The Patna High Court's acquittal of all 23 accused of perpetrating the 1996 Bathani Tola massacre in which 21 Dalits were killed is indeed a travesty of justice (April 25). It has left the question who massacred the hapless Dalits unanswered. Even if there are inconsistencies in the evidence — on the basis of which the accused were sentenced by the sessions court — letting off everyone based on conjectures and surmises is deplorable.
The acquittal will only increase the atrocities against Dalits. The criminal justice system should render justice in a speedy and time bound manner to meet the ends of justice. Justice may be delayed but should never be denied.
Major R. Murugaiyan,
The media's obsession with sensational journalism, coupled with poor representation of Dalits in their newsrooms, are the main reasons for the lack of coverage on issues affecting the lives of Dalits. The High Court verdict on the Bathani Tola massacre case, for instance, has found very little mention in the mainstream media, except in The Hindu. It is a sad commentary on our democracy where, even after 64 years of independence, the struggle by Dalits to lead a life of dignity has not ended. Their assertion of constitutional rights is often met with violent reprisals.
The Patna High Court verdict and, more recently, the Gujarat High Court's verdict acquitting all the 12 accused of murdering 14 members of the minority community in the 2002 Ghodasar communal riot case, are extremely disappointing. The two things that emerge from the two verdicts are — such cases of mob violence proceed at snail's pace, and in most of the cases the accused get acquitted because of lack of conclusive evidence. On both counts, the fault lies squarely on the shoulders of the investigating and prosecuting authorities, who do not develop a fool-proof case against the accused, and are even coerced at times by politicians to prepare a weak case. The need of the hour is a new, modified and comprehensive law plugging all the loopholes.
The poor, downtrodden and the marginalised need help and support, especially in cases like the Bathani Tola massacre. But the High Court verdict has dealt a big blow shattering people's faith in the country's criminal justice system.
The Hindu, as usual, has taken the lead in sensitising people on the issue. The electronic and print media should focus on important matters like this which deserve attention and action.
D. Samuel Lawrence,
Keywords: Bathani Tola carnage