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Cover Story

Touchy patriotism

If there ever were a global patriotism parade, our contingent would earn top spurs. In the name of loving Bharatmata, the ridiculous is now routine.

An open-and-shut case normally does not test one's commitment to the liberal principle of fair trial. But the Kasab case proved to be an exception, as right-wing forces led by the Shiv Sena demanded that, despite all the evidence available against him, he be hanged in public without a trial. They also physically attacked lawyers who had volunteered or agreed to represent him in court.

Against this backdrop of blood baying, the Indian legal system displayed a degree of maturity in not succumbing to the temptation of making any unseemly departures from the rule of law. This is especially evident from the acquittal this week of both the co-accused of Kasab, Faheem Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmed.

As for Kasab, his very conviction after a full-length trial puts in perspective the shortsightedness of the view aired in the nationalist frenzy over 26/11 that he should have been summarily tried as an "enemy alien". Incredibly, there was even a bar resolution in Mumbai forbidding lawyers to appear for the only militant involved in the 26/11 attack to have been caught alive. The consolation is that terror and jingoism have sorely tested the fair trial principle even in the most liberal of democracies.

Recent revelations about Hindutva terror (Samjhauta Express, Mecca Masjid, etc) and the fake encounters related to the alleged conspiracies to kill Narendra Modi have challenged popular notions of patriotism and stereotypes of terror. Such unforeseen developments have vindicated human rights defenders who had, displaying courage and rigour, questioned the stories originally put out by the police in these cases.

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