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10

Sanjay Dutt got convicted and sentenced to jail under the Arms Act. Of the five years he was sentenced to, he has served a year and a half, so at most he will go to jail for three and a half years. This seems to have put eminent people into shock and trauma. There are many speaking of his "mistake" and how he has suffered or it.

The Head of the Press Council of India and former judge, Justice Markandey Katju has written to the Governor of Maharashtra pleading for pardon to Sanjay Dutt under article 161 of the Constitution. SP, NCP and Shiv Sena want Sanjay Dutt to be pardoned. People from the film industry are in grief. Poor innocent man made a mistake. He has turned his life aound since then. Pardon him.

A mistake is when someone lets their gun licence lapse. A mistake is when someone lets a bag be kept at her home without knowing what is in it and it turns out to be weapons. A mistake is when someone unknowingly befriends a person and he turns out to be a gangster responsible for the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts. A mistake is drinking and driving. Is it a mere mistake for a person to have contacts with terrorists and acquire 3 automatic assault rifles (two of which he returned)?

It is hardly something one can do without realizing the gravity and illegality of it and being fine with it. Besides, as MN Singh, who led the blasts probe as JCP (Crime) put it, ‘One doesn’t go running for help to gangsters’

The gilded people seem to buy Sanjay Dutt's story that after receiving threats during the Mumbai riots (or felt threatened by the Mumbai riots - depending on source) he acquired the weapons from Dawood Ibrahim's younger brother Anees for self defense, conveniently ignoring that he already had three licenced firearms when he got three assault rifles. These guns were part of large amount of weapons smuggled in by Dawood Ibrahim to arm radicalized Muslims to retaliate for the Mumbai Riots.

After all, a press release by a film star is shinier than that tape of intercepted phone call between Chota Shakeel and Sanjay Dutt featuring Mahesh Manjrekar, Harish Sugandh and Sanjay Gupta played by the police in special court. This call had happened well after Sanjay Dutt's arrest, the start of court proceedings, etc. On 6th November 2002, the TADA court gave 98 accused a 2 month exemption while it considered 12,000 pages of evidence. They were to not leave the city. On 11th, five days before the CBI's deadline to file a reply to a defense application, our "innocent mistake maker" Sanjay Dutt was on the phone with Pakistan based gangster Chhota Shakeel, in a casual conversation, introducing him to two "fans" of his - in Nashik. Confronted with this tape, he claimed to not remember the conversation because he had been drinking. He did admit to being in Nashik with Harish Sugandh, Sanjay Gupta and Mahesh Manjrekar that evening.

"He didn't use the illegal weapons!" They say. But neither did he volunteer any information that would help get perpetrators of the horror arrested. It is very easy to realize mistakes after you get nailed. Heck, you have the Delhi Gang Rape rapists realzing their mistake now too. What part of any action he did indicated it was a mistake and not deliberate before his arrest? If he genuinely had made a mistake, the significance of the easy arms and grenades he got from gangsters cannot have escaped him in the face of the horrendous 1993 Mumbai serial blasts. Yet his only action was destruction of evidence.

He successfully fought his battle with drugs! I fail to see how this is relevant to anything. His defense doesn't seem to have said that he was doped and thus unaware of what he was doing.

Has Sanjay Dutt so much as said sorry for affiliating with gangsters who perpetrated such a horror over Mumbai and the country? We do have reports of him admitting guilt to cops and a crestfallen Sunil Dutt (his own father) “Because I have Muslim blood in my veins. I could not bear what was happening in the city.”. 50 accused in that case submitted letters of appeal requesting for a death sentence if they were to be called terrorists. They were all convicted under TADA. Some of them on far less damning evidence.

Yusuf Kasam Khan, son of a freedom fighter wrote, "Your honour had granted me bail. I attended court regularly without caring for heavy rain and traffic for seven years. I am a true Indian. I and my wife with two small children cannot live with the label of terrorist.". Yunus Gulam Rasul Borodia wrote "Though no rifle was found at my instance, I was booked for a recovery which is not in my house. Yet I am convicted under TADA, whereas Sanjay Dutt who got AK 56 for self-protection is convicted only under the Arms Act."

Hotshot public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam dismissed these as pressure tactics, but apparently not the hours of footage on TV speaking of Sanjay Dutt's "mistake". Not the number of politicians and film personalities speaking up for him.

The usual Congress puppets speak up for his pardon, while the Congress of course keeps its clothes clean of any dirt. Shiv Sena (with similar connections) was a major part of the Mumbai Riots that made Sanjay Dutt realize the "Muslim blood in his veins" - something media amnesia misses. Is the Shiv Sena guilty over their actions and wants him pardoned, because what he did was natural after what they did? Samajwadi Party tried to give him a Loksabha seat, but when his case got in the way, they made him President of the Party! But then Politicians are luckier than most in getting away with crimes.

Someone with minimal interest in politics to the point of stating disinterest in media interviews both before and after that political stint. Direct president! Wah Munnabhai! Considering the amount of backstabbing that goes into such posts in parties, one only must wonder at the amount of introspection this needed. Now they still bat for him in his time of need. NCP is the coalition partner of Congress in Mumbai. Congress has made no official statement, the high command's reputation is not worth him, but Amar Singh and types have put in a good word.

The CBI, famously known as the puppet of the ruling party failed to present call records with terrorists, their chargesheet against him conveniently excludes the hand grenades that would have taken the case firmly out of Arms territory straight into TADA. The weapons Sanjay Dutt possessed were 3 AK-56 rifles, 9 magazines, 450 cartridges,a 9mm pistol and over 20 hand grenades. Yet enough damning evidence is public. Including a sting interview of his own lawyer who said he would be unable to explain why Sanjay Dutt, whose links with gangsters were clearly established as well as knowingly receiving and concealing illegal arms from them, was not punished under TADA when a woman who didn't even know the bag she allowed to be kept in her home contained guns and the owner of the car in which arms were transported there got convicted under TADA.

The second half of 2006 and early 2007 saw unprecedented convictions of the rich and the powerful. People wondered if it was the dawn of a new era of justice. Khushwant Singh wrote “Convictions of Shibu Soren, Navjot Sidhu, Santosh Singh, Manu Sharma, Sharda Jain, Sanjay Dutt and others showed that no matter how important or celebrated a person, he or she is not above the law.”. Since then we have seen a few more, including Raja, Kalmadi, Kanhimozi and Maya Kodanani among others.

Yet, our sense of justice seems to not have caught up with the word of law in the equality we claim to want. Religion, region, caste and most notably class are still game changers when it comes to being punished for a crime or getting away with it. High profile criminals have no problems returning to a life of respectability while other lives are destroyed on suspicion alone. So we have this absurdity of public figures mourning how his life has been disrupted badly.

Sanjay Dutt was convicted at least, countless others rot in prison waiting for trials to start. They do not have the luxury of anticipatory bail and fancy lawyers paid to exploit every loophole they can find for their freedom. Their society will not accept a criminal back as respectable - even one suspected of a crime, let alone proven to have committed it. Consider the case of a certain employee of DRDO who got arrested on suspicion and while charges were framed against others, he was let off. He lost his job in the DRDO in any case - a calamity of hardship and indignity Sanjay Dutt never faced.

Afzal Guru, who was at best a minor accomplice in the Parliament attacks without any real control got hanged amid much celebration of justice delivered. If we are talking of a person reforming, the Hindu's report of his hanging is touching in its description of how he never advocated separatism, violence of any sort and actually talked of universal brotherhood. Forget pardon or commuting death sentence to life, but acknowledging that if he was at fault at some point, he was "reformed" (that golden word) and in the face of an entire valley in grieving, possibly stopping jeering at him. He was under watch in the Tihar Jail from his first arrest. He never got out. He is still buried there. Now that would be a life destroyed.

There is Sadhvi Pragya who is seeking bail for a long time, suffering for cancer. Her scooter was used in the Malegaon blast, but she is no longer under suspicion for Sanjay Joshi's murder. There are no arms, bomb material, etc attached to her name. Is her life ruined or what?

Sanjay Dutt went on to deliver some of his biggest hits in between his stints in jail. He managed to marry, have kids, have a prosperous career, become the president of a political party and gather enough of a following that will consider him to be the wronged party and victim in a remarkably watered down process of justice that ended with the Supreme Court of the country sentencing him.

But, for our elites, Sanjay Dutt was likely the first "real person" to be destroyed by justice system with five non-continuous years of jail, which are pregnant with potential for "best behavior" discounts, possible legal gimmicry or outright political pardon.  

8

Dear Mrs Dixit,

I have read your comments on the Delhi gangrape. I applaud your honesty in admitting failure, in admitting the dangerous condition of Delhi for women and your determination that there must be change. In a more cynical mood, I think that it is easy for you to make these admissions considering that you are not in charge of security. However, you are in charge of the city and the mindset thriving in it makes this your responsibility, This also doesn't let you off the hook for other comments in the past.

However, this letter is about the future. You have mentioned in an interview that you have the intention to not sit idle and wait for security to happen, but to initiate a social drive to create a transformation in society. This is one of the wisest things anyone has said on the subject so far. I agree that this is the correct approach, and as a keen people watcher with an interest in women's rights, I have suggestions for transformation, if applied with integrity.

Most of the things on the table will not work. The buses and pubs are topical measures. Unless you plan to install CCTV cameras in fields and school toilets and turn the whole city into a super surveillance prison, this can't really starve rapists of locations or methods. Even as prison it will fail. This will strip the rights of the common man, which are already pretty shredded and encroached; lead to overall unrest.

Rapists don't see themselves as criminals till the need for a cover up. What happens to criminals will not deter them. Plus prosecution is lethargic and cops not interested in filing cases they can avoid. Harsh punishment for rapists won't fix the problem. There is a danger in creating laws in a moment of fury. Our country has a penchant for slapping laws onto things that can't be fixed by laws. And this is without our notoriously flawed witch hunt investigations and propensity to frame people. Irreversible punishments may just lay the brickwork for future disasters.

There is a process to rape. A rapist has a certain kind of thinking that allows the use or abuse of women sexually. Such a person finds an opportunity and a reason to do it. Then there is the victim. There are cops. The investigation. Judicial process. The judgment itself. Each of these can be improved. Lots of potential here if someone is serious about rolling up sleeves and getting to work. Most important is everything coming before the rape, because that can actually prevent it.

The opportunity and reason part of it is near impossible to prevent (and is Shinde's job anyway). Other things like police response and all will definitely help, but like you said, you can't do much about that beyond insisting, which you must.

In a normal society, there is a non-verbal contract of obeying laws, paying taxes and other duties in return for enforcement of rights, facilities that support and enhance living, protection from harm, etc. India is in a precarious position. People are experiencing that while they obey laws and pay taxes, and so on, they are not safer, they are finding living more difficult from inflation, unemployment, insecurity, whatever. There is dissatisfaction and very little awareness of equality.  It is every person for himself, with the sexually repressed environment demonizing sex, lesser chances of marriages, etc. The primitive chauvinistic culture has little in terms of legal oversight (possibly the price of vote bank politics).

Too much permissibility of subjugation of women has made their condition precarious. To add to this is a reinforcement of impunity for further humiliation of women with public figures making rabidly anti-women statements. Witness Nirupam's questioning of Smriti Irani's character. This is pretty much what every street thug does as he sizes up your breasts to grope on a bus. Big breasts is loose character, dancing is loose character, revealing clothes is loose character, late night on bus is loose character. The predator needs to find a way to turn his victim into a "bad person" in order to punish her with his actions, or he has to face that he is a demon (which no one does - everyone thinks of themselves as good people). Which is how Smriti Irani dancing is a reflection of her character, but hey Sunil Dutt or Govinda danced way more than her for far more money. But there is no utility in questioning their character.

This is further compounded by the Savitri and Sexy syndrome, where some women are objects of evil, while others are objects of innocence. So it is highly unpredictable who is a potential attacker till too late. Who knows who has what kind of hang up? So you had students protesting the rape of a student showing bangles to the police - as if it is an insult to be a woman. They used foul language about you or Sonia Gandhi - both women. Needless to say going among them without security is highly inadvisable for either of you, while the other "innocent" girls may do so without fear (unless they break another stereotype). It is not possible to go around analyzing every man. Nor is it appropriate to treat all men as potential sexual predators - the traditional line taught to unmarried girls in the hopes of keeping them away from men. Usually fails and leads to heartbreak or marriage or great/lousy sex. Hormones are a compelling influence no amount of moral policing can trump.

The need of the hour is a carrot - stick approach that keeps enough people in line that the rest can be fixed in other ways.

The carrots are the goodies. Increased acceptance of sex, propagation of ideas of sex as a natural and healthy thing, education on contraceptives, de-shaming sex, education on the paramount importance of consent as a part of sex (this also needs more solidly plugged into the laws and constitution), acceptance of sexuality, acceptance of sex professionals, industry (not exploitation), films and toys, and more. The more you can end repression of sexuality and make it easy and acceptable (as natural), the less likely it is to burst out in unpredictable, uncontrollable and devastating ways. Please note that this doesn't mean lowering the age of marriage. Sex and marriage need to be differentiated.

The sticks are the taboos. Enforcing laws is the biggest one. Creating public opinion on the unacceptability of sex without consent. Punishing every instance of demeaning women without discrimination (more below) by public figures or in media. Preventing exploitation in marriage, trade, whatever. The idea is to make these taboos so strong, that you have to be a really filthy creature to even think these things. Think of how well the church has done making homosexuality unthinkable. The pope is still fighting tooth and nail for his right to devastate lives. For a good cause, it could work brilliantly. Really heavy duty bombardment and relentless public opinion mongering. Religious leaders could be roped in to whatever extent they feel able to follow the laws of India.

The idea is the creation of a social environment where the laws matter. Here, your leaders and public figures are important. Visible role models upholding law will create a virtue out of that, visible role models insulting women will encourage the public to do similar. What is good/bad, acceptable or not, even which laws to take seriously and which ones to bend is often understood by watching what others are doing, and the references lie in the public space.

About the punishing of demeaning of women, it is actually written that it should be so. Another law enforced to manipulate people, but not protect them. It must be enforced. The women's commissions should be hauled over coals for not protecting women to begin with and then, if they repent, should be tasked with filing legal cases for offending the modesty of a woman for every single instance of victim blaming, character judgments, insulting comments about women, etc. Such people should be punished in courts or if they settle out of courts, one of the conditions must be a public apology that should be well covered in media. If the people receive it well, they are off the hook, or the case should go on.

Every single instance. be it a politician, a police officer, a judge, a school principal, khap panchayat - whoever, whatever. Regardless of political loyalties. The women's commission must not have any members who belong to political organizations or are related to politicians. Any of them not fulfilling these conditions must be replaced. Women's commissions should also alert appropriate authorities in the case of anyone in a tax funded job, so that appropriate action may be taken. Good idea for this could be fining half the salary for 6 months to fund women's rights initiatives. On an aside, a good person to have on a woman's commission is a blogger called Indian Homemaker. A superb and sensible warrior of human rights with an impeccable sense of what is fair. With no affiliations (that I know of) to make her judgment suspect.

The censor board must be hauled over coals for allowing content that promotes women as inferior and encourages subjugation. All the soap operas showing bold women as evil must be forced to rewrite scripts to be compatible with the message of equality in our constitution. Films with super hit songs (and stories) promoting sexual harassment must be forced to run captions that the action demonstrated in the film is actually illegal as per Indian law. "Good" women characters must be forced to comply with health weight charts. An underweight model must not be promoted as a role model, particularly in stories showing women of normal or heavier weights as stupid. "Good" characters must not exhibit a virtue of suffering abuse silently. On the contrary, they must fight abuse - against themselves at least, compulsorily. Challenging status quo must not be the sign of a bad character. Any "item numbers" projecting women as enjoying being touched by a crowd of men must have the actresses giving independent interviews disclosing if they really enjoyed being touched or would like to experience such a thing in real life. These interviews must be appended to the film in all future releases. Shows to focus on various aspects of women's rights to raise awareness must be designed. Tax exemptions must be given to films/books/content that promote healthy attitudes toward women.

I think this is a good laundry list to start with. Particularly important is the point about punishing public role models of humiliating women. I congratulate you on your healthy attitude to the problem, and I think you need not find yourself helpless. It will not be so difficult to change society if the people planning the change know what they are doing. Particularly for someone with the tremendous resources and reach of the state on their side. We stand by you, and hope that you come up with a model that can be replicated countrywide.

I would be happy to hatch more ideas with any team you have, if you find these useful.

Wishing you the best,

Vidyut