Crisis of impunity

Here is the speech Manoj Mitta delivered in the British Parliament before the All Party Human Rights Group on November 4 at an event commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Sikh massacre of 1984. As regular readers of LAOT would recall, Manoj Mitta, co-authored with H.S.Phoolka, When A Tree Shook Delhi:The 1984 Carnage and its Aftermath (Roli)(reviewed on our blog here). As a few comments to his post reproducing his brief speech on his blog (Legal Airs)indicate, his speech appears to have provoked some because of the hurtful (and yet justified) comparison he makes between the level of impunity under the Raj and now. I’d have appreciated if Manoj also dealt with the reasons for this crisis of impunity, and how to address them, but I understand it would require another forum.

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12 years ago

his speech appears to have provoked some because of the hurtful (and yet justified) comparison he makes between the level of impunity under the Raj and now.

Disagree strongly with Manoj and you here. The British, it could be argued, held their *own* officers to account but what about the Indians also in the service of the Raj? A lot of the atrocities during the Raj were those inflicted by Indians on other Indians. Indeed, while General Dyer may have given the order at Jallianwala Bagh we tend to forget that it was—I think—the Gurkhas who did the actual shooting. Were they ever called to account for obeying—according to one report, quite happily, even smiling as they shot into the crowd—an order which they would certainly have been justified in disobeying? Police brutality—again done by Indians—was quite widespread during the Raj. Our policing methods today have changed very little from the times of the Raj.

There is no question that 60 years after independence, we cannot continue blaming the Raj for our problems. The responsibility for what happened in the wake of Indira Gandhi's death rests solely with the Indian state and also with us, Indian citizens, for not doing more to stop what happened. Yet praising the Raj for its supposed "fair mindedness" while ignoring the fact that the same Raj also ignored other brutalities is not playing fair. It brings to mind recent American claims— by George W. Bush? —that "We don't do torture." True, it's just outsourced to others.

12 years ago

Why suddenly this interest in 1984 sikh riots in British circles as also in godhra riots? I feel sorry that our Human rights fellows fall victim to this British game.We as a nation have many fault lines. During partition, nearly 10 million perished in both sides.Why nobody bothers about that wound created by Britishers?
Anti/Sikh riots happened because some Sikhs lighted Diyas to celebrate Indira's killing and i was at delhi on that day and i know how difficult it was to save some of my sikh coworkers.Ofcourse the congress politicos might have used it but basically it was lumpen elements using the foolishness of some sikhs to gain monetarily.The spontaneous Hindu anger is felt by everyone while only few normally indulge in riots.