Life will always try to knock you down one way or another, but with self determination and focus you can stand right back up again. How a person will achieve this state depends on their thought process and the way in which they are able to put across their opinions.
‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ – a much quoted line the world over. As I look at the variety of criminal cases involving high profile people, I see that they tend to move quickly and gain positive results, mostly in the favour of the defendant. Recently, the powerful banker Mr Dominique Struass Kahn was involved in allegations that led to his public demise. Only a few weeks back, it looked like an open and shut case, but since then a steadily falling house of cards has been unravelling and the alleged victim in this case has been weakened, perhaps in some small part by the sheer force of the powerful who she spoke out against. Nobody is bothered or sheds a tear when an ordinary person comes under the scanner and is convicted, falsely or not. But when powerful politicians or other influential people come under the scanner, rules are bent and a way out is found to safeguard their interests.
I have seen the justice systems of India and the USA over more than twenty years. I can say from my experiences that the blindfold of justice is transparent, seeing some and choosing not to see others. In my personal case, in the USA during extradition proceedings, the special prosecutor was caught red-handed behind death threats being issued to the presiding judge despite having made out that actually I was behind it. Luckily she was caught but got away by pleading not guilty on account of a multiple personality claim. I have seen the rich and the mighty being given a greater sense of the benefit of the doubt, rules and laws being amended overnight to give relief as fast as it can be. As a Sikh and being under the thumb of the law for too many years now, I have seen justice being circumvented and denied to ordinary people like us and many others. The prison is the underbelly of any system and it reflects the segmentation of a society and a nation. Mostly people from low incomes and the deprived side of life end up there. Why this is so is a big question which has been debated for too long without answer. I believe that being amongst the lesser privileged doesn’t make you inherently susceptible to end up in prison or more likely to commit crime. But if we can reduce the number of people going to jail we have to appreciate their worth economically and if society and the world at large is safer the budgets of law enforcement will come down. The psychosis of fear will be removed from people’s minds, a fear that is often exaggerated by law enforcement agencies to keep their own worth alive. I am not downplaying the importance and worth for the society of these people, but I am reporting an all too common scenario.
I came voluntarily from the USA despite winning my extradition case. I did not seek asylum or refugee status. I opted to come back to India to face trial again and I was convicted in the same case where they failed to establish even the probability of my involvement and yet I am a convicted man. I don’t regret coming back as I stood up against an unjust society which uses it’s own army to crush it’s minorities and uses it’s mobs to burn and destroy people of different faiths who happen to be a minority, whilst nobody is punished. I still recall the New York Times article after the 1984 Sikh genocide stating that civilisation crumbled. They were more accurate than we could have imagined; just look at what has happened since: Punjab has had a Shiromani Akali Dal government three times since those days and their nemesis the Congress Party has ruled a number of times too, but Sikhs are still looking for answers. The only story, repeatedly sold to us is that we came out of the tyranny of terrorism and saved our nation. This story is retold without going into the fabric of what brought about the anarchy and loss of those days; it is regurgitated without looking at the structure of Punjab in India.
As long as the law is different for different people, those with power and influence will always be above conviction. In India, politicians and the other powerful members of our society, though accused of serious criminal offenses appear in court at their own convenience, are greeted by large gatherings of sycophants and well wishers and are cheered as they walk free. Common people and people who stand up for basic issues are dragged and humiliated, regardless of whether they are guilty or not. That is the world we have created, whichever way you view it. But it will not force us to compromise our principles and we shall never halt on our march to recreate this world.