Citizens for Justice and Peace

Gujarat 2002 Riots : Widening the Net

30, Aug 2012



Gujarat ’02 riots: Widening the net

opening has appeared that brings up the prospect of senior figures in
the ruling establishment in Gujarat being similarly exposed

The verdict of a trial
court in Ahmedabad on Wednesday convict ing Maya Kodnani, a former
minister considered close to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, and
Babu Bajrangi, a leader of the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal in the
state, in the Naroda Patiya massacre case, should reinforce the faith
of the people in our judicial system. In this worst single episode of
massacre of Muslims in the postGodhra violence that consumed Gujarat
in 2002, 97 persons were killed in cold blood by rampaging mobs. The
wanton killing of members of the minority community occurred not
because the state had lost control but, as many feared, owing to the
fact that many at the highest levels in the state government were
fanning the fires of hatred, permitting bands of Hindu extremists to
go berserk over a period of many weeks. But the involvement of top
political figures or ministers in these repugnant events,
euphemistically called riots (which otherwise signifies the existence
of two warring sides), was hard to prove.

There were grounds
for strong suspicion based on specific circumstances but not what
might be called legal evidence. The denouement in Ahmedabad changes
The conviction of Ms Kodnani raises the possibility of the
transference of a former minister of the Modi government (now an MLA)
from her place under the lens to the gallows, or at the very least to
a jail cell for life. This particular individual was wont to issue
vile statements that seemed self-congratulatory. She was no different
in this from leading figures of hate groups like the Bajrang Dal, one
of whose leaders has also been convicted, besides 30 others.
Another 29 persons have been let off. The judge is to pronounce
sentence on Friday.

It is noteworthy that
Ms Kodnani and the others have been convicted of murder as well as
criminal conspiracy. Since the latter has been legally established in
this case, an opening has appeared for the first time that brings up
the prospect of senior figures in the ruling establishment in Gujarat
being similarly exposed.

Those convicted
naturally have the right to appeal. Should they exercise it, the
judiciary ought to hear the case on a speedy basis. So much time has
already been wasted in this case and other post-Godhra trials which
have brought shame to the country. The terrible Naroda Patiya episode
occurred on February 28, 2002. The crime branch in Ahmedabad moved in
a lackadaisical manner that was typical of the response of the state
government to violent crimes against Muslims. A sense of purpose came
to be detected only after the Supreme Court set up a special
investigation team, and the trial could begin only in 2009.


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