Monday, December 12, 2005

How much is enough?

A while ago, I attended a press conference that didn't result in a story. To tell the truth, I did not even stay until the end of the conference.

It is hard to sit through testimonies of women who describe the years they spent being tortured, raped, jailed, harassed, orphaned, widowed and so on. All this, they said, was perpetrated by the police and/or the Special Task Force, while looking for the moustachioed brigand, Veerappan.

I listened to them. Five of them. And then I could take no more. (Thankfully, at least one journalist stayed back, and wrote about it.)

After an hour of this, I felt like I couldn't breathe. I walked out of the hall, into the sunshine.

Woman after woman breaking down. Woman after woman faltering as she could not find words for describing what had happened. Old women. Young women. Broken health. Lost jobs. Ongoing cases. Women naming the police officials who'd raped them. Who could have pointed out their tortemtors, in a line-up. But the cops were not going to organise a line-up for their fraternity, were they?

Oh, they did constitute one of those famous commissions of enquiry; the Justice Sadashiva panel was set up in 1999, and submitted a report to the National Human Rights Commission as early as Dec 3, 2003, confirming the terrible truth of those women's testimonies. However, it was not made public. That was why these women were here - they'd come to Delhi to protest, and demand that this report be released.

The delay was apparently caused by the state governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, who had not submitted their comments on the report. When they finally did, their responses were ridiculously defensive, saying, among other things, that the panel had exceeded its brief... exceeded... what? How do you limit the brief of justice?

It was only on the 19th of October, this year, that the NHRC ordered that the report be released to the complainants. The panel has recommended that 89 of the victims of STF's ... er, methods, be compensated.

And I'm sitting here, wondering, how much would be compensation enough?


WillOTheWisp said...

Is there any particular reason why journalists do not cover the repercussions/fallout of the operations of such STFs while they are in progress? I mean, it is pretty much common sense to figure out that there would be incidents such have been reported and, therefore, it would assist in adopting a proactive stance as well as inhibiting the forces that be, from resorting to typical defensive tactics with a view to derail the process of punitive justice. It would be crucial in sensitising the general public and the government(s) to HRsVs during the operations. Or does it make more sense to raise a belated moan after the entire issue has died down?

uma said...

how much would be compensation enough?

whatever it takes to give them their lives back...which is really beyond any numerical figure, isn't it? thanks for blogging about this.

Badri Seshadri said...

There is a novel (in Tamil) 'Solagar Thotti', written by a lawyer Balamurukan from the nearabouts where the STF went on rampage in Tamil Nadu/Karnataka border. Though written in the form of a novel, the atrocities are detailed, and reading them can be very unsettling. As far as I know, no English translation exists for this book.

Both TN and Karnataka Govt. are hiding behind technicalities when what is required is swift compensation and restoration of a decent life to the tribals.

Somehow the governments do not want to own up to atrocities committed by their police/military forces - be it Tamil Nadu or Manipur!

Annie Zaidi said...

willothewisp, can't answer for all journalists. i'd cover such incidents while they're happening if i knew about them. the trouble with evil is, it doesn't always tomtom its occurrence to the press, while its happening. we hear of an incident, we make moan... fair enough?
uma, most welcome. wish i'd done more than belatedly blog about it.
badri, but of course.

WillOTheWisp said...

It would be fair enough, but for the fact that history tends to repeat itself, if lessons are not learnt / passed on. The point that I was making is that we do know that these things happen whenever armed forces are set out. What stops a journalist from using the wisdom of accumulated experience and making a difference thus? This does not have anything to do with, as you put it, evil tom-tomming its arrival. In fact, to stretch a point, I would contend that it is evil to not use the intelligence one has with respect to the (very) probable repercussions of such violent exercises. Would you disagree?

Anonymous said...

Nothing is enough. And with the recent incident at the meerut park...

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