Man corrupts whatever he touches, lamented Lord Byron who felt revolted at the methodizing and manicuring of Nature, How do Indians, who value and respect democratic institutions express their anguish at the way Rajiv Gandhi and his cronies have corrupted whatever they touch? What do they make of the judiciary that delivers different judgments to different religious denominations? The Additional Sessions Judge of Delhi has sentenced six Hindus to life imprisonment in a case relating to the Sikh massacre in November, 1984, The Judge found them guilty of rioting and brutally killing more than four Sikhs. Three of the Sikh victims were brothers who were dragged out of their houses, beaten up with iron rods and “dandas” and then burnt alive, as the young Sikhs were writhing in pain, these beastly gangsters were gleefully dancing. It was a heinous crime which has no parallel in the recent human history. It was more gruesome than the glass-shattering nightmare faced by the Jews at the hands of Nazis. But the Judge awarded the “minimal punishment prescribed for major offences of murder instead of the extreme penalty of death” because of the defense plea that the accused had acted out of “anger and anguish” caused by the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

The Judge concedes that the accused belonged to “hordes of hoodlums and anti-social elements who prowled for their helpless victims” as the law enforcing agencies not only turned into silent spectators but actively participated in the orgy of murder and mayhem. They did not merit the mitigating consideration shown by the Judge in awarding minimum punishment because they were not law-abiding citizens provoked into an outrageous act. They were assassins, a band of professional criminals. They had killed, burnt alive, gang-raped even 9-10 year old girls and looted wildly. Yet the Judge almost compulsively felt inclined to award a lighter punishment to them. But in the case of Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh, the Judges, all along the way, were equally compulsively inclined to award the extreme penalty of death. Kehar Singh is being sent to the gallows on the basis of un-substantiated suspicion. There is not a semblance of incriminating evidence against him except a couple of brief chance meetings with Beant Singh on the birthday celebrations of a child. And Satwant faces the extreme penalty of death for executing a communal maniac who was directly instrumental in destroying the holiest shrine of his faith. The contrast is not because of the vagaries of an erratic justice system but is characteristic of the hydra-headed judiciary that stands communalized to the core.

In the wanton attack on the Golden Temple and destruction of Akal Takht, the Judges find no provocation. For them killing of innocent pilgrims did not involve enough anger and anguish to “clogg the sense of proportion” of the deeply religious Sikhs like Beant and ‘Satwant. The assassination of a politician as corrupt and dictatorial as Indira Gandhi, who was only a few years earlier ignominiously defeated in the elections and whose popularity graph had again touched the nadir, was described by the Judge “the rarest of the rare crimes.” Curiously, the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, the so called Father of the Nation, was not described as the “rarest of the rare crimes” and it did not cause enough ‘anger and anguish” as to “clogg the sense of proportion” of the common masses. Nowhere in India RSS activists were attacked or burnt alive and their women-folk gang-raped. The fact remains that there is “consideration” for Hindu rascals but death for Sikh gentlemen even if they act under grave provocation.

To say that the hoodlums acted spontaneously is to blindly accept the argument coined by Rajiv’s cronies who ‘want to cover up its complicity in the sordid massacre of a religious minority. And to dismiss the attack on the Golden Temple and destruction of Akal Takht as extraneous to the cases of Satwant and Kehar is nothing but an arrogant assertion of the ruler-slave equation of Hindus and Sikhs. The Sikhs need to recognize this equation and decide whether they would like to live forever under the shadows of marauding hoodlums or opt to carve out their independent destiny. The history has provided them with an unique opportunity. They should not let it slip through their fingers.

Article extracted from this publication >> November 11, 1988