Justice Eroded

Three Essays Collective's new book SPLINTERED JUSTICE: Living the Horror of Mass Communal Violence in Bhagalpur and Gujarat is by Warisha Farasat and Prita Jha, with an introduction by Harsh Mander and Navsharan Singh.

Warisha Farasat and Prita Jha, long time human rights activists and legal experts on issues of communal genocides and rehabilitation of survivors, have given us an uncompromising book that details the aftermath of the Gujarat and Bhagalpur massacres of Muslims in independent India, and of the erosion of secularism and minority rights within the ruling establishment and in society.

India, both during its struggle for independence and in the decades of freedom has been rocked by periodic episodes of communal violence, mostly taking the form of state-enabled violence, even massacres, of religious minorities. These episodes have been characterised by impunity, or the assurance that those who plan and execute these targeted communal attacks are protected from legal punishment. Scholars in the Centre for Equity Studies mapped through official records the ways in which impunity is accomplished in their book On Their Watch: Mass Violence and State Apathy in India. 

In this second work, Warisha Farasat and Prita Jha drill deeper into two major communal massacres, of Bhagalpur in 1989 and Gujarat in 2002. Relying not just on official papers but also on in-depth testimonies of many survivors, they systematically chart the troubling failures of India’s criminal justice system to secure justice for survivors of hate violence. Written with both rigorous scholarly insight and engaged compassion, this book is essential reading for all who care about upholding that most sacred pledge of India’s Constitution, of ensuring the equal treatment of all people, regardless of their faith, caste, gender or wealth, before the law of the land.

The book tells it like it is… in the words and through the clearly and honestly articulated experiences of the victims and survivors, transformed into a valuable sociological and legal document through their [the authors] ability to focus on the essential contours of what constitutes a just ‘closure’ and actual justice. The book, justifiably, indicts the State and its organs, and the mainstream political leadership in the country, that has been complicit in the denial of justice. In the process, it exposes the wide gap between the equalities promised in the Constitution and the stark reality of India.

Sankarshan Thakur calls it "Mandatory reading. The Bhagalpur carnage – and other collective crimes we commit upon ourselves – are tragedies redoubled. Victims remain victims, perpetrators get away; we have a way of turning amnesiac on past sins. Here is a painstakingly documented reminder to all of us of our criminal commissions and omissions, and of what shouldn’t happen."

Paul Brass says: The persistence of so-called communal violence in India is aided by the very terms used to define and analyze it. Most pernicious are such terms as “communal violence”, “hate violence,” etcetera, that mask the deliberate planning that is involved, led by so-called “respectable people.” Of particular concern is the violence that targets local Muslim populations, killing large numbers of men, women, and children. Communal violence is not necessarily or usually something spontaneous, but is rather a “production” staged by these  so-called reputable people who, for reasons of their own,  pay hoodlums and murderers to carry out the violence. 

Atul Sood: Drawing on rich narratives and interviews with the survivors of the Bhagalpur and Gujarat anti-Muslim carnage, this book anatomises how systemic impunity for the perpetrators of violence works and how the rights of minorities are trampled upon. This meticulous research work makes a significant and practical contribution to the discussions on impunity, state power and justice in India and provides rich material for a deeper analytical understanding of the Indian State and society.

Nalini Taneja: Few studies have followed up on what happens to the survivors of the communal massacres who, it is assumed, would have ‘moved on’. Here is a book that looks into their lives... the fight for justice, rehabilitation, livelihoods, and above all, dignity. It records their struggles to make sense of their lives, for a ‘closure’ that has eluded them. 

The hardcover version,  ISBN 9789383968176, Rs 750 and the softcover is ISBN 9789383968206,   Rs 500 (xiv+286 pages).