This Reader* goes to press almost five years to the day since December 13, 2001, when five men (some say six) drove through the gates of the Indian Parliament in a white Ambassador car and attempted what looked like an astonishingly incompetent terrorist strike. Consummate competence appeared to be the hallmark of everything that followed: the gathering of evidence, the speed of the investigation by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police, the arrest and chargesheeting of the accused, and the 40-month-long judicial process that began with the fast-track trial court.
The operative phrase in all of this is 'appeared to be'.
He's not allowed out of his cell for even five minutes a day. What harm can he do? Talk? Write, perhaps? Surely, (even in L.K. Advani's own narrow interpretation of the term) it's in the national interest not to hang Afzal? At least not until there is an inquiry that reveals what the real story is, and who actually attacked Parliament?
Among the people who have appealed against Mohammed Afzal's death sentence are those who are opposed to capital punishment in principle. They have asked that his death sentence be commuted to a life sentence. To sentence a man who has not had a fair trial, and has not had the opportunity to be heard, to a life sentence, is less cruel, but just as arbitrary as sentencing him to death. The right thing to do would be to order a re-trial of Afzal's case, and an impartial, transparent inquiry into the December 13 Parliament attack. It is utterly demonic to leave a man locked up alone in a prison cell, day after day, week after week, leaving him and his family to guess which day will be the last day of his life.
A genuine inquiry would have to mean far more than just a political witch-hunt. It would have to look into the part played by intelligence, counter-insurgency and security agencies as well. Offences such as the fabrication of evidence and the blatant violation of procedural norms have already been established in the courts, but they look very much like just the tip of the iceberg. We now have a police officer admitting (boasting) on record that he was involved in the illegal detention and torture of a fellow citizen. Is all of this acceptable to the people, the government and the courts of this country?
Given the track record of Indian governments (past and present, right, left and centre) it is naive—perhaps utopian is a better word—to hope that it will ever have the courage to institute an inquiry that will, once and for all, uncover the real story. A maintenance dose of cowardice and pusillanimity is probably encrypted in all governments. But hope has little to do with reason.
Therefore, this book, offered in hope.
* This article is the Introduction to 13 December: A Reader, The Strange Case of the Attack on the Indian Parliament, to be released by Penguin Books on December 13, 2006
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Kudos to Arundhati Roy! Never mind Arundhati, there is no escape from the bile of bad brains!!!! The brigade has a gang of goons purely hired to scoop soil on the truth.
A days existence as a lion is far superior than the pathetic living of a hyena of over hundred years.
Keep on building your nestle over and over again to the extent that the lightening gets weary of burning them….
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