Ajit Singh Bains
A Giant Tree Has Fallen, a Tree That Challenged the Highest Peaks
– Pauline Easton –
Such are the tributes we find on Facebook pages from Canada and around the world as the news of the passing of Justice Ajit Singh Bains spreads. Justice Bains was a peerless jurist and human rights activist whose contributions were many. He is perhaps best known for his courageous defence of those accused of terrorism or treated unjustly at the hands of the state, and bringing those who committed crimes against the people to justice. His writings on the fundamental role governments play in either facilitating or averting the tragedy of anarchy and violence are as valid today as they were when he wrote them in the 1980s and 1990s.
At that time the Government of India, led by a state in the hands of narrow private interests and their intelligence agencies, was involved in committing terrible crimes against the people of Punjab, especially those it identified as Sikhs. Calling them terrorists and Sikh fundamentalists, thousands were killed in fake encounters, kidnapped, detained, tortured and maimed. The holiest shrine of the Sikhs in Amritsar was invaded and the massacre of the people was carried out. Resistance was met with pogroms to divide the people, which caused great damage.
These pogroms continue to this day. In their desperation to cling to power, the ruling circles persist in their use of the same methods. Their aim is to control contending factions within their own ranks, while they divide the people to smash their resistance and silence them. The peoples are nonetheless uniting in action to make sure justice prevails. They are setting their own course, analyzing events to work out the path that favours them and the forces required to reach their own destination. Refusal to side with one section of the ruling class or the other is a first step to establish their own vantage point so that the crises can be sorted out in a manner that favours them.
In this regard, the farmers of Punjab, joined by workers and youth of Punjab and all India, steeled in the battles they waged against state-terrorism and genocide in the 1980s and 1990s and their aftermath, are today forging a new path which vests the decision-making power in themselves. They are defying all attempts to blame them for the problems which exist in India and the use of disinformation and state-terror to smash their struggle and divert it into confrontations amongst the people. Far from falling for these methods, the farmers are pioneering a great mass democratic process, speaking in their own names, not permitting their names to be usurped by the ballot box, used in a process whereby an elector allegedly authorizes another to speak in their name.
What is happening in India and in the United States, Canada and other countries gives great significance to the writings of Justice Bains on state terrorism. Since the United States launched the “War on Terror” following the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC, no law or document or action ever permitted a definition of what constitutes terror. Joined by Canada and other countries, as well as the aggressive U.S.-led military alliance the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), they followed India’s cue. In the name of opposing terrorism, they passed laws which suspended the rule of law under the pretext that exceptional circumstances permit the commission of lawless acts. This condoned wars of aggression and occupation, “regime change,” black ops, kidnapping, unlimited detention without charges, assassinations of those declared to be terrorists and enemies of democracy, and economic, financial and commercial sanctions against sovereign nations as well as drone warfare and other crimes.
Just as Sikhs had been targeted in India and Punjab in the name of opposing “Sikh fundamentalism,” the category “Muslim fundamentalism” was presented as a political ideology to target all people of the Muslim faith as either terrorists or potential terrorists and target countries said to be Muslim. Islamophobia was used to target Muslims all over the world as terrorists.
This modus operandi which includes the refusal to define what constitutes an individual act of terrorism or state terrorism has led to wars of destruction and crimes against humanity of hitherto unknown proportions. It has also caused refugee crises of hitherto unknown proportions. Civilian casualties are declared “collateral damage.”
The opposition of the peoples of the world is such that today their resistance struggles are making headway against structural inequality, state racism, racist police killings and discrimination, violence against women, treatment of workers, women, seniors, youth, children, people of national minority origin and Indigenous peoples. While the peoples are treated as dispensable, the police, military and agencies of the state are protected, no matter what crimes of violence they commit at home and abroad.
Today, not only India and the United States but also countries such as Canada are mired in anarchy and violence. The cause is the stranglehold over the economy and all aspects of life by global oligopolies which have seized the reins of power and do whatever serves their narrow private interests in the name of high ideals. In the United States, Canada, Britain, France and other countries, governments are their tools to provide a veneer which tries to cover up that the Authority is not on par with the Conditions because it serves supranational private interests. All kinds of things are done to disinform the polity, including inciting divisions between what are called right extremists who say they are fighting for democracy and freedom and the liberal left which say they are fighting for democracy and freedom. In fact, both sides are fighting to preserve the narrow private interests they serve and seek to embroil the people to join “their side.” It is important that the peoples who are striving for a freedom and democracy which upholds the rights of all, see what to do when both sides are wrong. This is the beginning of vesting decision-making power in the people, not the rich whose positions of privilege and power are causing havoc all over the world.
Governments in the U.S., Canada and other countries, directly impose laws which make sure they cannot be held to account for their own violations of their own previously adopted rule of law. Meanwhile, the striving for political power within the ranks of the rulers themselves is such that what are called the democratic institutions no longer function to sort out the contradictions in their own ranks. The institutions no longer represent a unifying decision-making process. The civil service, law enforcement, courts, the office of presidents, prime ministers and cabinet ministries are privatized. This can be seen when ministers, deputy ministers, parliamentary secretaries, police officers, military commanders and even diplomats all speak in their own name, promoting personal beliefs and practising them in the name of high ideals.
But the peoples everywhere are resisting. They are demanding justice, peace and the humanization of the natural and social environment. Settling scores with the old conscience of society is crucial in order to win the victory of the New over the Old. It requires setting a course which does not rely on the ruling class to decide the outcome of what is taking place. The conclusions drawn by Justice Ajit Singh Bains in the course of his career and life are helpful to help orient people today.
Writing on the violation of human rights in Punjab in his book Siege of the Sikhs, published in 1988, Justice Bains pointed out in the Author’s Note:
“[…] Everything I have seen and studied about the situation in India leads me to conclude that individual terrorism and violence does nothing to help the cause of people; it is only of benefit to the rulers of India. This makes me all the more suspicious about who really is perpetrating and instigating both state and individual terrorism.
“The justice- and freedom-loving people see the attacks on the Sikhs as an unpardonable crime and insult to them. They also see the Siege of the Sikhs as a pretext to commit murder and crimes against any people in India and a pretext for war against Pakistan and other neighboring countries. With this pretext, they have beefed up the army and special police forces and have given them licence to commit crimes anywhere, especially in Punjab. […] It is an actual assault on the lives and freedoms of all people in India and the neighboring states.
“All justice- and freedom-loving forces in India should stand together. We should defend the people of Sikh religion as we should with all other people. We should oppose social tyranny and state terrorism wherever it exists, whether in Punjab or in Assam or in Gujrat or elsewhere. We should also oppose the state aggression against neighboring countries, such as the armed intervention in Sri Lanka.”
(Siege of the Sikhs, New Magazine Publishing Company, Toronto, 1988. Copies can be obtained for $10.00 by writing: National Publications Centre (P.O. Box 264, Adelaide Station, Toronto, ON M5C 2J8). Write check or money order to “NPC.” Includes shipping and handling.)