Saturday, June 27, 2015

Julio Ribeiro - Why we must listen to Rohini Salian

NB: This is a very significant article by a police officer who was Mumbai police commissioner, DGP Gujarat and DGP Punjab at serious moments in Indian history. The appearance of communal bias in criminal justice is a poison that will destroy the Indian polity. It is a machine of perpetual motion, similar to the enemy system whereby 'Nations' are locked in animosity for all time (very suitable for arms contractors and fanatics). It is similar again to the negative results arising from the Indian Defence Minister saying he reserves the right to deploy terrorists to fight terrorists, which can only strengthen fanatical elements across the border. Bias in policing crime in India will quicken the erosion of faith in justice - and add energy to the private militias. 

Rebeiro says: The masterminds of the 26/11 attacks are treated like heroes in Pakistan. We are not there yet, but if hidden hands nudge the judicial system to free murderers of the saffron variety, we will be soon. That people do not realise this is evident from the abuse directed at this upright and patriotic officer by the Hindutva trolls who follow behind all critical reportage. But it is not surprising. If senior BJP leaders can make communal insinuations against the Vice President of India, it is to be expected that his followers will abuse Julio Rebeiro for daring to criticise the NIA. People like Hemant Karkare, Julio Rebeiro and Rohini Salian are upright law-enforcement professionals. They are the ones whose high standards allow our system to maintain its credibility. They should be treated with respect, in place of which an army of foul-mouthed fanatics are unleashed upon them for every word they utter. Those deluded by the rhetoric of our ultra-patriotic 'Sangh parivar' should reflect urgently upon the speed with which they are destroying the fabric of India's constitutional governance: DS

Rohini Salian is a legend in the world of public prosecutors. Every policeman knows her name. So do the lawyers and judges of the city of Mumbai. She is single-minded in her commitment to her duties and, above all, everyone knows that she cannot be bought.

Salian’s lament on being asked to go soft on Hindu extremists accused of terrorist acts frightens us to believe that the country is steadily being led on to the path trodden by our surly neighbour on our western border. The masterminds of the 26/11 attacks are treated like heroes in Pakistan. We are not there yet, but if hidden hands nudge the judicial system to free murderers of the saffron variety, we will be soon.

A day before he was shot dead by Pakistani terrorists who had clandestinely sailed from Karachi to Mumbai, Hemant Karkare, an outstanding IPS officer of impeccable integrity as well as high intelligence and abilities, had come to meet me. He was disturbed by the reactions of some BJP leaders, particularly L.K. Advani, to the turn his investigations had taken in the 2008 Malegaon blast case. The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), which he headed at that time, had initially suspected jihadi fanatics. Such thoughts would come naturally to any policeman those days as Muslim groupings like Simi had been responsible for several terrorist acts across the country.

But, the ATS had suddenly, unexpectedly and, I must add, fortuitously come across incontrovertible evidence, which included taped conversations, to prove that the Malegaon blasts, as well as the Ajmer, Hyderabad and Samjhauta Express blasts that killed nearly a hundred people, were conceived, planned and executed by a group of fanatical Hindus bent on revenge.

It is the duty of law enforcers to seek the real offenders and ensure that they are dealt with by the law of the land. Politics, religion, caste, community have no role to play in the pursuit of truth and justice. It is true that such lofty ideals are often forgotten but fortunately there are still police officers who act according to their conscience and the Constitution.

Hemant Karkare was one such officer. I went through some of the evidence he had gathered. I was staggered. I could understand the anger that prompted the perpetrators to embark on their misconceived journey. But a police officer has to do his duty, which is to stick to the truth and the letter of the law. I advised Karkare to abide by his “dharma”. I offered to speak to Advani if required. I was sure that Advani would appreciate the fact that Karkare was doing what any true gentleman and patriot would be expected to do.

Unfortunately, Ajmal Kasab and his brainwashed companions snuffed out the life of a good man. Karkare was not around to pursue the case but his successors carried on the investigations and filed the chargesheet against the real culprits in court.

Salian is one public prosecutor who can be equated to Karkare, albeit in a parallel arm of the judicial process. As Karkare was to probity in investigations, Rohini is to probity in prosecution. She sticks to the truth and to her duty. In her, the powerful people who want to scuttle the case for ideological reasons have caught a Tartar. Hemant had approached Salian because he knew that she was not a person who could be influenced by money or any other inducement. And she was competent.

It is this same Rohini Salian whom the powers that be now want to remove from the case because she is not willing to budge from the path of duty and truth. Shame on those who are attempting to interfere in the course of justice. They do not realise the damage they do to the rule of law, to which, incidentally, they pay lip service. What is worse is that by their covert attempts to get the culprits off the hook, they are encouraging jihadists to strike again, something they are already good at.

Another negative fallout will be the licence it will give to evil-minded investigators and prosecutors, both of whom are proliferating in ever-increasing numbers, to revel in injustice and corruption. And then, there is the ultimate price we will pay: losing the moral right to condemn Pakistan when it protects men like Hafiz Saeed and Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the masterminds of the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai.

Our leaders need to think of these consequences before they covertly try to sabotage the course of justice. They should desist from making our great country in the image of our neighbour. And finally, they should respect the memory of that fallen martyr, Hemant Karkare, instead of cocking a snook at his noble efforts to bring the true offenders to book.

The writer was Mumbai police commissioner, DGP Gujarat and DGP Punjab 

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