March 25, 2010

17 years, going nowhere

Some of what's below has appeared in this space before. Because of what happened last February 20, I thought it worth repeating.

***

Remember Sanjay Dutt, the film star? If you do, you may also remember that in late 2006, he was found guilty under the Arms Act, the charge being possession of a deadly weapon. This was at the end of the trial of the accused in the bomb blasts of March 12 1993. Dutt was first arrested in April 1993, after investigations into the blasts had thrown up his name.

Consider three excerpts from news reports of the time about the investigations and Dutt's arrest:

* "Top stars, MLAs got arms from Dawood" (Afternoon Despatch & Courier, April 12 1993): "The Bombay Police have stumbled upon the names of several film personalities, MLAs and corporators, who owned illegal arms allegedly supplied by the underworld don, Dawood Ibrahim. The arms were either gifted by Dawood or sold to these persons at cheap rates. Interrogation of suspects in connection with the bomb blasts has thrown up names of film personalities such as Sanjay Dutt ... The suspects have also named Shiv Sena MLA Madhukar Sarpotdar among nine politicians who acquired arms from the D-gang or his henchmen. The arms were mainly sophisticated revolvers, valued at Rs 1.5 lakh each, according to police sources."

* "Sanjay Dutt arrested" (Indian Express, April 20 1993): [Chief Minister Sharad Pawar told the Maharashtra Legislative Council that] "the suspect who named Sanjay had during the interrogation revealed several other names including that of [Shiv Sena MLA] Madhukar Sarpotdar. But we have not pressed charges against all."

* "Sanjay Dutt held under TADA" (Times of India, April 20 1993): "Sanjay came under a cloud when his name cropped up during the interrogation of two film distributors. Samir Hingora and Hanif Lakdawalla … had reportedly indicated that one of the three AK-56 assault rifles they had procured had been sold to Sanjay. ... [They] earlier had mentioned various names, including that of Mr Madhukar Sarpotdar, Mr Pawar said [in the Legislative Council], but Mr Sarpotdar's house was also not searched."

So let's get this straight: Madhukar Sarpotdar was named in the same investigation that revealed Sanjay Dutt's name, by the same people who named Dutt, for the same act of buying arms from them. And this was announced in the state Assembly by none other than the then-Chief Minister of the state.

Despite this, Madhukar Sarpotdar was never charged for violating the Arms Act, as Sanjay Dutt was charged, tried and convicted in 2006.

Consider next what Sarpotdar was doing on the night of Monday January 11 1993, two months before the blasts. In their essay "A City at War With Itself" from the book When Bombay Burned, Clarence Fernandez and Naresh Fernandes wrote these lines:

* "[T]he Army detained the Shiv Sena MLA Madhukar Sarpotdar in the troubled suburb of Nirmal Nagar late on Monday night and searched his car to find two revolvers and several other weapons ... Travelling with Sarpotdar was his son Atul, carrying an unlicensed Spanish revolver. Though Sarpotdar had a license for his gun, he too was breaking the law by carrying it during the riots. Also in the car was one Anil Parab. [T]he police commissioner [refused] to indicate whether this man was the notorious gangster of the same name, the hitman of the Dawood gang."

So not only did Hingora and Lakdawalla say they had sold guns to Sarpotdar, but during the riots, Sarpotdar was actually detained by the Army while he was carrying guns about in a riot-hit area. Now because of the rioting, the entire city had been declared a "notified area" at the time. The mere possession of an unlicensed weapon in a notified area was an offence under Section 5 of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, or TADA, then in force.

Despite this too, Sarpotdar was never charged for this either, whether under TADA or under the Arms Act.

But there's more. There are wheels and more wheels within, never doubt it. In November 2006, the Mumbai Sessions Court awarded life imprisonment to a man who, in 1984, had shot a witness dead in a court in Andheri. Two other bullets he fired left two policemen in the court injured, and he was also accused of other crimes, including the murder of his own wife.

Here's an excerpt from a report about his 2006 sentence:

* "Justice delayed, but delivered!" (Afternoon Despatch and & Courier, November 7 2006): "[I]n 1985 [he] got out on bail to gain in stature as a dreaded gangster whose name figured in many deadly crimes. He escaped to Dubai sometime in the late 80s and was heard of having become the mainstay of the Dawood gang. He was also seen on television with Dawood and Sharad Shetty. However, in late 1990, he fell apart with Dawood. ... [He was found] guilty of charges under Section 307 IPC read with Section 3, 25 (1-B) (a) of Indian Arms Act, sentencing him to life imprisonment."

Who was this man? Anil Parab. Yes, the same name the man the Army found with Sarpotdar in Nirmal Nagar on January 11 1993.

Both in 1996 and 1998, Sarpotdar ran for election to the Lok Sabha from the Mumbai Northwest constituency. Detained by the Army with arms he might have been, but a MP he became, winning both times. During his term, he testified before the Srikrishna Commission that was inquiring into the riots. One day in 1996, I was in the High Court listening to his testimony, growing steadily more sickened by his responses to the judge. At the lunch break, I couldn't help myself. I walked up and tapped Sarpotdar on the shoulder. "I am ashamed," I told him, "to have you as my MP."

Sarpotdar's face twisted in fury, as did those of several of his aides, who surrounded and harangued me. When he could speak again, Sarpotdar fired these words at me: "Just come outside, I'll see about you!"

My MP.

Now I don't mean to suggest that Sarpotdar did not face the long arm of the law. He did. He was charged, under Section 153A of the IPC, with inciting violence during the riots. On July 9 2008, a city court found him guilty as charged and sentenced him to a year in prison.

But within days, he had secured bail. He never served that one-year sentence. In Hinduja hospital on February 20, 2010, Madhukar Sarpotdar died.

The wheels of Indian justice. Seventeen years, going nowhere.

35 comments:

Pub Chick said...

The law of the land allows you to file prayers supporting the case against the accused if you were so sure of these things. Though, you might have had to produce something more than just random news reports as evidence.

If you were so concerned then you should have acted. It's just not polite to say this now after the person died, especially when you sat on that arm chair for 17 long years.

MastQalandar said...

It is under the same "law of the land" that the Srikrishna Committee was constituted by the then government and tasked with the job of investigating the circumstances of the Mumbai blasts. The report of the Srikrishna commission points out Sarpotdar's role.

Surely that is more than just "random news report as evidence"?

Why have enquiry commissions if governments are not going to act on their reports?
To buy time?
To lull the janata into thinking something is being done?
To fool us?

All of the above!

As for Dilip waking after 17 years on this - just some of his previous writing on this:

http://www.rediff.com/news/1999/sep/04dilip.htm
http://www.rediff.com/news/2002/aug/06dilip.htm

Ketan said...

Pub Chick,

This is pure coincidence. I am not stalking you.

It is not polite to be so downright honest. Does one's anonymity help in this regard?

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Pub Chick:

I think you need to know Dilip really well to claim that he sat on the arm chair for 17 years.
Because from where I see, he has written about this issue on his blog, written on a leading news portal, has attended the HC session to hear testimonies and conveyed to the accused what he felt, in first person. What were those? Random acts too? Just like the random news reports you mentioned?

- Aditya

Pub Chick said...

Aditya,

In my book, writing for Rediff or this blog or elsewhere counts for less than sitting in an armchair. And talking to the accused is worse. What kind of a classless person does that? Unless Dilip filed a prayer in the HC which I am unaware of, this post is simply dishonesty. Okay, vanity too.

Dilip D'Souza said...

"Just not polite"?

Perhaps you're right. You see, I feel about this person much as I did about HKL Bhagat. Being polite, then, is not quite the topmost priority in my mind.

Thank you, MQ, for those pointers. And Aditya, for your comment. I'm long used to the folks who will ask: "why didn't you speak up before?" or "where's your condemnation of this other thing?", and the like (not forgetting "why did you sit on that arm chair for 17 long years").

And of course when they do, it's called "honesty".

Pub Chick said...

Dilip,

I sit on my chair and have no qualms about it because I do not indulge in such vanity conquests and grandstanding against dead people.

I do not care if you spoke up in the past or not. All speaking is useless. And I also do not care if you spoke up for or against one set of people or another.

My simple question is: you seem convinced you had enough to nail him when he was alive. Do you have a HC plea to prove that you were serious? All else is useless gladiatorial display which I, and I suspect no one else, is interested in.

Dilip D'Souza said...

"talking to the accused".

What's worse and classless and dishonest or otherwise, you can be the judge of. My pleasure.

But let me correct your mistaken impression: he wasn't an accused.

That's the whole point.

Pub Chick said...

Please score as many technical points on this as you please. But do tell me if you filed an HC plea.

Dilip D'Souza said...

In a word, yes.

And that's all from me to you.

Pub Chick said...

MastQalandar,

That's all the more reason for our man to have filed a prayer and not indulge in this vanity. If writing for Rediff is cited as an achievement, I give up.

Pub Chick said...

If you did, awesome!

Do tell me more.

Aditya said...

It is much convenient to overlook the fact that Dilip, back in 1996, rose above the apathy in which we all continue to live in, and bothered to go to the HC to even listen to the proceedings. In my opinion, it was a very, very commendable act.

And even if he told more about the HC plea, some on this forum would, sooner or later, equate it to the nothingness that they boast about, strangely with pride, and eventually find another angle to bash it all with.

Sapathan said...

You are again appealing to emotion instead of rationale. Writing this kind article or blog is the easiest emotional tactic possible. Where's the logic here?

Sapathan said...

Someone uses my anonymous handle! Boy have I arrived.

Sapathan said...

Dilip you have not answered. You are just being emotional again. See for yourself. Please use reason and logic.

blueshift said...

Justice is a mirage for common people in India they chase it all their life.

Pareshaan said...

Boss you got balls to go up to Sarpotdar and say what you said.

Anonymous said...

I get it. Madhukar Sarpotdar was not treated the same way as Sanjay Dutt. Does this mean, by the inverse transform, that Sanjay Dutt was as bad as Madhukar Sarpotdar and was rightfully jailed?

It was good you expressed your opinion to your MP -- after all he works for the people and needs to hear their voices.

Sapathan said...

Fake Sapathan, I don't think this post was an appeal to emotion. Merely to his own ego. In that, I tend to agree with Pub Chick.

Also, if you want to use my handle, I suggest you show a little sophistication.

Sapathan said...

Please stop using my handle. I'm glad to have arrived, as I noted, but this is getting tedious.

Ketan said...

So now shop-a-thon oops Sapathan suffers from virtual schizophrenia? See, told you anonymity is not good for online mental health!

Does that mean, now onwards Sapathan will stop commenting here? Will Pub Chick suffer from schizophrenia, next?

Dilip D'Souza said...

For what it's worth, Ketan, I'm as bewildered as you are.

Ketan said...

Dilip,

Two people can be "honest" & yet not agree with each other. Probably, you didn't think of that aspect when assessing my usage of "honest" in context of Pub Chick. And I don't expect others to employ my standards, but there was also a small note on "anonymity", as I do not approve of it and was used in the same vein as "honest". I do not approve, not because of the above kind of funny situation, but in general.

I do write many things that touch upon larger social issues, but I do nothing about them personally. I just write without trying to make real difference. That way, you're infinitely more proactive than me, and that difference I appreciate.

Though, I seriously do not understand and you might be in better position to explain why despite availability of similar evidence, Dutt got worse treatment? What are the factors? As far as I see, both were equally well-connected politically. Must have had similar access to money.

And don't know if Sapathan meant to allegorically explain that things appearing same on surface might be very different in their substance & arguments they put forth?

But Sapathan is unlikely to do such allegorical things. He tends to be quite forthright. Get well soon, Sapathans!

Anonymous said...

From the evidence available the guy seems worthy of a badbye.

Who are the other 8 and what happened with them? does that include Sanjay.

rgds,
Jai

Anonymous said...

Dilip Sir,
Aap kitne himmat wale hain. Pleej, keep on doing your brave work. Court justice mile ya na mile, aap ki bad-duaa jisko lagati hain woh tapak hi jata hain.

Insha-Allah aapko Nishaane-Pakistan ke saath saath Pakistani cizenship bhi mil jaaye...

km said...

Pareshaan said it best, but posts like this is why I read your blog.

Dilip D'Souza said...

... Dutt got worse treatment? What are the factors? As far as I see, both were equally well-connected politically.

Well, when the Army handed Sarpotdar over to the police after taking him into custody in Jan 1993, a huge crowd of his faithful gathered outside the police station and demanded his release. The police bowed to this pressure and set him free. Nothing like that happened with Dutt.

Apart from that, my feeling is that Dutt was a convenient person to hold up and say: "Look we're taking action against this guy who is well-connected politically, which proves that nobody is against the law." After all, it cost nobody anything much politically to take action against Dutt. The rest of us swallow this and are willing to look the other way when, at the same time and for the same offence, Sarpotdar is allowed not just to remain free, but to run for election and win.

I'd love to see -- really, seriously -- what is different about the "substance and arguments" in these two different cases that look "same on surface".

I have no sympathy for Dutt. All I want to know is, why was Sarpotdar allowed to evade the same process of justice that Dutt faced?

Dilip D'Souza said...

Thanks, Pareshaan and km. It's just that I couldn't take any more that day. Knowing this guy was going to escape any form of justice, I felt at least I could let him know of my disgust. For what it's worth.

On another note, in my previous comment, "nobody is against the law" should of course be "nobody is ABOVE the law."

Ketan said...

Thanks, Dilip for answering!

But what happened to the evidence that army must've transferred to the police, viz., the unlicensed gun possessed, and other arms that were illegal to carry considering it was time of riots? Did the armymen collect receipts for transferring Sarpotdar, his son and the arms to the police? And was Sarpotdar not tried for illegal possession of arms because TADA had been repealed? Did the army people get to testify against Sarpotdar and produce the receipts as evidence?

Also, if you know what happened to his son, Atul?

If the police had not used the evidence it had completely, then it is certainly a failure on their part. But I am not sure if Sarpotdar having a huge support would be the most important factor in this. If you remember Karunanidhi despite being a much more influential politician was handled in much worse fashion.

We have to consider two more possibilities here (of course, they are speculations):

1. Could Sharad Pawar have named Sarpotdar without sufficient evidence to press charges against him (in a courts, I guess, testimony has much lesser value than material evidence like finding a gun in someone's house)?

2. For some reasons, Fernandez duo's description of what happened on night when Sarpotdar was caught by army might have not been completely accurate? Possibly because the authors might have not been present when the incident occurred?

"Same on surface" was in reference to identical names of two posters - the two Sapathans. And in case of crimes you pointed out, similar crimes, but carried out on different instances. For example, two robberies need not have equally convincing evidence. What I meant by "substance" was whether illegal arms and the receipts as evidence were indeed transfered to the concerned police station or not, which in Sapathans' case corresponded to fundamentally very different things said by the two posters. I can easily say, you've not made an emotional appeal in this post.

Your arguments run on the premise that whatever we come to know through indirect sources (CM, newspapers, written book) is indeed accurate and complete truth. Many times it must be, sometimes it might not be.

If indeed the court where you had witnessed the hearing of Sarpotdar had heard testimonies of armymen who had transferred weapons & Sarpotdar, had seen the receipts, and despite that, not given punishment, then judges' role becomes very suspect in my eyes....

Ketan said...

...If it is police who willfully destroyed evidence or did not produce it, would it have been possible to ask the army people for receipts and to testify?

What happened to Sarpotdar's son (just asking)? Was he tried?

Thanks, again!

Aditya said...

For what its worth, Atul Sarpotdar now is an MNS Leader.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Ketan, frankly I don't have answers to your questions, which is really why I wrote this article. (And in fact have written more or less this article several times in all these years).

As for the Fernandes account not being accurate, you're welcome to consult the papers of the time, where you will find accounts of the same incident by various other reporters.

But we should get some things straight.

* The Army took Sarpotdar into custody during the riots. Two months *before* the bomb blasts.

* Dutt and Sarpotdar were both named in the investigations into the blasts, not the riots.

* In other words, there are two different incidents we are talking about here: one, in which Sarpotdar was found by the Army during the riots; and two, when suspects in the bomb blasts named him and Dutt at the same time, while being questioned about who they had sold weapons to.

* "The court" where I heard Sarpotdar was *not* a court. It was a commission of inquiry into the riots. Being a commission of inquiry, governments find it easy to ignore its findings (which is likely why commissions of inquiry are set up in the first place, but that's another matter).

As far as I know, no case was ever filed against Sarpotdar's son. As Aditya points out, he is now with the MNS.

Ketan said...

Thanks again, Dilip!

I understand that Dutt was apprehended during blasts and Sarpotdar during riots, but my previous comment was in response to:

"Despite this too, Sarpotdar was never charged for this either, whether under TADA or under the Arms Act (as arms were found in his car)."

I think the greatest lapse occurred when Sarpotdar's house was not searched (if it was not).

As to the veracity of accounts of what happened during riots, I believe, if not equal, comparable skepticism must be maintained for police/courts as well as the journalists' reporting. I am not saying this for argument sake, but I have indeed found at least couple of instances where media reporting has been extremely unreliable. The latest case was reporting of 21st March as appointed date for Modi's questioning. You probably looked at the shame attached to such shoddy reporting from entirely different perspective. The shame was for inherent unreliability in matters where documentation occurs. If standing outside the SIT office, reporters could shout into the camera that "Modi did not come,... and hence he must be afraid and by extension guilty of charges against him" despite the fact that no such appointment was made, and it was documented that questioning would occur on 27th, none of the major channels tried to verify the facts. For practical purposes, all the channels showed false news at the same time, when confirmation to the contrary was so easy.

So, the number of publications that report the same thing does increase the probability that their reporting would be accurate, yet it leaves reasonable ground to doubt. Because as I pointed out these are indirect accounts, possibly, just by talking to some constable, without actually verifying if an FIR was lodged or talking to the army people.

But of course, I am aware that there are many ulterior motives to not have acted against Sarpotdar. Possibly public prosecutor would not have produced the evidence in a court hearing whenever it would have occurred?

The reason I am so skeptical of media in general is because of instances like this: http://ketanpanchal.blogspot.com/2009/12/fine-balance-between-lack-of-creativity.html

This post is allegorical, please click on the two links about forced delivery of rape victim.

I think even when a news is published in many papers, reporters are usually only one or two from one news agency or the other.

Ketan said...

Thanks Aditya for the info. Now, not apprehending Atul (who was in possession of unlicensed gun) makes the police all the more misadventurous despite the fact the it was army people who had detained him and must have kept documentary records of the same!