By TCN Staff Correspondent,
Mumbai: The first Shahid Azmi Memorial Lecture, organized by friends, ‘comrades’ and students of late Shahid Azmi was held at Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh on 11th Febrauary 2012. The chief guest of the lecture and main speaker was Advocate Mukul Sinha. About 100-150 people from across Mumbai attended the lecture. The lecture was chaired by Professor Jairus Banaji (SOAS, University of London).
Prof. Banaji, in his introductory remarks, termed the killing of Advocate Azmi as a ‘political assassination’. He claimed that the same people who killed Hemant Karkare were also behind the murder of Azmi. He wondered why in major cases of political assassinations, the forensic evidence has never been preserved by the Indian state because it does not want forensic and legal outcomes.
Banaji added that the state apparatus was a seamless web of intrigue and deception. The most staggering fact of Indian democracy is that any crime can be committed with no accountability. The Indian state is enmeshed with the political forces of the right.
On the other hand, the extreme right pursues the ‘strategy of tension’ resembling Italy of the 1970s. The terror networks of the right organized themselves during the NDA regime. Hemant Karkare had started dismantling this network when he was killed. During the investigations of Malegaon blast, Praveen Togadia’s name had cropped up but he disappeared later without a trace.
Mukul Sinha delivering the lecture
Banaji concluded by stating that the crime branch remains the most criminal organization across the country. At the same time, building a resistance cannot be accomplished individually, but in solidarity and collectively. Indian democracy is turning fascist; a fascist society which works from within and is much more insidious than classical fascism.
Mukul Sinha began his speech by pointing out how many suffer from the illusion that India is a secular country. But India has a peculiar kind of secularism. If Mukul himself were named Mushtaq, we could be having a memorial lecture in his memory.
In recent times, two words have been presented to us by the West- “terrorism” and “secularism”. After the fall of Soviet Union, only forces that need to be contained are Islamic forces.
Sinha reminded the audience that even nationally, the birth of secularism was mediated by three competing ideologies. The Nehruvian idea fought with Gandhian and RSS views on secularism. But even within the Congress, there were soft-hindutva elements that were against strict separation of state and religion. In fact, secularism was slipped into the constitution only in 1976 during emergency.
The Supreme Court judgments also reflect the ambivalent character of secular polity in India. The judgments traverse the spectrum of the idea of Indian secularism from “Sarva Dharma Sambhav” to “separation of church and the state”. In India, secularism does not mean godlessness, but god everywhere. If the judicial ideas remain confused on the meaning and relevance of “secularism” in India, how we can expect trial courts to be free of biases, he wondered.
There is another myth that secularism protects the minorities. Here leaving aside the question of economic and social justice, Sinha focused on two basic questions, affording equal protection of law to the minorities and the efficacy of the criminal justice system of delivering justice to the minorities.
With the list of major communal riots where Muslims were the victims, Sinha pointed out that such a perception was misplaced. Beginning from Neli massacre, 1984 Sikh riots, 1989 Bhagalpur, 1993 Mumbai and Gujarat 2002, it has never happened once that the perpetrators were punished. Ironically, in few cases such as Bhagalpur riots, the only punished were Muslims. However, Muslims have kept their enormous faith on the idea of secularism.
A view of the audiance at the Lecture
Arif Azmi (brother of Shahid Azmi) narrated how Shahid was fighting 110 POTA related cases and he had secured 14 acquittals too. He always used to receive calls asking him to refrain from such cases but he never budged. Shahid maintained that if justice had to delivered, it had to be delivered to all.
Maulana Gulzar Azmi narrated the eventual year of 2006 when young Muslims were framed in cases of Aurangabad (May), Mumbai (July) and Malegaon (September). MCOCA was invoked against the accused in most of these cases. Shahid was fighting all these cases simultaneously. When he asked Shahid why is he deeply bothered about such cases from across India? He replied, “I want peace in the country. I was jailed myself and I fear lest these accused go to jail and turn from innocent youth into real terrorists. And the peace of India is disturbed.” Shahid felt every such case as his own- he used to say, “they must be undergoing exactly what I went during my imprisonment and afterwards”.
Banaji concluded the discussion by highlighting two major ideas of Sinha’s lecture. First, that the idea of secularism in India as balancing between different religions, which, in effect, becomes majoritarian rule. Second, the culture of political impunity where the legal and political system actively ensures that the criminals are not punished. He added that judicial compliance was a cornerstone of fascist politics in Germany for 10 years leading up to fascist rule. Indian fascism is more dangerous because it is deep rooted and molecular.