Academics Asked To Do More For Society

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   (2012-07-25 00:00:00)

Social activist Teesta Setalvad has said that the academic community needs take a more proactive role in socio-political issues of the times.

She was delivering a lecture on the topic ‘Human rights of the marginalised- the political dimension’ at the University of Kerala’s Department of Political Science here on Tuesday. “The teaching community in our country has become lethargic and status-oriented. Its detachment from social issues reflects a lack of moral courage. Teachers need to do a soul-searching and take the lead in initiating healthy discussions on issues that affect society,” Ms. Setalvad said.

Ms. Setalvad spoke about her experience in fighting for the victims of post-Godhra violence in Gujarat through her organisation Communalism Combat.

‘Mob and bomb’

She said the lack of outrage against mob terror or rioting, unlike in bomb terror, worried her. “Is this because mob terror against minorities is mass sanctioned? What does this tell us about Indian democracy? There is always a lot of outrage against bomb terror, which is often associated with the Muslim community. But this does not happen in the case of mob terror. Hindu right-winged groups also are involved in bomb terror, but that is underplayed by intelligence agencies,” she said.

Media’s role

Citing media reportage on Gujarat carnage, she said the media were often too predisposed to the tragedy and rarely tried to trace the root of conflicts. “The societal and institutional preparation for the carnage started more than five years before 2002. It was not a spontaneous mob that unleashed violence during the riots. It was a pre-mediated act of violence,” she said.

An independent CBI

The activist said that time-bound criminal trial was vital for delivery of justice. The Union government must give the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) a free hand and the CBI should function as an independent institution.

“I studied around 780 cases in the Supreme Court and high courts across the country seeking transfer of investigation. Why do people ask for transfer of investigation? Because of the lack of faith in the local police which is amenable to political pressure. Why do people opt for CBI? Because there is no other agency for independent investigation,” she said.

“An independent institutional mechanism for investigation is needed to reinforce faith in investigation officers. This was also recommended by the Parliamentary committee headed by Somnath Chatterjee, but was never implemented,” Ms. Setalvad said.

Ms. Setalvad added that the issues of secularisation, marginalisation and alienation of minority communities needed to be addressed with a long-term objective. “We do not think about the dark underbelly of society during peaceful times. It is only when a problem arises that these issues are raised,” she said.