On February 17, Dr.Subramaniam Swamy, President of the Janata Party, got a taste of the ire of a few pro-LTTE lawyers for speaking his mind. They entered the court room while he was arguing a case, and assaulted him in the presence of judges. The unruly behaviour continued for nearly 15 minutes despite warnings from the judges. They also roughed up a policeman, who was in the visitors’ gallery. Some of them threw rotten eggs at Dr.Swamy, abused him and shouted anti-Brahmin slogans.
Two days later, the battle was truly joined. The advocates protested against the arrest of their colleagues in the Dr.Swamy assault case. They taunted the police and set ablaze a police station in the court premises. Then the pitched battle started. Of course there is no second guessing who won this round. Among those injured in the violence was a High Court judge, more than 50 lawyers and several policemen.
A day later, lawyers all over Tamil Nadu protested and condemned police excesses. In a few places they set ablaze vehicles. Advocates staged protests in almost all district headquarters.
During this year so far, Chennai courts functioned only for 9 days. The lawyers have been boycotting the courts demanding that the Sri Lankan government announce a ceasefire and stop all operations against the LTTE. They know only too well, the Sri Lankan government has no obligation to the striking lawyers. Their campaign does not have anything to do with legal matters and has the look of a politically motivated activity.
They are doing this at a time when there are 406,958 pending cases in Madras High Court. Imagine the plight of the hapless litigants. Imagine the plight of justice in our land. I have to agree with Clarence Darrow, “The trouble with law is lawyers.”
26/11 was a defining moment in the history of our country. This type of terror can be countered.
There is terrorism of another kind, called internal terrorism. It happens when a group of powerful persons join together to steam roller the rule of the law and conscience of the nation. This category of terrorism is even more pernicious than external terrorism because the innards of our society get poisoned and corroded like the annihilation caused by cancerous cells.
Unlike the strong and spontaneous reaction subsequent to the 26/11 attack, the reaction to this internal terrorism is very much muted. The ruling party is afraid of out-staring the lawyers. They want to patch up. They even removed one top police official under whose jurisdiction the violence happened. The opposition parties are fishing in troubled waters and enjoying the discomfiture of the government in power. The general populace is mute spectators to the goings on.
On February 26, the Supreme Court ordered that action be taken on four more top police officials. The Chief Justice asked the lawyers to get back to work. Even that does not seem to have any effect on the striking lawyers. They are adamant they will not return to the courts till more number of police heads roll.
It is fashionable in our country to blame the police for every problem under the sun. They are mostly at the receiving end from the media, from the politicians and the general public. They get shunted from one place to another and from one position to another to satisfy the whims of the powerful people.
To me, the police force in our country is more sinned against than sinning. Whether it is day or night, they stay out in freezing cold, under the spewing fire of the summer sun or in the pouring rain, breathing in the bellowing smoke and fumes from vehicles to ensure that we the citizens can move around in the land freely. They have to stand in between warring groups to ensure that there is no blood bath. They do all this with outdated weapons. At the end, they have to accept abuses with folded hands from every Tom, Dick and Harry. If I were in a policeman’s uniform, I would have echoed Shylock and asked:
“If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?”
It is very tragic when we are not able to distinguish between the villains and the heroes. We all get swayed by perceptions and appearances.
Like Don Corleone said in The God Father,
“A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns.”
And I like to add – when they are in a crowd, they can terrorize and pillage the conscience of a nation.
And we see this menace, more dangerous than the guns and bombs of terrorists and we go on with our daily lives. We need bombs, guns, thundering sounds and blinding lights to wake up our conscience.
Image Credit: Indi.Ca