Silencing justice

While Shashi Tharoor can review novels stretching over 300 pages, can he review a comparative case of the silence over the “murder” of Sunanda Pushkar and the silence over openly violent deaths in Kashmir? It is expecting way too much from a former Cabinet Minister and a UN employee.
Silencing justice
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Shashi Tharoor often spoke of his emotional connection with Kashmir due to his marital relationship with a Kashmiri woman Sunanda Pushkar. As the deceased woman's husband, Mr. Tharoor made public his opinion on Kashmir several times. Even speaking of the pressing problems the community to which his wife belonged, and their travails in "exile." He even went on to review a novel on Kashmir, in a manner that befits any patriotic Indian with a potential oversight of the facts on the ground and a grave disconnect from the emotional matrix of the native population. In addition to this link of Sunanda Pushkar with Kashmir there is another association that Mr. Shashi Tharoor can ponder upon. And that is about the silence which is born when a murder most foul occurs. A silence that is most loud in the frail ears of the weak and the wretched.

Ever since the mysterious death of Sunanda Pushkar in Delhi's Leela Palace Hotel, there is a curious silence which has enveloped the whole case. The room in which the woman died was immediately sealed and investigation began in no time. The Delhi police looked earnest in the beginning to probe the matter and bring the culprits to book. The media went overboard in tracing the whereabouts of the murderers. Over three years down the road, nothing concrete has emerged, and the Delhi police claim that it does not know who committed the "murder." The Hotel Owners want the room to be desealed so that the loss of about 50 lakhs is not repeated in the coming months and years, as each day's loss is about 50-60000 rupees. The samples have been sent to Washington DC for investigation. Over the past one year, the room has been de-sealed only once. With insects and bugs all over the room, and the threat of unhygienic conditions, the Hotel owner wants the room to be permanently de-sealed to save his property and the profits. The media picks odd lines from the courts and the police to fill some space for the vanishing curiosity of their audience. For all practical purposes the case stands closed unless a new spirit is breathed into the investigation and the people with some memory are given a sense of conclusion to the high profile case.

That new spirit is stopped from being breathed into the case because a threatening silence has almost swallowed the justice for Sunanda. There is silence about the intriguing clean up of the evidence from the laptop of deceased woman. There is silence about the mobile record of the woman. It is not disclosed who deleted the testimony from the laptop and the mobile phones of Sunanda Pushkar. For five days the electronic devices were with some unknown people whose identities have not been disclosed. The recipients of the text messages of Sunanda Pushkar have not come out to show the world what she had written to them at a very critical moment of her life. The source of this silence is the threatening power of the involved in the mysterious death in the hotel room 345. What if the Cabinet Minister husband's party returns to power and finds out who disclosed the identity? What if those influential IPL people involved swoop down with target killers to wind up the earthly story of bean spillers? That is from where the silence emerges and will continue to swallow the facts as days pass by, till a day arrives when the judge says "from where to collect evidence, to find out the perpetrators, after all these years?"

If the silence descends so fast and so ferociously in the case of a "murder" in Delhi, what of the silence which comes when a school boy is finished off earth in Kashmir? Here it is not just the threat of some party returning to power to avenge some "misdeed" of the opposition, but running the risk of challenging those who not only wield quiet power behind the pomp and show of democracy but also living around us garlanded with powerful iron-clad laws. The silence in the case of Kashmir is clear, immediate and palpable. There is almost an official sanction to the frequent birth of unjust and deadly silence. You can uncover silence and go into the heart of the matter at the peril of your skin. For the silence here comes associated not with individual or party power but national power. The silence may be broken in case of individual or party power but when silence comes in the face of national power, you can break it at the risk of breaking yourself, for good.

While Shashi Tharoor can review novels stretching over 300 pages, can he review a comparative case of the silence over the "murder" of Sunanda Pushkar and the silence over openly violent deaths in Kashmir? It is expecting way too much from a former Cabinet Minister and a UN employee. Given that he does not break silence about the death of his own wife, except for uttering the routine remark, that he too wants justice to be delivered, how on earth can he articulate the imposition of silence over deaths in the plains and forests (and police stations) of Kashmir. The writer, politician and diplomat in him can be very articulate about the excesses committed by the British Empire in India and the reparations that the British have to pay to India for all their oppressive economic and political behavior, he is oddly quiet about the happenings in the hotel room, and the potential people involved, and then the amazing silence over the cause of mayhem, disorder and silence in Kashmir. The twin cases of Sunanda Puskar and Kashmir reveal the degree of silence which is born when matter of justice is pitted against powerful people, parties and even countries. If it is so difficult to break silence from various quarters in the case of Sunanda, how easy will it be to speak openly about Kashmir—a wider copy of the Hotel Room 345 permanently sealed since 1947?

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