EVEN as Narendra Modi prepares to use the Gujarat model of ‘development’ to lure the Muslim minorities towards the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the hollowness of his claims has been exposed by the protest petition filed by Mrs Zakia Jafri and the Citizens for Peace and Justice (CPJ) in the Gujarat riots case. The petition, which was filed in the Ahmedabad sessions court in April 2013, challenges the closure report of the Supreme Court monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT). This report ignored several important facts and testimonies, and covers up the criminal conspiracy hatched by the chief minister, his administration and the frontline leaders of the VHP and the Sangh Parivar. The protest petition serves as a reminder and unveils this broader conspiracy by naming Narendra Modi as Accused No 1 and showing the crucial links between him and the inaction in the riots. In this sense the petition is an important political tool for countering the advance of Narendra Modi and his Hindutva brigade in national politics.
MODI GOVT AND VHP:
At the outset, the protest petition provides ample evidence for concluding that the post-Godhra violence was pre-meditated and planned by the political leadership of the state government and the local organisers of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Even before the unfortunate attack on the kar sevaks in Godhra on February 27, 2002, the state government had prior information on the volatile situation that was developing because of the provocative behaviour of the kar sevaks. Intelligence messages to the home department (in direct charge of Narendra Modi) in the aftermath of the incident also alerted the authorities about the possible communal flare-up. Within minutes of receiving this information, two successive calls were made by the chief minister was to Jaideep Patel, the secretary of the VHP. On the same day Jaideep Patel (Accused No 21) and Mr Kaushik (Accused No 19), a senior functionary of the VHP, accompanied the bodies of the kar sevaks to Ahemdabad on the behest of the district administration. They addressed the media saying that hundreds of kar sevaks had been killed in a terrorist attack and women had been molested. Intelligence messages on the public statements of these two leaders stated that the speeches were reckless and that no molestation of women or mass killing of kar sevaks had taken place. Yet many of these messages were ignored. In fact, for a full day after the incident took place and during the subsequent massacres, there were hardly any calls on the official numbers of the chief minister. The protest petition points out that the SIT has not questioned Mr Modi on the absence of his call records on the day when the Gulbarg society massacre took place.
Two other significant factors point towards the close cooperation between the VHP leaders and the state administration. The first is the fact that the bodies of the kar sevaks were handed over by the district administration to the VHP secretary, Jaideep Patel, on the evening of February 27, 2002. None of the investigating officers in the Gujarat riots investigated why the bodies of the kar sevaks were handed over to non-government persons who had a track record of making provocative speeches. Second, the post mortem was conducted in the railway yard itself without any proper procedures. During the process, two phone calls were received by the doctors conducting the procedure. What were these phone calls about and who had made them? The SIT did not bother to even ask such questions, much less investigate them, thus showing that the investigations were themselves biased in favour of the accused persons.
The actions of the state government also facilitated the leaders of the Hindutva brigade who were targeting Muslims in their ‘reaction’ to the Godhra incident. In this sense they had both the implicit and the explicit support of the political leadership led by Narendra Modi. Being in charge of the home department, the chief minister himself appears to be the chief conspirator who created the space for the targeting of Muslims by armed mobs of the Bajrang Dal and VHP.
ROLE OF GOVERNMENT
DURING AND AFTER RIOTS
The protest petition clearly points out that the SIT ignored, disregarded and discredited some crucial evidence that showed the role of Narendra Modi and his government in the riots of February 2002. The main example of this is of the nine affidavits filed by former police officer, B Sreekumar, who was then the additional director general of police, intelligence. In his affidavits Mr Sreekumar gave amble evidence of the messages recorded in his register which warned the government about the gathering mobs for welcoming and parading the bodies of the dead kar sevaks in different funeral processions. The messages also highlighted the demand for additional forces for controlling the mobs, but these forces were never sent to the areas where riots were planned.
Further, the protest petition also records the manner in which the calls for help from the victims of the riots were ignored. Survivors from Naroda Patiya made at least a hundred calls to the police commissioner, P C Pande, but his mobile was switched off. There was a similar callous response from most of the additional commissioners of police (CPs) and deputy commissioners of police (DCPs) of Ahmedabad city. In many instances, policemen even aided mobs in their lawlessness.
The preliminary report of the SIT also found that the former Ahmedabad joint commissioner of police, M K Tandon, in whose area around 200 Muslims were killed, was guilty of deliberate dereliction of duty. But far from punishing him after the 2002 riots, he was given one powerful promotion after another until he retired as additional DGP in June 2007. His junior, former DCP, P B Gondia, has also been found guilty of allowing the massacres. But instead of being penalised for his illegal actions, he today holds the powerful post of IGP of state CID. These actions of the Modi government clearly show that the latter was rewarding these police officers for cooperating with the political leadership during the post-Godhra violence. The final closure report of the SIT ignores and completely disregards this evidence. This also shows how Modi has influenced and tried to manipulate the SIT report even though it was prepared under the watchful eye of the apex court.
It must be emphasised that the home department that received these messages was headed by the chief minister, Mr Narendra Modi, himself. All the information received was also processed under his leadership. Therefore it can be inferred that he has been directly involved in the management of the riots and their subsequent cover-up. In this sense the protest petition of Mrs Zakia Jafri has unveiled and provided evidence for the way in which these riots were managed by the Sangh Parivar under the leadership of Modi.
Further, the timing of the petition and its daily hearings are important because they come at a time when the Modi mantra is being chanted by the BJP. By touting the Gujarat model as the best and Modi as the most popular leader, the BJP is trying to show that the Gujarati people, and especially the Muslims, have forgotten and forgiven the follies committed during the riots. Mrs Zakia Jafri’s protest petition provides a strong counterpoint to this discourse and reminds the nation that a fascistic leader like Narendra Modi must by all means be tried for his crimes. It reminds us that there can be no closure without justice. Like this petition, the Left and democratic forces need to popularise the political conspiracy behind these riots in order to counter and stem the advance of the apparently inevitable Modi juggernaut that threatens to roll on before the impending general elections.