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Thursday, June 1, 2023

Double standards in judiciary’s response to sporadic Tripura disturbances and massive WB post-poll pogrom?

Taking suo moto cognizance of Tripura disturbances, the Tripura high court has sought the state’s reply regarding the measures taken to ensure peace in the region. The high court passed the order on October 31 directing the state government to submit its affidavit on November 10.

An Indian Express report on the court proceedings notes:

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Subhashish Talapatra, based on media reports, took suo motu cognizance of the violence in North Tripura district on October 26 as well as recent incidents which allegedly occurred at Unakoti and Sepahijala districts…

…The high court commended the state government’s efforts in restoring peace and order, but said more steps are necessary. It recommended the formation of peace committees not only at district levels, but also at sub-divisional levels and, if necessary, panchayat levels as well. It called upon all political parties to fully participate in the peace process…

…The court asked the state government to file an affidavit on the stages of investigation of the various cases and inform the court if any accused was apprehended. It also took into notice Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb’s announcement of compensation to people affected by the violence, and directed the government to take urgent action in this regard so that those affected can restore their livelihoods at the earliest.

The apex court also took up a petition filed through Lutyens lawyer Prashant Bhushan alleging ‘coercive action’ by the state police against lawyers and journalists. According to The Hindu, “the lawyers had led a fact-finding mission and released a report on the “targetted political violence against Muslim minorities in the State” in October and the journalist had tweeted “Tripura is burning”.

Another petition filed by TMC in the Supreme Court alleging ‘deteriorating law-and-order-situation in Tripura’ was also taken up for hearing without any delay by the Supreme Court. TMC cited the August 18 speech speech of BJP MLA Arun Chandra Bhowmik allegedly advising action on Trinamool workers in “Talibani style”. Citing an earlier Supreme Court order — in which the state was told to provide security to Trinamool leaders and ensure free and fair elections — the Trinamool accused the state officials of contempt and sought action against them.

“Did the MLA give that speech? If yes, then was any action taken against him?” asked the bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Vikram Nath.

“We don’t want to go into bickering right now. We only want to add police presence,” said Justice DY Chandrachud, asking the state government to consider deploying additional battalions of Central paramilitary force for protection.

It is pertinent to remember that TMC leaders have been caught on camera, giving all kinds of incendiary speeches in West Bengal: “If Muslims unite, we can create 4 new Pakistans” said TMC leader Sheikh Alam; the CM has rained all kinds of obscenities and routinely threatened CAPF personnel doing election duty with post-election vengeance; other leaders threatened commoners by saying ‘don’t you have wives and sisters at home’.

Over the years, BJP has approached Supreme Court multiple times against the lawlessness unleashed by TMC in West Bengal. It is hard to remember any instance when SC castigated any TMC leader or demanded deployment of additional central forces.

While the judiciary, be it the high court or the supreme court, has shown exceptional urgency in dealing with the disturbances in Tripura but the same urgency wasn’t extended to West Bengal where Hindus have been targeted ever since the TMC has returned to power.

Horrific post-poll violence had broken out across West Bengal after assembly election results were announced on May 2. BJP workers, their families, and anyone suspected of voting for the party were selectively targeted with the connivance of WB police and the TMC administration.

The violence continued for weeks, and to date, thousands of displaced people are afraid to return home. Many are being asked to pay up or submit to sexual demands if they want to return. The scale of this anti-Hindu pogrom was unparalleled as the NHRC report, an independent fact-finding team, and data from BJP’s ground workers show. It is estimated that over 50 people have been murdered, 7000 women raped/molested, and anywhere between 40,000 – 1 lakh people have been displaced – some of them forced to seek refuge in neighboring Assam, Odisha, Jharkhand.

Many petitions filed in SC almost immediately after violence first started on 2 May were put on the back-burner by the SC registry. It was only on 25 May that a vacation SC bench of Justices Vineet Saran and B R Gavai finally heard senior advocate Pinky Anand, who had been requesting an urgent listing of a petition against the forced exodus of over one lakh people in WB due to state-sponsored violence after the assembly polls.

In the brief hearing, the SC issued notice to both the WB government and Centre to respond to the plea and refused to grant interim relief to people staying in camps saying it ‘cannot act ex-parte and has to first hear from both parties. 

The differential treatment meted out by the judiciary to Hindu victims of violence amounts to the denial of justice.

(Featured Image Source: India Legal)

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