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Altering the language of Justice: State violence and Legal battles


Lakshmi KTP

lakshmiforartiIn a deepening environment of utter dissatisfactions, depression, and negativity with the present state of affairs in the country with the Hindu state and its Brahmanic rule, it is important to talk about what solidarities should mean. It is very natural for one to stay back and say that there is nothing we can do because of the unimaginable enormity of the enemy and lose our ‘hope’ in the judiciary, state and the human rights discourse itself. One can be very secular and liberal in their beliefs and stay away from the matters of state. Because the very secular state makes them more or less immune to state indulgence as they are not impending ‘threats’ to the national security. They are not Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis or physically as well as multiply-disabled, those who are termed to be in need of the state “protection.”

Some questions of anguish are emerging from people who believe themselves to be engaging in protests against the state violence on ‘individuals’: Why do these people still believe in the judiciary? What gives them hope in human rights discourse? Why Abdul Nasar Madani has to still ‘cling’ onto his belief in the judicial system of India? Why should Hadiya seek legitimacy for her conversion and marriage in front the same state which ‘victimizes’ her? These are questions that provide utter hopelessness and negativity to the whole movement and transformative political engagements that are happening now. One is forced to lose hope in slower legal struggles and live in the dreams of ‘radical’ changes. One has to understand on a deeper level, the engagements of these ‘individual victims’ with the state and legality. It is always easy to ascribe victimhood, but it is also important to know what do they ‘do’ as active agents and citizens of a country in transforming the very language of justice that is in use.

Abdul Nasar Madani’s recent visit to Kerala raised a whole lot of debates regarding state intervention on individual’s human rights. When Madani was granted permission by the Supreme Court to attend the marriage of his son which was scheduled on 9th August 2017, along with the permission to meet his parents, a new demand has been made by the court that Madani himself should attend to the costs of his travel and security. The Karnataka government submitted a huge estimate of around fifteen lakhs that would cost his travel to Kerala which was widely regarded as the ruling Congress government’s conspiracy against Madani. Instead of going to the court against this decision of Karnataka government, Madani decided not to go to Kerala even though he is already on bail from the last few months. Even after he was promised by his supporters to collect fund for his travel he refused to abide by the court decision. He says: “I have people who will collect money for me. What about Zakaria1 and several other poor and innocent undertrials around the country? Who will give money to them if they have to go home? Since it is a Supreme Court verdict, it will remain as a dangerous proposition, if such a trend is set through me” (“Madani in ViewPoint”2).

All our individual centered human rights concerns become meaningless in the place of the communitarian engagement Madani proposes which resulted in a change in court decision thereby enabling his travel to Kerala. While he remains patient with the functioning of the state he positively manipulates it by taking decisions that would question and alter the provisions of law which is regarded to hold the supreme power of the state. By stating his political stand to each of the legal decisions made by the state, Madani claims his agency through non-state norms. Even if those norms do not hold the power of the law, they certainly propose a language of justice, different from that of the state and the rights-based discourse. It transforms the secular language of justice that we use by concentrating on Madani as an individual ‘human’ being, not a Muslim political figure. In this transformative engagement, one does not have to go through a cleansing project of the human rights discourse, but can claim his/her multiply-disabled identity from within the Hindu fascist state which ridicules it. Also, instead of considering law as primary and above all other identitarian concerns it enables communities to express in its own language and at the same time engage with the law which withholds power.

Madani’s visit to Kerala showed what solidarity means for those who speak for him. The solidarity demonstrations of mainstream political parties including the ruling Left Democratic Front led by Pinarayi Vijayan speak the language of human rights for Madani, the victim of state violence, this time especially of the ruling Congress government in Karnataka. Left parties from time to time have also created the fear of a bigger enemy citing the Modi government. Thus the anti-state rhetoric of these solidarities is nothing other than a product of the political opportunism of such parties. While solidarity statements against state violence are based on concerns of ‘humanity,’ the political statement Madani constantly makes through his engagements with the law is not part of the whole debate. Be it Madani, or Hadiya or anyone who lead real legal battles are not taking refuge in the ‘fear’ of the bigger enemy, but initiate a transformative political engagement through identity assertions that outrun our theoretical statements and concerns of humanity.

The anti-state sentiments shown in solidarity statements of Savarnas begin with their own distant engagement with the law- the immunity provided by’purity’. When law engages and disturbs the daily life of millions of people it would be easy for them to say the state is useless when they are already out of its engagements. When the law is an active element that intervenes in the life of people because of their religious and caste identities, the engagement with the same law is not always a victim’s only resort, but an assertion of identities, as seen in the case of Hadiya, which only can challenge the state affairs. How can one Madani or a single Hadiya initiate enormous debates around the state, legality and human rights? While they can be called victims, they all challenge and transform the secular language of justice not standing out of the state but being and fighting inside it. If we all can transform our own languages of solidarity from that of ‘humane’ concerns to that of communitarian adherence, it will create a ‘positive’ terrain in the rights based discourse where individual victims may be represented as active political agents. Our negativity fails their valuable efforts in staying still with self-respect against a state that infantilizes its minorities.



1. Zakaria was a 19-year old boy from Malappuram who got arrested in connection with the Banglore blast case. He is also an undertrial prisoner for the last eight years in the same ParappanaAgrahara Jail where Madani was imprisoned.

2. “Madani in ViewPoint – Un Edited Version”. Youtube, uploaded by MediaoneTV Live, 11 August 2017,



 Lakshmi KTP is an M Phil student from the University of Hyderabad. Her work is related to disability and human rights discourse with a focus on Abdul Nasar Madani’ speeches.

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