Meghalaya High Court: A Judgment or Piece of Historical Fiction?

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Justice Sudip Ranjan Sen of the Meghalaya High Court.

SAFI H. JANNATY | Caravan Daily

IT is not easy to recall a case where any judge of an Indian court had the agility to hear a case and dispose it off in two days. Justice Sudip Ranjan Sen of Meghalaya High Court holds the distinction of commencing the hearing on Friday, December 7, 2018 and delivering his judgment on Monday, December 10, 2018. He demonstrated an enormous dexterity in writing a voluminous 37 page long judgment, two third of which containing his diatribe over historical wrongs done to the Hindu community in India.

Although it is quite plausible that a judge could review and read documents relevant to the case and deliver a judgment swiftly; however, what is not reasonable in the subject cast is the proficiency of the judge to read several books and quote passages after passages from them, all during the two days hearing. Besides, what perplexes the mind is the fact that the case which was put up before Justice Sen related to denial of request by Meghalaya State to issue a certificate of domicile to one resident of Shillong and did not warrant diving into the seas of Indian history.

Of course, Justice Sen discussed at length the actual matter but after consuming over 22 pages to impose his opinion on persecutions and suffering sustained by the Hindu communities in India at different periods. It is noteworthy that the population of Meghalaya in whose high court Justice Sen sits has a demography where Hindu population is mere 11% while the bulk of the ethnic groups such as Khasi, Garo and Jainita follow Christianity and form a huge 75% of the total population of the State.

At the outset of the judgment, Justice Sen dealt about the medieval history in a manner usually seen and heard on prime time channels these days or during discussions by groups focused on Hindutva or Islamophobia. One would wish Justice Sen had read historian Audrey Truschke who recently said in an interview to ‘The Hindu’ “In Modi’s India, the leading political party bases its authority on a fictional, bastardized version of the past. That house of cards trembles in the slightest breeze, and, in this analogy, serious historical work is closer to a cyclone”.

Even a layman having little legal background would find at least half the content of the judgment unwarranted, superfluous and unjustifiable vis-à-vis the case that was put before the court.  There is no issue if one were to talk for hours and hours or write books after books in one’s personal or other capacities, but, when it comes to hearing a case, the law and logic warrant the judge to deliberate within the precincts of the case and the rules applicable to the issue on hand. One fails to understand from where he has drawn the authority and power to discuss unrelated issues and don the cap of savior of one community.

A cursory look at the judgment would make one feel to be reading a piece of skewed and lopsided historical fiction. How could one digest the assertion that Hindus were allowed or rather forced to live in Pakistan as virtual hostages to guarantee the well-being of the Muslims in India and a straight and unwarranted accusation that all non-Muslim communities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are being tortured even today?

Devoting over a quarter space of the judgment on persecution of Hindus at the hands of the Muslims during the two partitions, Justice Sen held that the only undisputed fact was the killing of lakhs and lakhs of Hindu and Sikh people during the partition in 1947 and he had little empathy on the killing of people of other communities. At one point, he even suggested that the Sikhs were rehabilitated when they arrived from Pakistan at that time while the Hindu communities were overlooked.

Howsoever hard he may reiterate his faith in secularism, the preamble of his judgment says it all. He wailed without mincing any word over the fact of India becoming a secular nation instead of being declared a Hindu state since the two nation theory owed its origin to formation of States on religious lines. If one wonders as to how Justice Sen formed an idea that the Hindus who entered India from Pakistan and Bangladesh are considered as foreigners today, the answer lies in the sources he chose and quoted extensively in the judgment.

One of them happened to be the book ‘My People Uprooted’ written by Mr. Tathagata Roy, who is currently serving as the governor of Meghalaya. A noted hardline Swayam Sewak and Pracharak, Mr. Roy joined RSS in 1986 to propagate Hindutva and has gone on records reiterating his determination to amend the Indian constitution.

Two other books that he quoted were Nibrashita Sribhumi, Part II and Sundori Sribhumi Srihotto, Part I, both written by Dr. Dilip Lahiri. These works formed an integral part of his judgment and passage after passage from these books that narrate alleged ethnic cleansing by the forces of East Pakistan and horrendous massacre, looting and displacement of Hindu community cover over 20 pages of the 37 page judgment. Pitching his argument for granting citizenship automatically to Hindus who were displaced during the first partition on the Eastern side of India, he has devoted over five pages to Sylhet Referendum, which the book, Nibrashita Sribhumi termed as not ‘fair and free’ and a tyranny by the majority of the region that time and which caused a great deal of hardship for Hindus in the region.

Of course, a totally unrelated argument, Justice Sen propounded a notion that a Hindu person cannot be expected to live anywhere other than India and hence the Hindus coming from Pakistan and Bangladesh be accommodated and given citizenship and denial of such rights to them would be gravest injustice. Call it a dichotomy of his thought process, such a pitch  is in sharp contrast to his belief that there was no concept of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan as they were all one ruled by Hindu kingdom. Probably, he needs to return to the history books of elementary school that talked about the existence of Buddhist and Jain Kingdoms too in the period where Indian Territory stretched up to Kabul.

Who would let him know that today millions and millions of Hindus live peacefully and practicing their rituals across the world and in countries like Mauritius, Fiji Islands and Uganda they are either in majority or near equal to other ethnic groups?

It is preposterous and ludicrous even to imagine a court suggesting that the people be shot down instead of making them suffer in Pakistan and Bangladesh. When a high level legal functionary repeats his assertion for granting citizenship without even requiring any document, the importance of documentary evidence in judgments and rulings go in for a tailspin.

Excluded specifically in the list of the communities for whom Justice Sen demands automatic granting of Indian citizenship as and when they request are the Muslims. Ultimately, echoing Islamophobia, he has pinned his hopes in Narendra Modi for not letting the nation becoming a Muslim nation as well as for enacting a law to protect the interests of Hindus and all non-Muslim communities who migrated or wish to migrate from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

What is also not understandable is the fact that the higher judiciary, media and political parties did not react to those outrageous statements vehemently and vociferously. Now it rests upon the Chief Justice of India who has the prerogative and powers to form a committee to consider the reasons for which Justice Sen laced his judgment with superfluous comments and indulged in unwarranted tirade while delivering judgment.

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Safi Jannaty is a Saudi Arabia-based Indian writer. All opinions and views expressed in columns and blogs and comments by readers are those of individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Caravan Daily

 

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