Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Justice Denied, Or A Dish Best Served Cold?

When a Delhi court ordered the case against Jagdish Tytler to be reopened, I felt a sense of great relief and vindication. The involvement of Messrs Tytler, HKL Bhagat and Sajjan Kumar in the orchestrated riots of 1984 (in which 3000 Sikhs were targeted and killed) has been talked about for the three decades since that shameful event. Yet nothing has ever been done about these fine gentlemen. HKL Bhagat has died without seeing the inside of a courtroom, much less a jail cell. Tytler and Sajjan Kumar remain at large, but this week has finally provided a ray of hope that perhaps, just perhaps, justice has not been entirely consigned to the scrap heap in India.

Of course, the news is not that of an indictment, merely the reopening of the case, but even such a baby step is big news in a country where the powerful can commit crimes with impunity.

For many of the victims' families, even this news comes too late. In these three decades, many have died resigned to the possibility that justice would never be done.

Yet, when I see photos of Tytler today, I am possessed of a strange glee. For the man has aged. The Young Turk who wanted to impress his feudal master with a bloodbath of his "enemies" is now an old man largely bereft of protection. Even within his Congress party, he is now something of a pariah. The Congress itself is far weaker than it was in the mid-eighties and nineties, far less capable of intimidating witnesses and prosecutors. Civil society is stronger than ever before, and the electronic media is ubiquitous and relentless. It will be hard for Tytler to wriggle out of this jam, I believe.

Jagdish Tytler in 1984 

Jagdish Tytler in 2013 - Nemesis hasn't aged a day in the meantime

I am reminded of the arrest of former Nazi Laszlo Csatary, who sent over 15,000 Hungarian Jews to their deaths during the Second World War.

Laszlo Csatary caught with his pants down when the press calls on him

A doddering old man attending court

Csatary's situation today is worlds away from when he wore his infamous uniform. When the press calls, he answers the door in a shirt and socks, a pathetic figure indeed. He has to be physically supported when he attends court. When most other men his age are in comfortable retirement, attended by a loving family and with a grandchild or two upon their knee, this man is dragged from cell to courtroom as nemesis finally makes its move. I feel a mixture of pity and satisfaction.

There is another man for whom nemesis doubtless lies in wait, a man who is currently the toast of millions. But there will surely come a day when Narendra Modi will have nothing and no one supporting him but a walking stick, and on that day, he will have to answer for the deaths of 2000 Muslims in Gujarat. Today, there is triumphalist talk of Modi as India's next prime minister. Such a coronation may yet come to pass. But 2000 deaths cannot simply be swept under the carpet. The day of reckoning will come, and we can wait for that day.

Narendra Modi - Not too young to start with
"When you finally take off your crown, here's a walking stick and a court summons"

There is a lot to be said for prompt justice. But perhaps the possibility of being arrested when one is infirm and friendless, and having to run from courtroom to courtroom defending oneself at that late stage in life, is just what is needed to drive fear into the heart of every would-be mass-murderer.

Revenge is sweet. It is also, as Khan said, a dish that is best served cold.

I hope Jagdish Tytler is enjoying his ice cream...

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