Begin with the courts, Nitish!

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Independent analysts have observed that Bihar election has the potential to change the course of Indian politics. The grouping of various centrist political parties and their eventual victory has exposed vulnerabilities in the hitherto invincible strategies of the Narendra Modi- Amit Shah duo. Naturally, the opposition parties are feeling reinvigorated and many of them are assessing the possibilities of emulating the alliance in other states.

Nitish Kumar has thus become the cynosure of all eyes which seek an alternative to present government at the Centre. To take forward his socially inclusive governance and make it a part of a comprehensive political idea, Nitish can use his overwhelming mandate by addressing the problems of the justice delivery system in Bihar.

Rights activists Arun Ferreira and Vermon Gonsalves, recently wrote to the chief minister highlighting the enormity of the injustice meted out to four Dalits found guilty in the murder of 35 Bhumihar landlords. Incarcerated for 22 years, the death row convicts are clueless about the fate of their mercy petition. This is a reflection of how the system works.

The notorious Ranvir Sena, a militia of upper castes, was unleashing caste violence in rural Bihar until the 1990s. The resistance put up by the Dalits also resulted in murders of many upper caste landlords. However, the justice delivery system has favoured the upper castes. While many of the accused in the killing of the upper castes were brought to justice, the police has failed to pursue cases in which the Dalits were the victims.

In his first term, Nitish had abrogated the Amir Das Commission which was inquiring into the violence committed by the Ranvir Sena and their political masters.

A recent report by the Bihar State Legal Services Authority has once again brought to fore the pathetic condition of the state’s prisons. It says that more than 30,000 prisoners, majority of them Dalits, have been languishing in overcrowded jails for years. National Law University, Delhi, in its exhaustive research, has found that majority of the death row convicts in the country are Dalits and Muslims.

It is not just the chatter about the return of the ‘Jungle Raj’ by sections of the society and media, which should worry Nitish. A realisation of how the legal system has worked against the marginalised — which is a reflection of the disempowerment of a large section of the people — could be a sound beginning. That is, if he is serious about scripting an alternative.

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