Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dilip 1

Thanks Dilip!

Being significantly more experienced than me, you must be knowing most of the things I write here, but still I would be curious of what you agree/disagree with. The comment would be very, very long & almost irrelevant to the post where discussion had started (and hope you can excuse that), you may respond only where you find it necessary.

Let me try to simplify one thing. If compelling evidence becomes available, it becomes obligatory that legal action be taken by the concerned authority. All this is irrespective of the country in which evidence is provided, or against which person or whether one providing this evidence seems insincere or not. So, what I find wrong with your approach of asking for justice is, it (at least seemingly) makes taking legal action in given case dependent on whether legal action was taken in the past or not, and legal action in recent cases prevents imminent future crimes (e.g., HS & Naxals).

Seriousness of concern for fellow citizens. There are no easy answers on this. I think there's one very fundamental difference in how you & I look at everything. You tend to look at things in terms of their presence/absence; I tend to grade things (minimum to maximum). I am not trying to get melodramatic here, but people offer their hand to help a total stranger get aboard a running train. But on the other hand (as you have been pointing out), we forget the crimes done in the past & at remote places. People donate blood (for total strangers) taking the effort to go to blood bank or blood donation camp site, they donate hard earned money to charity (for total strangers). But on the other hand people spit, stick chewing gum, litter roads, smoke in public places - all of which inconvenience others. But can in light of these mutually paradoxical behaviors we make a blanket statement - we do not care for fellow Indians? Possibly, concern & apathy are pervasive traits. Meaning, a person sticking gum on a bench is more likely to litter by throwing chocolate wrapper also. This just shows a population is heterogeneous.

There are many reasons as to why do people not show outrage or very little of it against law enforcing agencies' failures in India.

1. We have come to accept inefficiency in all walks of life. This is one of the most ominous things that could happen to the prospect of progress in a society....

Dilip 2

...There used to be a time when people used pay bribes to MTNL people (bakshish) otherwise their phone connections would be disrupted. People had come to accept this. But with emergence of private players, MTNL had to become a lot more efficient & clean. People have very, very few complaints against them as compared to more than a decade ago. Now if MTNL would go back to its old ways people would be aghast. But even in their bad old days, people had tried a lot to change things. They had lodged many complaints. However, people had also got used to the way MTNL was. That MTNL was corrupt & inefficient did not make them lose their sleep. But people right from top to bottom in the MTNL hierarchy used to benefit from this corruption & harassment. Things had improved over a very short time. Because otherwise it was a matter of survival for them.

Our law enforcement system is stuck in the old MTNL gear. People have tried & failed to improve it. But there is one more practical problem. If you would've annoyed an MTNL employee, at most they would cut your phone connection, but if you are involved in a legal tangle with someone powerful, stakes are much higher than your phoneline, maybe, even your life & well being. (This partly answers why differences in approach against B&R and cases involving powerful people, but more about it later)

This inertia in law enforcement agency is simply because just like MTNL, the entire state machinery's hierarchy benefits from the status quo.

2. Disincentives for honesty. Imagine, in our country "politician" has become such a dirty word! More often than not, if someone were to be introduced as politician, we would subconsciously conclude, "must be a crooked guy, possibly a goon also, must not step on his toes". Think of an IAS officer, and first thing that comes to mind is, "must be taking bribes". Customs officer - "must be harassing passengers". And these generalizations are not inaccurate! If you are an honest police constable, you'll just earn maybe around Rs. 10,000. If an honest police officer, around Rs. 50,000 (because of 6th pay commission, otherwise pays would've been much less). And if you happen to come in way of someone really powerful, there are attendant risks of being transferred to tribal areas, becoming fodder for the Maoists, etc., apart from losing promotions & 'face' among peers....

Dilip 3

...Now, judiciary can only be as good as the evidence providing-machinery, which largely happens to be the police force. Plus, there are possibilities to influence judges by enticing/threatening with promotions/transfers & illegal money from powerful people. If not too risky judges would use their 'discretion' to benefit the powerful party (of the accused & the defendant) to gain benefits in return.

Now, what a deadly & effective combination this is for justice to not be delivered when powerful people are involved!

3. Lack of resources/manpower/proper training. Many crime scenes are not even properly sealed as can be seen on TV. I guess, these are not to help the criminals evade, but because of lack of professionalism/training.

All the Indian states are in acute shortage of policemen. Part of the cause is apathy of governments, but there is another important cause, which we tend to neglect - India is an economically poor country. Even the constables currently employed are paid very poorly despite very heavy workload. This creates perfect environment for them to take bribes & manipulate evidence when required. But moreover, governments do not recruit more police personnel simply because they do not have the funds! One might cynically say that if politicians would stop amassing wealth for themselves, more policemen could be recruited. That would be oversimplification. In all likelihood, to recruit 3 constables, a doctor would have to be removed from job, or 2 teachers, or hundreds of farmers would lose quintals of fertilizers. Would that be acceptable?

Likewise, appointments & promotions of new judges are not being made despite so many pending cases. Again part of the reason is the same - we do not want to deprive people of doctors, teachers or farmers of fertilizers. This makes our judiciary exquisitely slow, of course, apart from other disincentives to work in a fair way that I mentioned.

Now coming to a very important question you have asked, "We tried and punished B&R based on that evidence. ... Why won't we try the guilty for 1984 etc, then?"

Let me enlist the possible reasons (applies to all the cases of rioting & not just 1984):

1. Nexus between politicians, police & to some degree, judiciary. Those who had encouraged these crimes or benefitted from them are having the greatest (indirect) power to determine whether to punish their accomplices or not! Can I put it more simply?...

Dilip 4

...2. Nature of crime. Probably this is something you disagree with, but more often than not the manner in which riots occur, lot of evidence gets destroyed. Reliance is greatly upon eyewitness accounts. Some of these accounts are motivated, too. If a witness turns hostile, their testimony becomes totally useless. Some testimonies would be nullified because another witness would contradict the first witness' testimony, etc. And under such circumstance, it would be truly difficult to determine which of the two mutually contradictory accounts is true. Some witnesses could be failing the cross-examination.

3. Lack of direct causation with crime. Very few grass roots level murderers are caught! The people we are holding responsible had probably played a very indirect role, but we know of them because they were at prominent positions. How many people must have Jagdish Tytler, Kamalnath or Sajjan Kumar killed with their own hands? To what extent can one hold responsible for deaths, those persons who had instigated grown up adults who had the option of not getting instigated & not killing? I've not consulted the relevant IPC sections, but a mere instigator's punishment must be significantly lighter than the one actually murdering. Probably this is what allows them to get away with lighter sentences. Of course, if the said instigator also provides murderers with weapons, etc., thus becoming a facilitator of crime, then punishment must be harsher, I guess.

4. Biases of those conducting investigations. This bias could be motivated by relationships, past favors, gratitude (for calling into service despite having retired!), promotions, etc. Biases could lead to attempts at guarding few people or on the other hand wrongful framing. These lacunae must be emerging during court proceedings, significantly reducing the reliability of committee in judges' eyes. Plus you might add to this the usual carelessness, lack of committment to one's job & lack of technology. Quite possibly, the media lets us know only that certain people were suspected but not whether court found the submitted evidence sufficient or not. In many cases if despite suspicion, sufficient evidence is not found, police or investigating agency would not file chargesheet against them as that would cause them embarrassment in the court....

Dilip 5

...5. Enormous challenge to state machinery. Unlike personal crimes with a small crime scene (possibly B&R kind about which I don't know, & it'd be nice if you could provide a link) or a typical terrorist attack, riots are spread over huge areas. State has to prioritize between controlling mobs using police force or instead ask them to go, collect evidence!

6. Rescue/rehabilitation interfere with investigations. This holds true of both terrorist attacks & riots. Both the processes (rescue & rehabilitation) result in alteration in crime scene & destruction of evidence.

7. Misrepresentations by the media. While obviously, it does not contribute to inaction against suspects, it can make us wrongly believe that certain people were not punished despite sufficient evidence. In few riot cases (not all), it is truly possible that despite best efforts, sufficient evidence could not be collected & hence suspects would not be chargesheeted or court would acquit them. But media would not report these subtleties. All they'd report would be 'X' committee had found 'Y' person guilty. Think, in post-Godhra riots, Hindus had killed (~750) Muslims & Muslims had killed (~170) Hindus (if official figures are believed, & subtracting those killed by police action). All the prominent accused whose names today I know are Hindus. If media coverage &/or investigating agencies were completely reliable, would have I also not known names of a few Muslim suspects - those who would be responsible for killing of 170 Hindus? Obviously killing of Hindus would've also left similar evidence as Muslims' killing. I'm not saying 'cuz of this, those found suspect must not be tried, but just pointing out that we can't afford to base our conclusions on media reports with complete conviction (based on which we'd determine the degree of subversion of justice).

Now, of the above 7 points, I can be reasonably outraged by points 1, 4 & 7. But on a personal level, I am much more worried about basic reasons that have caused 1, 4 & 7 (deprivation & lack of values)! I'll return to that later.

"As for evidence of varying strength, the real problem I have is what's the relevance there."

I thought relevance is clear. I would expect someone to be more outraged in case where a stronger evidence is overlooked as compared to when a weaker evidence is overlooked! As former would be a greater insult to one's intelligence!...

Dilip 6

...Why Indians are enraged more with lack of action against HS than people you named?

1. HS is in Pakistan. Inaction is by Pakistan. This is not a legitimate reason for feeling enraged, but then 'us v/s them' kind of communalism operates in many cases like religion, nationality, region, caste, etc. But I guess, you feel this is the only reason Indians feel enraged, whereas I'll point out how there are other (psychological) reasons.

2. Visual medium. When Indians actually see on TV a group of men carrying guns, & know that those men want to kill the viewer ('cuz he's an Indian), naturally survival instincts are heightened. And in face of that if a Pakistani official would say, "sufficient evidence is not available", it leaves an instant feeling of being cheated. Any kind of obvious deception hurts the ego much more than a likely deception. I am quite sure if the same video would've originated in India, outrage would've been the same. And in fact if the Indian government would've said "evidence is insufficient", Indians would've been much more outraged than they are with Pakistan government.

Also visual medium has a much stronger psychological impact. There was a video clip of a police officer slapping a Dalit woman. This had outraged people almost as much as HS video. Moreover, the officer was suspended the very next day. However, reading about someone dying of starvation would not outrage us that much despite the fact that we vaguely know the culprits (hoarders, government & officials) in spite of knowing someone dying of avoidable causes is much more unfortunate than someone getting slapped.

3. Seeing a 'terrorist'. This psychological factor is difficult to explain, but it's like this. Reading "this person is a rioteer", creates a mental image of a person usually going about his work, but one day he killed a few people of a certain religion. Killing people was not his priority in life. This mental image is frightening/revolting, but then mentally lazy people need not create a mental image as well! But when you see for yourself on TV, few men actually holding guns, nothing is left to imagination. You know those people have dedicated their entire life to killing you (because you are an Indian). Killing you is their profession. I believe such image creates much greater fright/revulsion in viewers' mind, & thus do the words - 'terrorist' & 'gangster'...

Dilip 7

...India is a failed state because justice hasn't worked here

Yes & no.

Justice failed in numerous cases, but it has worked in many! India's constantly improved its literacy rate, average life span, infant mortality rate, per capita income, etc. India has also improved its ranking on Human development index. This shows India is on an average improving at faster rate than other countries. Of course, it is no excuse to not keep on improving on all counts, but still it must be specified India is failing in comparison to which country & by what margin.

Coming to last part of this commentathon, I've never opposed your raising voice. But for reasons I pointed out, it's unlikely to work. Moreover, the content (& amplitude) of my voice is different. :)

In a way I'm very disturbed how not just Indian society but whole world is (turning out to be), but I can't help that I tend to focus on the underlying psychological & socioeconomic causes as compared to their overt manifestations (the various ways in which the Indian state fails). Because lowest common denominator in a society are the individuals, in my very limited sphere of influence I try to bring few ideas to their notice. I try to make people see the world in a way, which I feel would improve all our lives.

I truly feel the current crop of adults is irreparable. Honest introspection & rational thinking both are vital to understand how we ourselves have created problems India is faced with. Understanding our biases, motivations, fears, insecurities, are very important to be able to tackle them or alternatively, use them wisely. It is also important to convince people that doing so will actually improve their lives. But people also do not like to hear they are wrong (including myself). They have to be told noncondescendingly as to they are wrong & why so. But for all that to happen we'll have to evolve a society that respects intelligence, honesty, sincerity, committment more than wealth, style, or perceived power. I see on TV, one who insults others most scathingly is seen as a hero. This is worship of abuse & power. Should we be suprised by kind of adults this will create?

Hence, I hope my understanding of problems would lead a few I interact with to raise at least their kids sensibly!

But there's only so much I can do, & to escape feeling of helplessness apathy becomes a good defense mechanism.

I won't repeat all this to you. Take care. :)