Sunday, June 17, 2007

People’s Petition Submitted on May 16 to Lok Sabha Speaker and President of India

The subject of criminalisation of politics is one that concerns the entire nation closely. It is deeply disturbing that on the one hand, our polity is tolerant of ‘fake encounters’ (summary executions) of alleged criminals and terrorists, while our highest representative body – Indian Parliament – harbours people caught red-handed in acts of human trafficking, and convicted on charges of abduction and suspected murder. There is a tendency to tacitly justify the police killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh by suggesting that he was, after all, a ‘criminal’ or even a ‘terrorist’. At the same time, Mohammad Shahabuddin, a convicted criminal whose reign of terror is notorious, enjoys the privilege of being a Member of Parliament. ‘Crime’ is used as a cover to justify State terror, while the State itself patronises and protects criminals – even those convicted by a court of law. The implications of this trend for Indian democracy are dangerous.
The conviction and life sentence of the sitting MP from Siwan, Mohammad Shahabuddin, by a Siwan sessions Court is a remarkable victory of a determined people’s struggle against a notorious criminal politician. Shahabuddin has been sentenced to life on charges of abduction and suspected murder of a CPI(ML) activist Chhote Lal Gupta eight years ago. The steadfastness and tenacity of the witnesses in the face of a terror campaign by the MP has resulted in this conviction.
Now the question faces us: will Parliament honour this people’s victory and this court judgement, and expel a convicted criminal from the precincts of Parliament? Will Parliament respect the norms of democracy and expel those involved in human trafficking from its ranks?
We would like to remind you that ten years ago, Chandrashekhar, a young activist who had left the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University in order to work among the poor and dispossessed in his hometown Siwan, was gunned down in broad daylight by Shahabuddin’s henchmen. Following a movement led by students and teachers of JNU, a CBI probe was eventually ordered into the killing. Is it not indeed strange that a local Court in Siwan should be able to deliver justice within eight years while the CBI should be unable even to frame a chargesheet after an entire decade?
We the undersigned – concerned citizens of this country as well as the people of Siwan – appeal to you to intervene to ensure:
• Immediate dismissal from parliament of convicted MP Mohammad Shahabuddin, as well as MPs accused of human trafficking Babubhai Katara and others;
• Speedy completion of CBI probe into Chandrashekhar’s murder

Signatories included Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy for the JNU Teachers’ Association, Prof. Rizwan Qaiser for the Jamia Teachers’ Association, Prof. Anuradha Chenoy of JNU, Profs. Tripta Wahi and Vijay SIngh of DU, educationist Anil Sadgopal, eminent journalist Sukumar Muralidharan, Prof. Mohan Rao of JNU, Jean Dreze, visiting Professor, Allahabad University, filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, Pranay Krishna, general Secretary of JSM, Satyadev Ram, ex-MLA, Mairwa, and Amarnath Yadav, MLA, Darauli, among others.

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