Date: 8/12/2004


Guwahati, Wednesday, August 11, 2004


UPA government : a sanctuary of criminals?

- Rupam BaruahPolitics is the last resort of the scoundrels - so goes the saying. Although it is not true about each and every politician under the sun, yet the recent political scenario of India gives an impression that quite a lot of such elements have taken shelter in the political arena which is undoubtedly a very unhealthy and ominous sign for the future of the nation. A current example may be the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government at the Centre. Headed by a sort of puppet Prime Minister this government, besides being the platform of a large number of sycophants, hypocrites and opportunists, is showing a sign to be the sanctuary of the hardcore criminals also.

The tainted ministers of this government are accused of murder, arson, riot, rape, financial corruption and what not? Many of them are chargesheeted. Shibu Soren, Laloo Prasad Yadav, Md Taslimuddin, Md Ali Ashraff Fatmi, Jayprakash Narayan Yadav, Prem Chandra Gupta are such elements to name some. Though the process of criminalisation of politics in India made a beginning since the time of Indira Gandhi, yet it was smaller in proportion then. But today, especially in the present Congress led coalition regime it has taken such enormous size that if it is not checked in due time then whatever morality or positive value is still there in the Indian politics will be extinguished very soon.

Let us look into Shibu Soren's case. This former Cabinet minister of the UPA government is now under judicial custody because of heinous crimes like communal riot, massacre and house-burning. The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader was also accused previously of bribery during the Narasimha Rao regime but escapes the long arm of law with the covert support of the then Congress government. Presently his non-bailable arrest warrant was against a 30-year-old case of communal riot, massacre and house burning. In 1975 at a place called Chirrudih in erstwhile Bihar 11 persons were killed of whom 9 belonged to Muslim minority community and one was a Santhal tribal. The killers torched 18 houses also. Shibu Soren was the prime accused in this heinous crime. Police chargesheeted Soren and 68 others but the accused managed to escape disobeying the court notice of surrender and not even caring to move for a bail petition. Then, almost 30 years later, as a sudden arrest occurred recently on July 8 last of three accused of the 1975 case, the Jamtara court of Jharkhand issued a fresh non-bailable arrest warrant against Shibu Soren and 51 others. Already branded `tainted' for his bribery case Soren's fresh arrest warrant against massacre naturally made an uproarious issue in the Parliament. Though Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda initially tried to give Soren a cleanchit, he was later forced to issue the arrest warrant himself against Soren on July 17.

Immediately after the issuance of the arrest warrant Soren was absconding for some time and from his hiding State he sent his resignation which was accepted by the government. Then reappearing again he boastfully claimed that even the Prime Minister himself was at his side! What is a matter of concern is that as reported in some newspapers while absconding Soren secretly visited some Cabinet colleagues besides meeting the Speaker of Lok Sabha. If it is true then it is surely an unconstitutional act. Mention may be made thatin the previous case of bribery also Soren was able to escape because of the slackness shown by the Lok Sabha authority despite strong proof against him. Lately some other cases against Soren relating to murderous crimes have came to light.

Then there is Laloo Prasad Yadav. The former Chief Minister of Bihar was accused and chargesheeted for the multi-crore-rupee fodder scam. He was jailed also. But his case has been long pending for years. Now he is the Railway Minister. So it can be easily conjectured as to what would be the future of the case! With power at the Centre in his side Laloo has started playing the necessary instruments in his favour. There is another case against him filed by the Income Tax department. Laloo with his wife Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi, claimed that they earned 46 lakh rupees selling agricultural and dairy food products. But the Income Tax department denied his claim and filed case against him. The case has been pending in the Income Tax Tribunal for nearly three years. Immediately after the installation of the Congress-led government at the Centre a change was made in the Tribunal. Former judicial members were removed, a temporary Circuit Bench was formed hurriedly and the hearing was also completed within four days dramatically. As reported in the newspapers Laloo created great pressure on the Income Tax department.

Currently he is busy in undoing the cases including that of the fodder scam with the help of political patronage he is enjoying now.

Another UPA minister Md Taslimuddin is facing atleast nine court cases relating to murder, forgery, kidnapping, robbery, rape etc. Previously he was forced to resign from the Devegowda government for his criminal background. Court cases are on against minister Md Ali Ashraff Fatmi for acts of murder and kidnapping at Kishangunj.

Jayprakash Narayan Yadav is accused of in an Education department scam for which he has been chargesheeted. Prem Chandra Gupta is accused of financial corruption. He has deposited huge amount of money outside India.

Now if these tainted ministers keep on to stay as powerful limbs of the government machinery and escape without facing any legal trial, then very soon a day will come when all sorts of criminals will run for politics to get a safe haven. When it will be seen that politics is the easiest shelter to get for escaping legal punishment even after committing heinous crimes which means politicians are above law, then the process of criminalisation of politics and the tendency or addiction of the scoundrels to take refuge in the political bodies will increase speedily. It seems that almost such type of situation is fast approaching. So the UPA government at the Centre has great responsibility towards the nation for taking necessary steps against this fast process of the criminalisation of politics. Its initial step should be to make the polity free from the tainted ministers. Will it take such a necessary step as a gesture of commitment towards the nation? Will the right thinking ones dominate the UPA in doing so? Let us see.