in many cases determine their form in particular.”
Thus, the reform agenda of previous regimes in which Dalits have enjoyed bonhomie is being melted down. Are the real class contradictions emerging? Does Tsunduru demonstrate once again the wicked outcome of superstructure or something else in India?