Monday, May 07, 2007

DG Vanzara is not an aberration… he is another policeman there perpetuating the culture of human rights violation… and all the parties are united in promoting this culture…

It is now getting clear, by the day, that D.G.Vanzara and his associates had killed Sohrabuddin and called it an encounter. It is also confirmed now that Sohrabuddin’s wife, Kauser Bi was also killed, hear dead body doused with petrol and burnt. Tulsiram Prajapati, whose only crime was to have witnessed the crime, was let out of the jail and bumped off; the police version is that Prajapati escaped from jail, ended up hitching a ride in a police patrol vehicle and had-to-be-shot-dead by the policemen.

Vanzara is not the only police officer charged with murder. We have had similar and even worse instances of policemen turning into murderers. And one can hardly recall an instance where the guilt has been established and the guilty punished for murder. The punishment for murder, under Section 302 of the India Penal Code, is imprisonment for life or a death sentence. It may be pointed out, in this context, that a charge under Section 302 will have to rest on a charge under Section 300 of the IPC and this would mean that there is sufficient evidence of an intention to kill; the murder has to have been pre-meditated.

But then the point is that Vanzara, as it is, cannot be charged under Section 300 of the IPC and hence Section 302 cannot be invoked because Vanzara and his likes can take refuge under Section 76 of the IPC. The explanation is that an act, illegal as it may be, carried out with a ``belief’’ that he is ``bound by the law’’ to perform such an act and ``where a bona fide intention to advance the law is manifested by the circumstances,’’ such acts fall under the general exceptions to the provisions of the IPC.

Now, Vanzara and his associates in this case or in almost all those instances where the police or the army officers ended up killing ordinary citizens, had been careful to construct narratives that they ended up killing these men and women because they were bound by law to advance the law. Their superiors and their political bosses had, in all such instances, dished out ``information’’ that those killed were conspiring to overawe the state by violent means.

Recall the murder of over 2000 men in some four districts of Punjab several years ago. These murders were described as acts done in defense of the democratic polity and K.P.S.Gill who headed the Punjab Police at that time was bestowed with honours. Gill was celebrated. We have also had instances where innocent young men were shot dead, army fatigues put on the corpses and buried in Chattisingpura, Kashmir. And even when it was established, several years later that the dead were innocent young men and that they were branded as terrorists by the men in uniforms, there was no effort to find out the murderers and punish them for criminal culpability.

It is a fact that even a liberal application of Section 76 of the Penal Code would have foreclosed the possibility of the guilty officers (the police in the Punjab killings and the army officers in the Chattisingpura massacre) taking the plea that they committed such illegal acts only because they believed that their acts were intended to advance the law. The circumstances were clear that they went about killing innocent men only in order to strike terror among the citizens in those parts of the country.

Their intention was to strike terror in the minds of the people and this indeed is what the organised terror groups seek to do. In other words, they were guilty of attempting to overawe the state with violence and force because such actions, cumulatively, contribute to a crisis of confidence in the state among the mass of its citizens. And when men like Vanzara and his associates, whose duty is to ensure that the mass of citizens do not lose their faith on the state and its institutions, act in a manner that effectively leads to an erosion of such a faith, the guilt is only compounded.

The point is that such acts of vandalism and lawless behaviour increases in the larger context of a constructed popular culture that celebrates torture and killing by the police. This popular culture then manufactures a consent for such criminal acts by the state and its instruments because the people are made to believe that these are essential to save the democratic edifice. While this construction is done through the media in general, the task has been accomplished with some ease by popular cinema in India. There is hardly any celluloid hero who has not done the role of a ``good’’ cop; a one man army against the ``axis of evil’’ (the criminal-politician nexus and their boss from across the border) is a common theme of popular cinema in all Indian languages.

This is where the Gills and the Vanzaras can take refuge even after they are caught for murder. And hence the imperative is for a campaign against condoning any act of killing, torture and use of force by the police. There are nations in parts of the world where even hardened criminals are guaranteed of their right to life and instances of wanton killings by police are very rare in those nations. In other words, those are nations where the right to life and a life with dignity is indiscriminately guaranteed to all its citizens. And those who attempt to trample upon this right, even if they belong to the law enforcing agencies and claim to do that in the name of the law, are held criminally culpable.

It is possible and worthy enough to make a beginning in this direction now and deal with D.G.Vanzara and his accomplices in such manner. In other words, justice in this case will have to be delivered in the form of fixing criminal culpability and not reducing it to a few lakh rupees as compensation.


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