Cartoonist Irfan Hussain
What you deserve, so you get. Did we really deserve this criminal prosecution system? Or as fools we rightfully got the morons. This morning’s newspapers tell another story – it’s no longer news – “Accused acquitted in murder case.” As The Times of India says, “Like Jessica, no one killed cartoonist Irfan.” This list of ‘no-ones’ might soon include anyone with a case against him and a little connection to the right places. Sandipan Deb, Irfan’s colleague at Outlook writes in The Indian Express

It seemed like an open-and-shut case to me. Obviously I was wrong.

But at every stage, ever since Irfan said good night to me and left office on that day seven years ago, I seem to have been wrong about every expectation I have had from the Indian State. Either five murderers have been set free, or five innocent men have spent six years in jail. Irfan could have done some really barbed cartoons on this whole sorry saga.

The media and the citizens are unequivocal in demanding justice for the victims. And in a country as huge as ours every town will have a dozen such tales of injustice. It’s only that our metro-centric P3 type media doesn’t want to look elsewhere.

My hometown Shillong witnessed a lot of communal riots from the late 1970s to the early 1990s and hundreds were killed. But I haven’t heard of any prosecutions or sentencing. People I knew were killed or injured. I don’t know whether anyone was even arrested. Gujarat is news, Shillong will never be. Because of fools like me – a drizzle in the capital has to get more airtime and column centimetres than the whole state of Manipur aflame.

Shouting ‘Justice for Jessica and Priyadarshani,’ we relieve ourselves of the guilt of inaction. Foolishly ignoring the lakhs of undertrials* (70 per cent of all prisoners) languishing in jails for years (in many cases for decades). The undertrials are not aware of their rights, the police and the courts are apathetic. We citizens remain fools, engrossed in the political tomfoolery that makes the headlines or Carol Gracias losing her top and other slips and falls at the Lakme Fashion Week.

For Irfan Hussain to get justice, he has to take another route via the OB vans and the broadsheet tabloids. For the ignorant and illiterate undertrials – we all live in a fool’s paradise. Everyone outside your prison walls are smiling because we believe that India too is sporting that goosey grin.

*According to the National Human Rights Commission, as on June 30, 2004, 336,152 prisoners were crowded into jails across India. 239,146 of them (over 70 percent) were undertrials.

Nota Bene: If you’ve landed on this page looking for Carol Gracias’ photos or videos from the Lakme Fashion Week, you landed on the wrong destination. Click here for a better alternative (check out the links in the last two paragraphs)
[Updated: April 4, 2006]

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