In mid 1992, several government officials rampaged a tribal village near Sathyamangalam forest in Tamil Nadu. They assembled the villagers at one place, and started searching the village for smuggled sandalwood. Then they dragged 18 teenage girls into the forest, where they raped them repeatedly. They brought the girls back in the night, and then dragged 133 villagers to jail, accusing them of smuggling sandalwood. 19 years later, on 29th September, 2011, the villagers have found justice. Or, have they?
In these 19 long years, 54 of the accused died naturally, while others roamed freely for a good part of their lives. However, justice dawned at last! 215 government officials were found guilty, thanks to district judge S. Kumarguru. Seventeen were convicted of rape and were sentenced from seven to 17 years; others received from one to three years on counts of torture, unlawful restraint, looting and misuse of office.
What took justice so long? What worries me is the unacceptable indifference of people towards such issues. Is it because the people who died were dalits? Unless the mental divide of caste is broken among individuals, how can we even start discussing human rights in India? The Vachathi case is one of the worst examples of the abuse of power of the recent times. Many such cases go unnoticed in areas with people with no voice. Such abuse of power is one of the major reasons why Naxalism gathers public support even today.
The best thing about this court judgement is that senior officers have been punished for crimes committed by their juniors. Such strict judgements will make sure that those enforcing the law do not see themselves as above the law. Such justice should come faster in the future. Justice and equality should be the two pillars on which any just society must stand.