Wednesday, 7 May 2014

TSUNDUR CARNAGE- when Judiciary turned down the victims-an analysis;Solutions

Tsundur Carnage- when Judiciary turned down the victims-an analysis;Solutions

"Animals, drums, illiterates, low castes and women are worthy of being beaten" -'Manu Smriti, a book of Hindu religious scriptures.

Cast, in India is one such phenomenon where in the natural instinct of Dominance, Supremacy, Control played a crucial role in Social suppression and alienation of a part of a divisional society for centuries. This resulted in economic and cultural dependency of these sections on the rest of the communities. The former being called as dalits (untouchables) and the latter elites (upper class).

After independence, with all privileges provided by the Constitution of India, helped in enlightenment and advancement of these down trodden sections of the society. However there was every effort to prevent reforms aimed at their emancipation. 
The social upward movement-still in its baby steps, of these hitherto suppressed classes on one side and the age old mindset of hegemony of the upper caste on the other; the friction between these communities was obvious. But unfortunately this friction on many counts led to gruesome massacres, be it in Andhra Pradesh,

 ·        Karemchedu, 1985 - 6 people were killed and 20 others grievously injured
 ·        Tsundur, 1991, - 8 people were killed
 ·       Lakshimpeta, 2012 - 5 were killed

At national level,
· Bathani Tola Massacre, Bihar, 1996 - 21 Dalits (includes 11 women and 6 children and 3 infants) were      slaughtered by the Ranvir Sena, a militia of upper caste Bhumihar landlords.

· Laxmanpur Bathe and Sankarbigha, Bihar, 1997 - Ranvir Sena in a series of attacks killed 81 dalits

· Kilvenmani massacre, 1969, Tamilnadu - 42 dalit labourers were herded into a hut and burnt them alive by a gang of landlords.

· Khelranji massacre, 2006, Mahrashtra - 4 members of a family were slaughtered and 2 women, mother and daughter of the same family were paraded naked in public, then allegedly gang raped before being murdered. All this for just, refusing to lay a road from their farming land into the upper caste habitats.

· It is strange that a political party being involved in atrocities against a community in 2013 Marrakkanam violence, a clash between Pattal Makkal Katchi Party (PMK) cadres and Dalit villages at Marakkanam in   Tamilnadu.

The judicial system has not been so supportive to the aggrieved.  Most of the above cases are still lingering in the courts; worse, few have been hostile, denying the justice to the people looking for it. For example,

· In Kilvenmani massacre, 1969 - the landlords responsible for 42 deaths could not be convicted
· In Laxmanpur Bathe, Bihar -  Patna High court in 2013 acquitted all 26 accused citing lack of evidence
· Karamchedu, 1985 - where in High Court of AP has acquitted all the accused. However later Supreme   Court in 2008 has convicted 31 people guilty.

High Court of Andhra Pradesh
The relevance of this post is the recent judgment by the Andhra Pradesh High Court which has acquitted all the accused of Tsundur massacre, where in 8 people were killed and several others injured. There is a furor over this judgment.

Was the Judgment really biased in favor of the accused? Let us analyze.

Historical background of the incidence.

The differences in Tsundur, Guntur district about 350km from Hyderabad of A.P. between Socially advanced Reddys and Telagas and backward Dalits (lower castes) over the years took new shape when a person belonging to lower caste clashed with the dominant upper class group in a cinema hall. He was beaten up badly. The aggrieved person along with the villagers filed a complaint with the police. Hard to digest on complaint, the surrounding villages caste Hindus has imposed a social boycott.

A ration shop dealer from dalit village, on the pretext of attending a meeting called by the MRO (Mandal Revenue Officer) has entered this socially barricaded area. He was beaten up badly for doing so, leaving with bloody injuries.

To protest this incident along with series of harassments on them, dalits on August 6 1991 organised a rally which resulted in police lathi charge. With police attacking them dalits tried to escape. This escape proved them to be a 'death trap' as around 400 people belonging to upper caste were waiting at the exit points of the village only to kill 8 people fleeing for safety. They were lynched, bodies pierced into pieces, stuffed into gunny bags and thrown in the Tungabadra drain. It took 4 days to find all the bodies which were swollen and filled with insects, that a doctor who performed post-mortem committed suicide on that night.

Police charge sheeted 219 people belonging to Tsunduru and neighboring villages.

This incident has caught the attention of state & national media as well as political parties. Series of protests for 3-4 months resulted in, establishing a separate court, first of its kind in the country in tune to the provision of SC, ST Atrocities Act of 1989.

Special Court established in Tsundur 

The special court after 16 years of the proceedings finally gave it's judgment in 2007 and convicted 56 accused, out of which 21 awarded life imprisonment and 35 others to one year rigorous imprisonment. It let of 115 others citing lack of evidence.

The judgment was challenged in the High Court of Andhra Pradesh.

The bench comprising of Justice L.Narasimha Reddy and Justice MSK Jaiswal in 2014 after 7 years of hearing, has acquitted all the accused

Now the questions raised are, was the Judgment really biased in favor of the accused? The answer is YES
Should we concur with the judgment?  NO. Let us put it analytically,

  1. "Justice delayed is Justice denied". A judgment delivered after 23 years of occurrence of an incidence itself is against the basic principle of Natural Justice which is to 'deliver in time'. 33 accused died during the course of the trial is self-explanatory. In this long period there is every possibility of the evidences be erased, tampered which may overturn the whole case.
  2. Any crime  has to be recorded with the police in the form of FIR and if no one reports, it is the duty of the police, in case of a cognizable offence, to take the case suo moto.  And judgment given on the pretext that ‘no person has complained for the crime’ shows that our judiciary is lagging some 100 years behind.
  3. In regard to Court's observation on non-identification of the accused, there are Supreme Court guidelines on Massacre which says – the eye witness need not remember all the details of the accused. Lower courts were asked to ignore insignificant discrepancies in witness statement and not to disbelieve the evidence of such witnesses altogether.
  4. H.C of A.P has raised certain doubts on its judgment when it on one side, made the minor technical aspects as the base of its judgment and on the other made a remark saying that “the case which caught the national attention led to certain accused being virtually morally convicted”, which can be presumed to be contradictory and biased statement.
  5. It is obnoxious on part of H.C, in a case of such gruesome criminal acts, to mention or to make it a point of discussion that whether the victims are dalits or converted Christians.
  The case, according to the victims, now will be appealed in the Supreme Court. Let's hope for reasoning, logical coupled with evidence based judgment.

   Apart from the court justice, what is to be done to contain this kind of violent acts?
  1.“Prevention is better than cure” Most of the incidents would have been averted if the law enforcement machinery acted swiftly and unbiased. Thus the police should enforce the law in letter and spirit with utmost sensitivity.

   2. Lives in rural areas are revolved around ‘Land’. And most of the cases of such kind, land is the epicenter of the incident. Thus to strengthen the socially and economically backward classes, government cultivable lands should be transferred on to the names of the marginalized sections. In addition, Land ceiling Act should be implemented more effectively.

  3.Any judgment delayed for certain period of time becomes irrelevant. Thus to provide justice to the victims, judgments should be delivered as soon as possible. Here more than the severity, what matters is swiftness of the punishment. The number of courts should be proportionately increased to the population. According to the government reports and once mentioned by the PM himself, that we need some 10,000 courts to meet the demand of the pending cases. To start with, Government should immediately establish 1000 courts (it will be around 2 courts per district)

   4.Though education and health care facilities should be provided to all, government should take special care to establish Schools and hospitals in the areas inhabited by the socially and economically backward people, as it will induce lot of confidence and sense of security in them.
   Finally, Government at large scale need to spread awareness on the need to make the caste irrelevant, specially the success stories, like a village in Thenampulam-Sembagarayanallur Panchayat in Tamil Nadu which has relinquished caste altogether