When the convict in 1993 Mumbai bombings was hanged on July 30, it generated an impassioned public debate in India about the advisability of executing somebody who had surrendered and helped India nail Pakistans role in the terror in India. But a predominant majority in India wanted Memon dead and saw it as the legitimate logical conclusion to his crime and long-awaited justice for the 257 people who had died in the Mumbai carnage. Now two weeks after the hanging, the noose that killed Memon hangs like a question mark not only over the state of judicial process in India which is perceived to be biased against one particular community but also over the very idea of India which is no longer considered inclusive and pluralistic enough to accommodate its largest minority. And if this thinking needed any validation, it was provided by the decision of the National Investigation Agency not to challenge the bail granted to Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Swami Aseemanand by the Punjab and Haryana high court last year in the 2007 Samjhauta blasts case. Sixty eight people, 42 of them Pakistanis, had died in the blasts. On August 11, the Union home ministry informed the Lok Sabha that the NIA, upon examining the feasibility of filing a special leave petition, found no grounds to challenge the order in the Supreme Court. Interestingly, Aseemanand had been granted bail on August 28 last year. However, a certified copy of the order was issued by the court only on May 1 this year. The legal experts have found this eight-month delay rather unusual.
According to the standard practice followed by Supreme Court, a certified copy of a bail order is dispatched to the jail authorities the day it is pronounced. Which brings up the logical question: Is the system in India, including judiciary, becoming inherently prejudiced against minorities? And if so, what does this state of affairs tell about the place of minorities in the country. The events in recent years have lent credence to the fears among Muslims about an ideological shift in India away from Nehruvian pluralism. Only recently, special public prosecutor in 2008 Malegaon blasts case Rohini Salian had alleged that she was eased out of her job following her claims that NIA was pressuring her to go soft on the accused in the terror cases involving Hindus. But why blame BJP alone for this. It was the so called secular Congress which moved Afzal Guru up the queue to hang him in 2012. To add insult to the injury, Gurus family, his wife and the lone son were not informed before his execution, let alone allowed to meet Guru.
The hanging and the indecorous secrecy of the deed only played into the deep cynicism and the sense of alienation in Kashmir. The developments like these are profoundly disturbing. A crude majoritarianism seems astride over India. And the current ruling political establishment seems not only at ease with it but also sees the political and the institutional targeting of the minorities as the path to survival. What India needs urgently now is to chalk a return path to secularism and inclusiveness. But this should be a secularism which is not only about tokenism and sweet talk but also backed by an institutional fairness and equality for the minorities. It is about reclaiming India from rightwing.
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