26, Nov 2017 | Anand Pawardhan
It is a travesty that an organization like Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) which has done so much for the people of Gujarat and this nation, needs to be publicly endorsed by those of us who have not yet been bought, brainwashed or threatened into silence by the murderous political class and its business and administrative affiliates. I am however aware of just how vicious and vindictive these forces can be and so, as my citizen’s duty, am putting this endorsement on paper.
The truth of the matter can be understood by anyone who cares to examine the facts. There was a pogrom directed against the Muslims of Gujarat in 2002. An administration led by Chief Minister Modi covertly and overtly helped those who engineered the massacre. Later this same administration helped hide the crimes and helped criminals evade justice. A BJP government both in Gujarat and at the centre tried to ensure that the crimes went unpunished. Two years later when a Congress government came to power at the centre, it played the politics of adjustment rather than deliver justice, believing that people would punish the hate mongers at the polls. They could not have been more wrong. Unpunished criminals become brazen and further refine the art of impunity.
Amidst the gloom and despair some individuals and organizations stood out and played a heroic role by providing shelter and relief to the victims, and by trying to ensure that justice was done afterwards. From amongst this small group the name of Teesta Setalvad and the CJP stands out for its consistence and effectiveness.
In all CJP brought 68 cases from trial courts to Supreme Court tribunals thereby ensuring transparency and accountability in the criminal justice system and established the right of victims and complainants to be heard in court. Amazingly despite the loaded dice, the determined and detailed work of CJP ensured that 172 rioters and murderers were convicted to various prison terms ranging from life imprisonment to lesser terms. Heartwarmingly, even as it fought for justice, CJP stood firmly against the death penalty, setting it far apart from those who degrade justice by equating it with revenge.
The fact that a group of citizens stood up and spoke in Gujarat at a time when there was a complete breakdown in the Constitutional machinery at least partially restored peoples’ faith in the criminal justice system.
Of course all these CJP achievements could not go unchecked by the vicious forces that perpetrated and benefited from pogroms and hate. They had to strike back and they did. That it took the form of a tried and tested formula of accusing their nemesis of “corruption” was no surprise. That despite all the State machinery under their command they made out such a weak case is the real surprise.
Anand Patwardhan is an award winning documentary filmmaker known for his socio-political, human rights oriented films.