The Indian “justice” System lived up to its reputation again and acquitted the 16 police personnel accused of the massacre of 42 Muslims at a water canal near Meerut in 1987. This was an expected verdict in the system that has so often failed to give justice to the minorities in India. Be it 1984 anti Sikh pogrom or the numerous anti Muslim massacres, the “justice” system of India eventually finds a way to exonerate the killers. Who killed those 42 Muslim youths in Meerut? No one. The families of these 42 victims waited for 28 long years only to be told that no one killed their loved ones.
This is not an isolated incident. This is a part of the larger pattern where police regularly takes part in the killing of people from the minorities. In the aftermath of the 1984 anti Sikh pogrom police was given a free hand to target Sikh youths. Many innocents were picked up from their homes at the middle of the night and executed in cold blood. At the break of dawn media took the pictures of their bodies and presented them as “trophies” lying on the outskirts of the villages, killed in an “encounter” by the “brave hearts protecting the nation”.
During the Gujarat pogrom when Muslims were being butchered by barbaric mobs the Gujarat police ended up killing more Muslims than those who were attacking them. The Sri Krishna committee report looking into the police brutalities of 1992 anti Muslim massacre in Mumbai said:
The response of police to appeals from desperate victims, particularly Muslims, was cynical and utterly indifferent. On occasions, the response was that they were unable to leave the appointed post; on others, the attitude was that one Muslim killed, was one Muslim less.
Police officers and men, particularly at the junior level, appeared to have an in–built bias against the Muslims which was evident in their treatment of the suspected Muslims and Muslim victims of riots. The treatment given was harsh and brutal and, on occasions, bordering on inhuman, hardly doing credit to the police.
The bias of policemen was seen in the active connivance of police constables with the rioting Hindu mobs, on occasions, with their adopting the role of passive on–lookers on occasions, and, finally, their lack of enthusiasm in registering offenses against Hindus even when the accused was clearly identified and post-haste classifying the cases in ‘A’ (True but not detected) summary.
— Report of the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Commission on the
Mumbai riots of 1992–1993
In the aftermath of the 2005 terrorist attack on the trains in Mumbai, police rounded up random Muslims and paraded them in front of the media. Even prisoners of war (POW) cant be treated in this way according to the Geneva convention and here we had innocent Indian citizens being paraded in front of the media just because they belonged to the minorities. Instead of beaming pictures of innocent civilians being paraded by police the media could have questioned the police method but it chose to be an active partner in the persecution.
The police media nexus in persecution of minorities becomes more evident when pictures of Muslim youths are beamed across the nation using TV channels hours after a terrorist atrocity takes place. The same police that has failed to nab the killers of Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar and Shahid Azmi suddenly becomes so efficient that it has the complete story within hours along with the photos of the accused.
Sohrabuddin was killed in police custody and his wife was raped before being killed. Of course she is not the “Nirbhaya” for those speak against violence against women in India because Muslims are second class citizens who are usually “asking for it”. Hundreds of Muslim youths are languishing in jails on fabricated terrorism charges. Some of them have been found innocent after spending more than a decade in jail. No media organisation beamed their photos on their channels after they were found innocent.
Police brutality against minority is not a thing of the past. Recently in Dhule, Maharashtra police was caught on camera assaulting Muslim civilians and vandalizing their property. Six people were killed in police firing and the subsequent inquiry by the police found that the force used for excessive but “necessary”. No action against police was initiated by the Congress Government in Maharashtra.
After the terrorist attack on a Mosque in Hyderabad police fired on those protesting against the attack and killed nine Muslims. First police fired on those who came out of the mosque and then targeted those who came to the rescue of those injured in firing. To add further insult to injury innocent Muslim youths were arrested in the Mecca Masjid blast case. Innocent Muslims were also jailed in the Malegaon blast case in which Muslims were targeted by Hindutva affiliated organisations.
Police in India is not so trigger happy when it comes to controlling protesters who are not entirely Muslims. In 2012 there were violent protests against Delhi rape in the heart of New Delhi. Police vehicles were set alight and protesters scuffled with police. Police used every non lethal method available to them while controlling the mob and the only fatality recorded was that of a policeman. Two years prior to that 102 Kashmiri Muslims we killed by the police for protesting against the murder of innocent Kashmiris using the notorious “fake encounter” method. The police in India has a simple unstated rule, if the protesters are Muslims then shoot to kill.
Of course it would be unwise to expect justice for those killed in Kashmir because the India has a special law AFSPA that gives immunity to the armed forces if they commit atrocities against civilians of Kashmir or the North Eastern regions. Repeated demand from Kashmiris and people of North East to repeal the draconian AFSPA has been rejected by Delhi. The only difference between AFSPA and non AFSPA regions it that the perpetrators who commit atrocities against minorities do not have to go through the lengthy court process before getting clean chit as we can see in the case of Hashimpura massacre.
The Hashimpura massacre verdict giving clean chit to the accused policemen wont help Congress that is desperately trying to get a foothold in Uttar Pradesh. Hashimpura massacre took place under Congress rule and after 28 years of grueling wait there was no justice. It would be a tall task for the Congress to get back the confidence of the Muslim community in Uttar Pradesh that has abandoned the Congress and with good reason.
The Indian police is often seen as corrupt by large sections of the Indian society but they get overwhelming support when they brutalize the minorities. Police personnel come from a society in which large sections are extremely prejudiced and hateful towards minorities and this reflects in the functioning of the police. While the society cannot be changed overnight, India can certainly take measures to hold police to account. So far no Government in India has shown such inclination. As long as India gives impunity to its forces for violence against minorities, India will continue to remain a very dangerous place to be a minority.