When Protectors Turn Predators
The Central Bureau of
Investigation (CBI) of India has
found that Ishrat Jahan, the 19- year-old woman killed in an 'encounter' in 2004, was not a terrorist. It also found the involvement of senior officers of Gujarat police and the Intelligence Bureau (IB). Rest assured, no other case of 'encounter' involving the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Gujarat Police will be heard of in the near future. Everyone learns from past mistakes—institutions learn even faster to cover up tracks. However, the expose or 'investigation' of the CBI by the IB has more to do with a breach of trust—that sacred compact of looking the other way.
But is there a lesson that Ishrat Jahan is teaching democrats and liberals? Staying clear of trouble is what Ishrat had done all her life. That did not prove quite useful. Fight as a method of silencing is as old as inhumanity. But does walking straight help? Does it ensure safety—of life and property, as they say? If Ishrat Jahan wasn't safe, who is? There were the words—Pakistan, terrorism—words that do not need proof for culpability.
Those involved in Ishrat Jahan's murder are not small fry. They include quite a few higher ups entrusted with enforcing the law. Why are those people who are more likely to murder and torture than ordinary citizens so thoroughly over-represented among the ranks of certain state-funded institutions? Why are they almost always 'protectors of law'? What is this law that it protects? What are its contours? Is this law to be read in between the lines of the constitution? Is this law tribe found in the umbra and penumbra of the constitutional guarantee to life? And still they talk, fashionably, gracefully, fashionably—like Pythia, the oracle at Delphi. If one person knew that Apollo did not speak, it was Pythia. Unbelievers always have a way of becoming priests.
Only if one eavesdrops on the players at the top, then the code in which they talk to each other, codes that are not to be found in the formal rulebook. In an interview aired by the BBC Journalist Abdrwe Marr asked Noam Chomsky during an exchange on Chomsky's views on media distortion of truth, how could Chomsky know for sure that he, a journalist, was self-censoring? Chomsky replied, "I don't say you're self-censoring—I'm sure you believe everything you're saying; but what I'm saying is, if you believed something different, you wouldn't be sitting where you're sitting." And it is the production of this believer-citizen that is essential for 'encounter' murders to go unlamented for very few enjoy the spoils of being an cynical insider. The insiders may come in different colours, shapes, sizes, tongues and even faiths, but unless they shared a contempt for habeas corpus and veneration for this 'other' rule-book, they would not be sitting where they are sitting.
Similar to what Michael Moore said, 'I have never been slapped by a Pakistani army man for I was walking too briskly on Srinagar streets, never been murdered in broad daylight in the streets of Imphal by special forces from Pakistan, never been kidnapped in Gujarat by the Inter Services Intelligence, never been tortured for days together in jails by Sindh Police, never been detained, blindfolded and then shot through the head by a Pakistani Army man. But there is no opportunity for competitive gloating to be done here by Pakistanis either. For the near-daily murder and torture of pro-independence Baloch youth are now too numerous to deny. For Ishrat Jahan of Gujarat and Chongkham Sanjit of Manipur share just too many things with Sarfaraz Shah, gunned down in Karachi in broad daylight by the Pakistan Rangers. Sarfaraz's howls, his pleadings, the utter helplessness in front of the law enforcement agencies, that moment when the gun fires, that look on the face of Sarfaraz a moment before he is shot—a look that shouts out 'Please' in a way that would make the Himalayas crumble if the gods were as benevolent as they are said to be—these are all too familiar on the other side of the Radcliffe. Something else is familiar—that the Rangers will not pay for their crime. There is far too much that is common between the subcontinental badlands commonalities that make a mockery of the exclusive pride that some seem to possess".
Every time people ignore an extra-judicial murder, it brings them that much closer to being a cold reptile. People have a stake in this. "The freedom of others extends mine infinitely" said a famous graffiti from Paris 1968. And when this 'other' is the one where all collective prejudices and hate converge, ensuring that 'other's' freedom has ripples everywhere. The flood of empathy needs such ripples now. People owe it to them and to the Ishrat Jahans and the Sarfaraz Shahs of the subcontinent. Nobody should forget what Avtar Singh 'Paash' had articulated so poignantly years ago.
'Jey desh di surakhya eho hondee hai key be-zameeree zindagi lei shart ban javey, akh di putli vich ban ton bina koi bhi shabd ashleel howe, tey man badkaar ghadiyan de samne dandaut't jhukiya rahe, tey saanu desh di surakhya ton khatra hai'
(If a life without conscience is a pre-condition of the country's security, if anything other than saying 'yes' in agreement is obscene, and the mind submits before the greedy times, then the security of the country is a danger to all).
Vol. 46, No. 10, Sep 15 - 21, 2013
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