Ralph Chaplin said: “Mourn not the dead that in the cool earth lie, but rather mourn the apathetic throng, the coward and the meek who see the world’s great anguish and its wrong but dare not speak.” A friend asked me for my opinion about the Bhopal ‘encounter’ which is in the news at present where eight young men, allegedly ‘dreaded terrorists’, were ‘encountered’. This is a cute term invented by the Indian media to describe what should correctly be called ‘extra-judicial killings’. And if you are among those who like to reduce everything to a single word, then you may like to experiment with the word, ‘Murder’. Truth and facts are boring and don’t sell papers or generate TRP ratings for so-called News Channels (which should be called by their real name – Propaganda Machine) but lace the truth with a dash (if required completely drench it) of fantasy, drama, excitement and fear and you can make a jaw-dropping, BP-raising, edge-of-the-seat, breathtaking clip of a cat catching a mouse. That is where the word ‘encounter’ came into being – murder being rather boring. And those who indulge in it on a regular basis were given the media medal of ‘Encounter Specialist’. I will leave you to arrive at what the logical, factual, straight and truthful word is, that should be used. No point in belaboring the point. To give you an example of the monsters our media creates see this headline: http://bit.ly/1eBKIgu Why would anyone fear someone whose specialty is killing innocent, unarmed people? If that is a definition they feel proud of and their law-abiding brethren are not ashamed of, then pray what is the difference between this and the way you would define every daku (dacoit) of Chambal or every supari hitman gangster of the underworld? If honest police officers find such media descriptions insulting, then why do they remain silent? Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about ‘encounter’ killings: http://bit.ly/2eERe9jLet me leave such thoughts to those who should really reflect on them.
I decided to begin at the beginning and googled the term Encounter. Google, like Jeeves, gives satisfaction and so here is what came up.
I am not sure if those who had the encounter (or were ‘encountered’; such a useful language, English) would describe what they faced as, ‘we encountered a slight problem’, but fortunately they are not in a position to disagree with this definition, so we can ignore what they may have wanted to say. So, what really happened in Bhopal? God, of course, always knows. In this case those it happened to and those who facilitated that happening also know. But one lot is now speechless and the other lot are not speaking. Therefore, I am exactly where all of you are; with an enigmatic mystery to solve. Those addicted to mystery novels (I am, if Jeffery Arthur is the author) will be thrilled that one is unfolding before their eyes. I mentioned JA not by accident but by design. Because one of the most enjoyably infuriating thing about his writing is that the mystery is never completely solved. So, you gnash your teeth in frustration, curse him for being the cussed, devious man he is and wait with baited breath for his next novel, knowing full well that it is going to leave you in the exactly same state. We are all suckers for punishment. That is why I have read all his novels and pray for his long and productive life. The Bhopal Encounter (it deserves upper case) is a mystery which will never be solved (at least for garden variety lizards like me) and will be followed by another and another as it was preceded by one and more. Then why write anything at all about it? I believe the Bhopal Encounter is a snapshot of what happens to democracies and what has been happening to our Indian democracy when those who make up the democracy decide to copout of the process. What defines and differentiates a democracy (India?) from a monarchy (Britain), a dictatorship (Egypt), an oligarchy (USA) or an anarchy (??) is the actions of its people. Democracy is not the name of a system of government. It is the name of a state of being that a nation of people choose for themselves. It is the name of a belief about yourself. It is the name of dignity of the individual. It is the name of justice where the law supersedes the individual (the opposite is the definition of feudalism). It is the name of self-determination, individual liberty, mutual compassion and concern. The system of government called ‘Democracy’, ensures all this. When its nature changes and it is no longer able to fulfill what the term ‘Democracy’ defines, it ceases to be a democracy and becomes whatever its actions display, no matter what its PR machine wants to portray to the world. People always see through the covers and know the truth because people listen with their eyes. They don’t care what you say, until they see what you do. Democracy is defined by its three constituent institutions and by their separation; of the law makers, implementers and interpreters. Separation of the Institutions of the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. “I am the law” or “I am above the law” are both feudalistic statements. The separation is a safety measure to ensure that the democracy always remains a democracy and can’t be hijacked to become a dictatorship as we have seen happening all over the world, even though those regimes still call themselves ‘democratic’, because that is the buzzword to use. After all, how would, ‘The Undemocratic, Dictatorial, Fascistic, Murderous, Oppressive, Apartheid Republic of So-and-so’ sound? Not nice at all. So, they call themselves ‘Democratic’, while all the rest are fringe benefits that their citizens enjoy. The ‘Encounter Specialist’, by his action (and all those who support that action directly or by remaining silent) collapses the three Institutions of Democracy, where he becomes the lawmaker, the law interpreter and the law enforcer. He decides who is guilty and what should be done to him. By his action, he declares that mere incidentals like evidence, establishment of guilt, judicial process, criminal code, sentencing and the legal procedure to ensure justice, are all immaterial. He is the judge, jury and executioner rolled into one and by his action, hammers another nail into the coffin of democracy.The question is not whether the one killed in an ‘encounter’ was guilty or not. The question is whether justice was done and seen to be done. If we declare that the killing of one by another who considers him guilty is justice, then we have legitimized every terror killing in the world. The man who drove the truck through the crowd in France thought he was doing justice. The person who killed the three Muslim medical students in North Carolina thought he was doing justice. ISIS thinks it is doing justice. Every Israeli soldier shooting Palestinian children thinks he is doing justice. Where do we draw the line, if we choose to obliterate it in one instance?
We either draw the line and say, ‘Let the courts decide who is guilty and who is not, based on evidence.’ Or we open the doors to anarchy and civil war. It is our call. It’s the choice of civil society, to raise our voice and say what we want; what we demand from our government; justice or anarchy? The ‘Encounter Specialist’ represents anarchy. The policeman/woman who investigates a crime and brings the murderer to the gallows, represents justice. Whose side are we on? Whose side are you on? I know whose side I am on. So do you. So, who is guilty? Those who commit murder and call it ‘encounter’, those who order it and all those who sit silently and watch it happen. All of them are equally guilty of destroying the law, destroying the nation and destroying themselves. Especially tragic is when those sworn to uphold the law and protect the innocent are guilty of violating that trust. There’s nothing more pathetic than a policeman committing murder at the behest of others. It violates and insults the uniform, the oath of office and the Constitution of India. It is the action of such of them that give a bad name to the entire force, where the term, ‘Police Martyrs’ sounds like an oxymoron. Those who really lost their lives honorably lose the honor they deserve. I remind myself that there are others who I know, who in this morass of shameless pursuit of personal wealth and pleasing political bosses, don’t even dream of sacrificing their integrity and stand, often alone, as shining lights proclaiming that honesty and truth are personal values which define us. And so, they are never to be compromised. In the words of the song: मझधार में नैया डोले तो मांझी पार लगाए
मांझी जो नाव डुबोये
, उसे कौन बचाए
In my view the solution is very simple. Justice. Let justice be done. Murder is a crime. It is fashionable today to call for tougher laws. The fact of the matter is that our existing law is more than good enough. Murder is a crime and its punishment is death. What more can anyone do? The issue is not with the law but with the implementation of the law. When murder done by someone special is not punished, changing the law and making it tougher is not the solution. The solution is to bring the criminal to justice, by proper investigation of the crime and collection of evidence. It is not possible for any police force to anticipate a crime of random violence. Neither is it possible for the police to prevent such crimes from happening because we have no knowledge of hidden things. The only way to be forewarned about the possibility of such crimes is through Community Policing by building trust in civil society such that the Police Force is seen as their compatriot and friend. I know that there are a few officers who are working to this end. But one incident of extra-judicial killing destroys years of trust building. It may not be possible to prevent every crime of politically motivated random violence but it is eminently possible to investigate a crime once it happens and catch the criminals. When there is a price that the criminal is convinced he will have to pay, then he will think many times before committing the crime. Instead of that, when innocent people are killed because the police is too lazy to investigate or is subservient to others and has accepted the role of hitman, then instead of fighting terrorism, you end up creating more terrorists. An extra-judicial killing is a dream come true for the terror group recruiter. Every real terrorist killed in a staged encounter gives birth to ten more recruits. Every innocent killed in a staged encounter gives birth to a hundred. The nightmare of the genuine law enforcer is the false encounter because it closes doors of cooperation which could have prevented future crimes. My suggestion is that given the dismal record of police investigations, it is time for civil society to launch an independent investigation into these terror crimes and encounters. We need to set up a fund to pay for a top-class investigation agency to independently investigate the crime and collect evidence. This can then be given publicly to the police to take to a conclusion. I say publicly because if the police know that there is real evidence then trying to cover up is not so easy. Criminals must be punished and not rewarded, if we are serious about fighting crime. If crime pays, criminals will flourish. If criminals start paying, crime will end. The law must be respected and applied, no matter who tries to break it. If we do that, then we would have taken the right steps to change the script. Once the script is changed, the results will be different. It is time for us to wake up and realize that polluting the water in the lake affects all those who live in the lake. Those who sit quietly will not escape the effects of pollution. The time has come to speak and to act if we want to bequeath a world to our children that they will not curse us for. Stand for justice. Speak for justice. Or sit silently and support the terrorist, the murderer and the oppressor. The choice is yours. I made mine a long time ago.