Sanjay Dutt: Unjustly convicted?

Published: March 23, 2013
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Sanjay Dutt never had any criminal record in past. So there appears to be a ring of truth in the confession of the actor. PHOTO: REUTERS

For 53-year-old Sanjay Dutt, no attempt to redemption seems to be succeeding. The Supreme Court of India has sentenced the star to five years jail time for the possession of an illegal weapon; a weapon he was “gifted” by a producer to protect himself and his family from riots that took place by Hindu radicals in 1993.

His sufferings become all the more tragic when one considers the circumstances under which the said mistake has taken place.

The Supreme Court verdict early this week punished him for possessing an illegal arm. Unfortunately for Dutt, that particular weapon was not only illegal under the country’s Arms Act but was also one taken from a consignment of weapons that were used in the 1993 serial blasts in Bombay (Mumbai was still not born that time).

The Apex Court did not find him guilty for the blast, but convicted him for possessing an illegal weapon under the law, and sentenced the star to five years; the minimum prescribed jail time for such a crime. Dutt has four weeks to surrender and complete the remaining prison term.

He has already spent 18 months in jail.

The Supreme Court, in its verdict, has in a way brought closure to one of the darkest chapters in the history of Bombay.

But does closure or a verdict as this necessarily mean justice? Has justice been really carried out?

Before 1993 happened, 1992 took place; it was the year when Bombay witnessed large scale riots in the aftermath of the demolition of the Babri mosque in the eastern Indian city of Ayodhya. Orchestrated and executed by Hindu fundamentalists, the communal frenzy claimed close to 1000 lives – a majority of them were Muslims. This was the first major systematic attempt by the radical Hindus to change the character of the tinsel town.

Accumulated anguish and denial of justice to those who were made victims of the majoritarian agenda led to the blasts in 1993. Can we then, see the 1993 blasts in isolation and separation from the demolition of the mosque in 1992?

Sanjay Dutt, whose mother Nargis has Muslim roots, confessed to having procured the gun to protect his family which had been receiving threats from the fundamentalist Hindus after the demolition of the 16th century Babri mosque. One can contend how genuine this threat to the Dutt family was, however there was no denying the fact that it was not a good time to be a Muslim in Bombay or having Muslim descent or connections.

The film actor’s family did not have a dubious past; Sanjay Dutt, in the past, never had any criminal record. So there appears to be a ring of truth in the confession of the actor. However, the sin of acquiring a gun through illegal means has been chasing him for two decades.

The bigger question, however, is whether justice been done? And if 1993 needs closure, then why shouldn’t 1992 be awarded with the same level of closure?

Justice Sri Krishna, in his report after the 1992 riots, squarely blamed the leaders of Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for perpetrating crimes after the demolition of the mosque. He went as far as to naming many of the party leaders as well.

So far no one has been arrested. In fact, some of the main people accused of taking part in the sectarian violence went on to occupy seats of power in the state!

The Hindu fundamentalist organisation reaped the benefit of their crime and succeeded in polarising a secular state. They formed their first ever government in 1995, in Maharashtra- it was then in 1996 that Bombay became Mumbai.

Indian media is largely silent on the 1992 riots and the culpability of those Hindu fundamentalists who sowed the seeds of destruction in Mumbai. There is no denying the fact that the campaign to demolish the Babri mosque in the 1990s and the subsequent riots all over India led to the radicalisation of a section of the Muslim community in India- entrenching even more fundamentalist elements in the Hindu community as well.

The Supreme Court verdict further reinforces the belief that that system is more favourable towards the majority community than towards the minority; the Muslims. The very fact that no conviction has taken place, despite the damning report of Justice Sri Krishna and despite the identity of the culprits in the 1992 violence in Mumbai becoming public, keeps the wound of victimhood alive amongst the Muslim community.

The very fact that people like Narendra Modi dare to dream to be the prime minister of the country — despite his alleged culpability in the 2002 riots case in Gujarat — speak volumes about the skewed justice system in the country. The fact that the even the educated middle class in India makes him a hero and saviour of the nation portends a bad omen for the nation.

Sanjay Dutt’s tragedy has to be seen in that light.

The actor has suffered more than the crime he committed. In the words of William Shakespeare;

These men,

Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,

Being nature’s livery or fortune’s star,

Their virtues else (be they as pure as grace,

As infinite as man may undergo)

Shall in the general censure take corruption

From that particular fault. The dram of evil

Doth all the noble substance of a doubt

To his own scandal.

These lines from William Shakespeare’s celebrated play “Hamlet” describe aptly the tragic character of Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt who, because of one “defect” or one mistake in life, has to suffer all his life.

Despite being ‘nature’s livery’ or ‘fortune’s star’ and despite being gifted with some wonderful qualities, one particular fault brings to Dutt the kind of disrepute and infamy which he otherwise does not deserve.

If the film star deserves this verdict, the victims of 1992 riots also deserve justice. Justice has to be omnipresent and it cannot be selective.

If the film star is deserving of the verdict he received then the culprits behind the 1992 riots should also be brought to justice and sentenced in accordance with the law.

The germ of the 1993 blasts lies in the riots of 1992 and it has to be addressed as such. We have failed to control that germ and its by-product is Narendra Modi and other ailments and tragedies affecting the society today.

Read more by Sanjay here, or follow him on Twitter @destinydefier

sanjay.kumar

Sanjay Kumar

The author is a New Delhi based journalist covering South Asian and international politics. He tweets as @destinydefier (twitter.com/destinydefier).

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.