01, Jun 2007
Unchanged: Destroyed house in Ode, June 2006
A challenge to the Indian republic
Five years after independent India’s worst ever state sponsored carnage directed against the Muslim minority, issues of state impunity for mass crimes, accountability to the Constitution, deliverance of justice, fair compensation and reparation, citizenship rights and an ongoing climate of fear and intimidation remain. With 2007 being the scheduled assembly election year in the state of Gujarat, there is also a legitimate fear that violence will again be used as a tool against the battered minority. It is imperative therefore that the nation remains watchful, for not much has changed in the state of Gujarat in the five years since the genocide.
Indian democracy’s response to the Gujarat genocide has been mixed. Outrage from the media, independent citizens groups, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Chief Election Commission (CEC) contrasted with an initially tardy response from the Supreme Court. The subsequent, resounding defeat for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in the general elections of May 2004 offered some consolation. The NDA’s leading partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), wholeheartedly supported Modi’s execution of the state sponsored carnage while its allies covertly lent him their support, and still do. A month before the electoral results, a rare and unequivocal verdict from the Supreme Court delivered a scathing critique of Modi’s regime in Gujarat when it transferred the well-publicised Best Bakery trial out of the state into neighbouring Maharashtra, undoubtedly influencing the poll’s outcome. The Bilkees Bano case was also transferred to Mumbai and the verdict is still pending. Here, the trial for gang rape and multiple murders in Randhikpur, Dahod district, was not just subverted but involved the destruction of evidence by senior medical and police personnel.
Despite these sharp rebukes and setbacks, the Modi government and its administration have survived in office. Mere months after the carnage, Modi was re-elected to a second term in power, riding on the genocide. The five years since have seen repeated bids for respectability with corporate India and even political opponents obliging.
If the carnage of 2002 shocked India and her people and also became a matter of serious concern for international human rights bodies and even governments, in the five years since, Gujarat emerges as a state with two realities in mutual conflict. One is the shameful aftermath of post-independent India’s first genocide which, having wrecked a community at the physical, emotional, economic, cultural and religious level, has reduced Gujarat’s Muslims to a second grade status. This ugly reality is itself part of the overall story of a repressive state whose targets are numerous: the political dissenter, artist, women, Adivasis, Dalits.
(Suicides in Gujarat have shown an alarming growth even in urban middle class areas. Violence against women in general is now commonplace, a grim reminder of the unintended long term consequences of indoctrinating and setting up hate-filled militias for sexual violence against women and girls, as seen in 2002.)
Contrasted with this sorry state of affairs are the persistent efforts of chief minister, Narendra Modi, backed by a significant section of the state administration and even part of the central United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s bureaucracy, to paint and project a picture of normalcy. Modi has spent huge amounts of the Gujarati taxpayer’s money in staging international and national extravaganzas, before leaders of business especially, peddling the image of a vibrant and normal Gujarat.
Stung by international criticism and a silent message sent out by several international diplomatic missions, Modi has tried hard to overcome the humiliation of being India’s first chief minister to have been denied a visa by the USA (in March 2005). The fact that the ambassadors of some western powers continue to boycott Modi is a sore point for a man whose megalomaniacal tendencies are evident from the way every corner of the state is plastered with images of his face. Now bags and biscuit packets for school children, and even condoms are being used to drill the mass murderer’s persona into people’s consciousness.
To some extent, Modi has succeeded. Captains of industry, with their own vision of ‘India shining’, appear mighty impressed with the “strong political leadership of Mr Narendra Modi”. Early this year, Ratan Tata of the Tata group, who had wept on the streets of Mumbai in empathy with Mumbai’s victims of communal violence in 1992-1993, had no problems sharing a dais with a politician accused of criminal conspiracy and mass murder. Not surprisingly, the Ambanis of the Reliance group, Shashi Ruia of the Essar group and Kumaramangalam Birla of the Aditya Birla group of industries joined in too, signalling corporate India’s readiness to help wipe the blood off Modi’s hands and help him gain respectability. The inexplicable and much publicised report of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation calling Gujarat the best governed state (sic), made public months after the UPA came to power, was one more feather in Modi’s cap.
“Normalisation” and “strong leadership” are nomenclatures that have been attributed to a vindictive administration that shows no remorse for having engineered mass crimes, that sees political advantage in villages, cities and mohallas or neighbourhoods remaining divided by borders, that threatens victim survivors and human rights defenders who stand up for justice with arrest and torture. Gujarat is nothing but a showpiece of unchallenged state power.
The comfort of the Indian political class with the state of affairs in Gujarat has also been reflected in the lacklustre debates on the issue in the state’s assembly and in Parliament. The genocide’s aftermath has not been high on the list of priorities for elected representatives who protest and force adjournments on all kinds of issues a lot of the time. It is not just the Congress party, other partners in the UPA coalition, including the Left parties, have also been reluctant to take the issue of punishment for mass crimes to Gujarat’s streets.
“Normalisation” and “strong leadership” are nomenclatures that have been attributed to a vindictive administration that shows no remorse for having engineered mass crimes
Despite the change of political guard in New Delhi, the conduct of the central government in the courts where the struggle for justice is being vigorously fought has, in the five years since 2002, been ambivalent and equivocal. In none of the cases being fought in the Gujarat High Court or the Supreme Court, barring one exception, has the central government been forthright in supporting the Gujarat genocide survivor’s fight for justice. Only recently, during the hearing of the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case, were vociferous arguments made by India’s attorney general, Milon Banerjee, arguing for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry. This stance actually put off the apex court and denied the petitioner (Rubabuddin Sheikh) his legitimate demand for transfer of the investigation to the CBI. Counsel for the CBI and central government have been quick to adjust and compromise with the government of Gujarat’s counsel in a host of cases, reducing the Centre’s political battle cry against Modi’s fascism to somewhat hollow and hypocritical utterances.
In the course of the repeated hearings of the major carnage cases in the Supreme Court, the Centre has been reluctant to readily accept reinvestigation by the CBI in the Godhra, Gulberg, Naroda Patiya, Naroda Gaon, Ode and Sardarpura massacres. When the mass graves petition was being heard in the Gujarat High Court, the CBI counsel went so far as to actually abuse the legal action group, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP). The Congress party’s stand before the Nanavati-Shah Commission of Enquiry, appointed by the Gujarat government to probe the Godhra train arson and the post-Godhra violence, is similarly ambivalent.
Nowhere could the Centre’s reluctance to take a constitutional stand and position be observed more starkly than in the course of former additional director general of police (ADGP), Gujarat, RB Sreekumar’s case before the central administrative tribunal (CAT). The Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, now retired, filed a petition before CAT challenging the denial of his promotion to the post of director general of police (DGP), Gujarat, despite a long record of meritorious service. Sreekumar’s battle was not an individual grievance but the rare and principled dissent of a serving IPS officer who refused to compromise on his principles and his oath of allegiance to the Constitution. For this he was isolated and made to suffer. Since Sreekumar was a member of the central services, the role of the union government should have been clear. They simply had to reiterate that the grounds that the state government was using to justify an unfair denial of promotion were illegal and improper. Judicial precedents supported Sreekumar’s petition. But no. Despite interventions from the top level of the UPA leadership, bureaucrats in the union ministries even tried to smuggle in, at the last minute, an affidavit supporting the Gujarat government’s untenable stand against an upright officer.
Sloganeering at election time notwithstanding, India’s so-called secular political parties have shown a reluctance and ambivalence to identify with the victim survivors’ struggle for justice. After the Best Bakery retrial had commenced in Mumbai and barely a month after witness, Zahira Shaikh turned hostile for the second time (on November 3, 2004), municipal elections were held in Vadodara. The Congress party sent out a clear message when it gave an election ticket to Chandrakant Bhattu Srivastava, cousin of BJP member of the legislative assembly (MLA), Madhu Srivastava. The cousins had played a crucial role in attempting to subvert the struggle for justice in the Best Bakery case.
It was national statutory bodies such as the NHRC and the CEC that were severely critical of the criminal negligence and even unholy collaboration of the state government and its functionaries in the perpetration of heinous crimes against minorities in 2002. These bodies have also flayed the state administration for its acts of culpable omission and commission in not actualising effective performance of various segments of the criminal justice system, not earnestly redressing the grievances of riot victims or ensuring proper and durable rehabilitation of those displaced from their pre-riot habitats.
A meeting with victim survivors on April 26, 2002 moved the then president of India, KR Narayanan, to tears. He vowed to visit their beleaguered state but the visit never took place. The next President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam visited Gujarat on August 11, 2002 but was prevented by a wily Modi from any direct interaction with survivors at the relief camps.
A year after the genocide (2003), as trial after trial resulted in acquittal and the crude phenomenon of witnesses being influenced through fear and inducement received national focus, strictures flowed from the Supreme Court. It was after Best Bakery case witness, Zahira Shaikh’s sensational press conference in Mumbai on July 7, 2003, seeking support from CJP and exposing the pressures exercised on witnesses, that they were galvanised into action. The NHRC, Shaikh and CJP filed special leave petitions asking for retrial and finally the Supreme Court spoke out on what was transpiring in Gujarat. A series of orders and directives by former chief justice of India, VN Khare, then led to the transfer of the Best Bakery case out of Gujarat. The historic Best Bakery case verdict on April 12, 2004 (Justices D. Raju and Arijit Pasiath) was yet another official ratification of the state of affairs so diligently documented by rights groups. Rarely have Indian courts spoken out so sharply and clearly on state complicity in communal violence or the blatant attempts to subvert the role of the public prosecutor.
As early as November 2002, trials in two of the many incidents of premeditated violence had already resulted in a summary acquittal of the accused. (In Pandharwada village in Panchmahal district over 40 persons were killed. In Kidiad village in Sabarkantha district, 65 persons fleeing a village in two tempos were torched to death.) The NHRC, which had created history with its first report on Gujarat in 2002, failed to monitor the progress of justice consistently. This despite its own recommendations in the 2002 report that given the state’s role in the violence, special courts and independently appointed public prosecutors should handle the major criminal trials. It was one step forward and many steps back for India’s institutions.
Shocking exposures of telephone records and statements on oath by serving policemen kept a state government accused of mass murder constantly in the dock. But considering the scandalous exposures and evidence on the conspiracy behind the genocide, institutional democracy in India has so far left Modi and his co-conspirators relatively untouched. It is worth recalling the cold shoulder that even the apex court first gave legal interventions in 2002. Three critical petitions, each asking for special relief, were filed in the Supreme Court in April and May 2002. One of these petitions (writ petition (criminal) No. 37-52 of 2002, Devendrabhai Pathak and Others vs state of Gujarat), filed by independent citizens supported by CJP, remains undecided even today. The other two petitions, filed by danseuse Mallika Sarabhai, litterateur Mahasweta Devi and others asking for relief, became outdated after relief camps in the state were disbanded in August 2002.
The petition that survives makes a strong pitch for the implementation of the NHRC’s recommendations, asking for the major carnage cases, including Godhra, Gulberg, Naroda Gaon and Patiya, Ode and Sardarpura, to be reinvestigated independently by the CBI. After the scandal over the Best Bakery case in the Vadodara fast track courts, the NHRC and CJP further sought that these critical trials be transferred out of the state. The stark facts put down on affidavit by victim survivors and eyewitnesses through CJP in the Supreme Court led the court to stay these trials on November 21, 2003. Since then there have been over two dozen hearings. Not once have the victim survivors or CJP sought time. The court has however seen fit to repeatedly postpone the hearings as a result of which these major trials have been stymied. Victim survivors and witnesses wait anxiously for the Supreme Court to pronounce its verdict. Is justice delayed not justice denied?
The mass media, which has otherwise reported actual incidents without bias, has failed to link the genocide’s aftermath with the near collapse of India’s democratic institutions. As a result, the struggle against the fallout of the genocide in Gujarat and the reality of political repression and an ongoing emergency in the state has been relegated to a legal battle in the courts.
The genocide’s aftermath has, apart from the issue of delayed justice, also exposed the discriminatory deliverance of justice inherent in India’s criminal justice system. The conduct and practices being followed in the Gujarat courts have on occasion received sharp rebuke from the apex court. But even this has failed to correct the functioning of a tainted system.
The major perpetrators and masterminds of the post-Godhra violence were released on bail in next to no time by Gujarat’s courts, especially the high court, even though the crimes committed included barbarities like gang rape, massacre and multiple arson. On the other hand, 86 Muslims accused in the Godhra train arson case remain in jail five years after the incident. Included among them is a boy, Iqbal Mamdu, who is almost totally blind. Also among those still imprisoned is Maulana Umerji, a cleric and respected social worker, who was interned under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) a year after the incident. Umerji has a long history of social service – he collected donations from Godhra residents for victims of the Bhopal Gas tragedy and was the main person running the Godhra relief camp after the carnage in 2002. (The apex court, too, has remained unmoved by the bail pleas of the Godhra accused.)
In sharp contrast, Babu Bajrangi (Patel), accused number one in the Naroda Patiya carnage, roams free, enjoying political patronage from the top man in the state. An illegal racket run by the Navchetan group which he heads has, over the past eight or 10 years, abducted 350 Patel girls who ‘dared’ to marry a person outside their caste. Bajrangi has so far escaped the long arms of the law.
Bajrangi’s political clout was particularly evident during the recent Parzania film controversy. A film about a Parsee family’s anguished search for their missing son, Azhar, after the attack on Gulberg Society on February 28, 2002, Parzania was unofficially disallowed by the fascist regime in Gujarat in early 2007. Even today there is no government order banning the film. But Gujarat has no need for such legal niceties. One word from Modi or his militia is enough to terrorise multiplex owners not to show the film. It was Bajrangi who whetted the film and declared it unfit for viewing in the state.
December 2005 exposed the mass graves scandal and more callousness from the Gujarat police and administration. Hurriedly dumped skeletal remains of victims of the Pandharwada massacre were recovered by victim survivors. Legal intervention brought some relief when the Gujarat High Court ordered a DNA analysis under CBI supervision. A year later, another judge of the same court rejected a plea for an overall CBI inquiry despite the fact that eight of the samples matched the blood samples of surviving relatives. Ameenabehn Rasool, a victim survivor, and CJP have now filed an appeal in the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, victims and human rights defenders have been targeted by the local police and have had to seek anticipatory bail.
Beginning 2003, until today, persistent efforts continue by the Modi government, the administration and the police, to coerce/convince witnesses into turning hostile and so force the burial of their cases. Zahira Shaikh and her family are not alone. Zahira Shaikh served a one-year term for perjury, but the apex court which delivered this historic judgement stopped short of probing the involvement of those in power in Gujarat who had turned Shaikh and her family from the truth. Despite several applications to the Supreme Court by CJP, urging that the court should order an investigation into the roles of individual politicians who were instrumental in influencing the witness and her family, the court did not do so. To date, the mystery of Zahira Shaikh’s 10-day seclusion at the Silver Oak guest house on the Gandhinagar highway is shrouded in suspicion and secrecy. Despite the fact that this posh clubhouse was emptied of all staff for the duration of her stay, despite the fact that she was treated like a state guest by the state government and its administration, the apex court chose to leave the mystery unsolved. We all know that Zahira Shaikh committed perjury and paid for it. What we do not know are the conduits used by Modi’s men and the role of cabinet colleagues, MLAs, politicians, bureaucrats, policemen, lawyers, and even a Muslim priest, in the pay-off.
Notwithstanding all of Modi’s efforts to whitewash the intricate execution of brute crimes and the veil of conspiracy behind them, his government and administration stand severely indicted for the violence of 2002 especially by police officers who have tendered accurate records of this critical period before the ongoing Nanavati-Shah Commission.
Upholding the dignity of office, former ADGP, RB Sreekumar spurned professional lures when he filed four affidavits before the Nanavati-Shah Commission annexing invaluable records that now form part of the public domain. He suffered by not being promoted to the post of director general of police (DGP) despite being the most appropriate candidate for the job. His personal register records and indicts the chief minister and senior officials for issuing illegal instructions to the police. Sreekumar disobeyed these, inviting the wrath of political masters. Another police officer, former superintendent of police, Bhavnagar, Rahul Sharma, now serving with the CBI, submitted recordings of crucial telephone conversations, of policemen and politicians, conducted between February 27 and March 5, 2002. The recordings have exposed zealous interference in police duty by major players who were also accused in the massacres at Ahmedabad and elsewhere in the state. Despite the weight of evidence against Modi and his men, the stance of the Gujarat administration remains vindictive towards any and all who fight for justice.
The 2002 carnage in Gujarat was also marked by the cynical use of depressed sections, Dalits and tribals, for violence against the minorities while in most instances the dominant Brahmin and Patel castes orchestrated the carnage and watched. Those who have been arrested (and not been granted bail) are not the influential masterminds and architects of the pogrom but foot soldiers who executed a vicious game plan. The emergence of around 300 “only Dalit” colonies in Ahmedabad over the past few years reveals that despite Hindutva’s hyperbole and Hindu Rashtra’s pan-Hindu mantra, centuries-old taboos and caste discriminations are still in place.
Seeking reparation: Zakiya Ahsan Jaffri
The protracted anti-minority pogrom in the western Indian state of Gujarat in 2002 was foreshadowed by the systematic organisation and training of cadres of youth for violence. Infiltration by individuals belonging to organisations with a discriminatory, non-democratic approach into positions of power facilitated the orchestration of the mass killings, public and brutal sexual violence against women and girls, the seizure and ruination of homes and property, the denial of livelihoods, the desecration of religious and cultural places, and more.
The well-orchestrated pogrom followed the ghastly killing of 58 passengers, including a few kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya, in a fire on the Sabarmati Express train on February 27, 2002. The ensuing violence, which the state police failed to contain, resulted in the death of what the state claims is 963 persons (704 Muslims and 259 Hindus), injured thousands of people and destroyed or damaged property worth Rs 687 crore. Reliable independent estimates place the number of deaths at 2,500 persons from the Muslim community alone and the damage suffered at Rs 3,500 crore. According to official figures, 413 persons were ‘missing’ after the 2002 genocide. The remains of 228 persons are as yet untraced.
In its statements to the NHRC, the state of Gujarat admitted that the homes of 18,037 urban families (as against 13,222 until June 2002) and 11,204 families in rural areas (as against 10,025 until June 2002) had been destroyed or damaged. The widespread nature of these incidents of violence is evident from the fact that they occurred in 993 villages and 151 towns covering 284 police stations (of a total of 464 in the state) and spread over an overwhelming 153 of 182 assembly constituencies.
The desecration and damage of holy shrines, historic monuments, business establishments, and socio-cultural and financial institutions belonging predominantly to Muslims was another characteristic that set this orgy of violence apart from the many other anti-minority pogroms that India has witnessed in recent times. Hate propaganda in the form of anonymous pamphlets and audiovisual material, CDs, that were widely distributed preceding the genocide, helped transform entire neighbourhoods into complicit rioters. Established newspapers also used their columns for propaganda. To date, the state of Gujarat has not initiated any action against these publications. Although State Intelligence Bureau (SIB) reports suggested action against the offending newspapers, no action has been taken.
Evidence of state complicity
In the five years since the genocidal killings, incontrovertible material evidence and chains of circumstance revealed through depositions to judicial bodies by government officials and others has thrown adequate light on the anti-minority carnage. It is more than apparent that the riots and concomitant brutalities on the Muslim minority were the outcome of a well-designed conspiracy by the political leadership of the state, particularly its chief minister, Narendra Modi.
On June 8, 2006, Zakiya Ahsan Jaffri, widow of the late parliamentarian, Ahsan Jaffri (who was brutally killed by mobs during the Gulberg Society incident in Ahmedabad city on February 28, 2002), sent a complaint to the Gujarat DGP, PC Pande, asking that a first information report (FIR) be registered. The complaint was made out against chief minister, Narendra Modi – as accused number one – and 62 others, including cabinet ministers and Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and IPS officials, under section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
Ten months after the DGP failed to register the FIR despite a strong case being made regarding serious cognisable offences, Zakiya Jaffri and CJP filed a criminal application in the Gujarat High Court praying for a writ of mandamus directing the registration of an FIR and for an order transferring the case to the CBI. Some of the offences cited in the complaint relate to the following sections of the Indian Penal Code:
Section 302 read/with (r/w) Section 120 B – Murder/Criminal conspiracy.
Section 186 – Obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions.
Section 187 – Omission to assist a public servant when bound by law to give assistance.
Section 153 A – Promoting disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities – disturbing the public tranquillity.
Section 506 – Criminal Intimidation.
This is the first time that such a comprehensive petition against the chief executive of a state, and his cabinet colleagues and administration has been filed. So far the judiciary in Gujarat, which has been diffident about honouring its constitutional obligations, has delayed hearing it. The petition carries over 4,000 pages in annexures, including certified copies of all the affidavits filed by serving police officers before the Nanavati-Shah Commission. Despite the existence of these affidavits, the state of Gujarat has not initiated any investigations into the incriminating evidence available before it. On the contrary, as RB Sreekumar’s fourth affidavit to the commission states, efforts were made to pressurise him not to depose honestly before a commission of enquiry instated by the state government itself. Critical questions that ought to have been put to him and other officers were deliberately omitted by all advocates appearing before the commission, including those appearing for non-governmental organisations.
The complaint sent by Zakiya Jaffri to the DGP points out in detail how the undeclared but insidious objective was to manipulate, focus and channel the Godhra incident – to create and germinate the ire of the Hindu population, facilitate a free play of their baser instincts as seen in the large-scale brutalities and thereby reap political and electoral dividends in the election year of 2002.
The chain of circumstances and the details of evidence, post-Godhra, establish that the chief minister, Narendra Modi, and his cabinet colleagues had conspired, planned, prepared, organised and perpetrated multifarious crimes against the Muslim minority by causing and contriving to mobilise armed anti-Muslim mobs.
Modi’s government and administration stand severely indicted for the violence of 2002 especially by police officers who have tendered accurate records of this critical period before the ongoing Nanavati-Shah Commission
The pogrom was made possible by simultaneously restraining the bureaucracy through the various instruments of punishment and reward at the government’s disposal. Consequently, the officials figuring in the FIR connived with and abetted the political leadership of the state in the execution of the numerous crimes as delineated in the complaint.
Not surprisingly, the Gujarat police dithered. On March 1, 2007, Zakiya Jaffri along with CJP filed a petition urging directions from the Gujarat High Court that such an FIR, encompassing all these offences, be registered forthwith and the CBI be asked to take over a case that involves over three dozen police stations in the state. So far, three dates for hearing have come up. The first judge refused to hear the case. Since then, on two occasions the state has sought time to file an affidavit in reply. The matter now comes up on July 23, 2007.
The truth about Godhra
Crime Against Humanity – the report of the Concerned Citizens Tribunal – Gujarat 2002 and ‘Genocide-Gujarat 2002’ (Communalism Combat, March-April 2002) had poked serious holes in the false claims by the Hindutva brigade and Narendra Modi about the Godhra incident. Both these publications revealed how the state government’s Ahmedabad based Forensic Science Laboratory Report (FSLR) itself exposed the theories pushed by the state. Without investigation, Modi and saffron organisations had pinned Godhra Muslims, backed by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), as being the main culprits behind the arson. Since then, an important film, Godhra Tak, takes the FSLR report even further. The film reveals, through forensic experts, that the location of the Sabarmati Express’ S-6 coach ruled out the possibility of inflammatory liquid being flung by a mob from outside. The current union government’s railway ministry has since published its own enquiry report – the Banerjee Committee report – into the incident. Put together, Modi’s theory behind Godhra stands thoroughly exposed.
Given these findings, the blatantly biased attitude of the state (including judicial bodies in Gujarat) towards those accused in the Godhra mass arson is deeply disturbing.
Unfolding conspiracy and other crimes
Late in the evening of February 27, 2002, on his return from Godhra, Chief Minister Narendra Modi convened a meeting of senior officials attended by Addl. Chief Secretary Ashok Narayan, DGP K. Chakravarti, Commissioner of Police (CP), Ahmedabad city, PC Pande, and others. He instructed these officials to give vent to the Hindu anger against minority Muslims. (The fact that former revenue minister of Gujarat, Haren Pandya, deposed before the Concerned Citizens Tribunal in 2002 is widely believed to have led to his murder in February 2003. His father, Vithal Pandya, has alleged that the chief minister was behind his killing.)
The CM’s attitude proved a major obstacle to officers in initiating action against Hindu communal elements who were on the rampage against Muslims. By not opposing the illegal instructions of the CM and later facilitating the rioters through inaction and non-compliance of regulations, and the dereliction of statutory duties, these officials became consenting conspirators and abettors to the crimes committed by Modi and others.
Subsequent developments in Gujarat between 2002 and 2006 confirm that a series of motivated actions were carried out by the state to execute targeted attacks on Muslims, and later to deny due relief, assistance and protection to victims. Subversion and manipulation of segments of the state administration, particularly the executive magistracy (from mamlatdar to district magistrate) and the police, were the core modus operandi in the enactment of various crimes against Muslims.
There is adequate material and circumstantial evidence to prove the role of the accused persons in the commission of the crimes. A few illustrative strands of evidence are:
a. The non-initiation of preventive measures, as laid down in specific regulations, against potential offenders who were likely to indulge in anti-Muslim violence on the day of the bandh i.e. February 28, 2002.
In fact, targeted attacks on Muslims started on the evening of February 27, 2002 itself. The amount of brutalities, their intensity and range, had steadily escalated, hour after hour. But no effective actions, as preventive and deterrent measures, invoking relevant legal provisions of the CrPC and the Bombay Police Act, were resorted to. All over India and also in Gujarat, police have been periodically guided by detailed instructions on how to tackle an outbreak of communal violence through a Communal Riot Scheme. The conventional police response, in the form of arrests of potential troublemakers in the event of communal tension, as specified in the Communal Riot Scheme and other confidential police records, was conspicuously absent post-Godhra.
In none of the affidavits filed by police officers such as the CP, Ahmedabad, or the DGP, Gujarat, before the Nanavati-Shah Commission is there any mention of the arrest of communal minded persons or leaders of communal organisations, particularly those belonging to the BJP, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Bajrang Dal and the Shiv Sena. From a reading of these it is clear that the police were reluctant to arrest leaders of Hindu communal organisations even when FIRs lodged by riot victims specifically named prominent political players. In the few cases where they were arrested, the judiciary was quick to grant bail.
b. The Bombay Police Act and other regulations empower district magistrates and police officers not to release dead bodies for the purposes of a funeral procession if such a public display of the dead could intensify communal strife and jeopardise the law and order situation. Despite such regulations, the authorities (in Godhra and Ahmedabad city) permitted a parade of the bodies of the Godhra train fire victims through Ahmedabad city although many of the bodies had not yet been identified and many did not even belong to Ahmedabad city or district. This unholy exercise was carried out to fuel the communal frenzy of Hindus against Muslims.
c. Another factor that aggravated Hindu communal passions soon after the Godhra incident was the local press. False or highly exaggerated reports with a clear anti-Muslim flavour repeatedly appeared in the Gujarati print media and played a significant role in fomenting and escalating the violence. Yet no action was initiated by the state government against the offending newspapers despite specific reports in this connection by then ADGP, RB Sreekumar.
d. The inexplicable delay in requisitioning additional central police units and calling in the army also created a situation conducive for rioters to inflict their brutalities on the Muslim minority.
e. Anti-Muslim violence in Ahmedabad city started on the evening of February 27, 2002 and huge mobs comprising activists of the VHP and Bajrang Dal had attacked Muslims on the morning of February 28. However, the imposition of curfew in Ahmedabad was inexplicably delayed until about 12.30 p.m. on that day (February 28). Was this delay to help or facilitate rioters? In areas that were less communally sensitive, such as Bhavnagar, Surat and so on, curfew had been imposed in the early hours of February 28, 2002.
f. Two cabinet ministers (who were not supervising or in charge of the state home department) were positioned by the chief minister, Narendra Modi, in the offices of the DGP, Gujarat and police commissioner, Ahmedabad. Urban development minister, IK Jadeja, was in the DGP’s office whereas health minister, Ashok Bhatt, was in the police control room, Ahmedabad city. This was done to facilitate illegal interference in the law enforcement duties of the police chiefs of the state and Ahmedabad city. These facts were in fact first brought to light in articles published by the English daily, The Indian Express, in 2002.
The resultant inactivity/indifference of the police generated a feeling that Muslims could be attacked and their houses and property destroyed with impunity.
And the execution of this conspiracy, ensured by the compliance of the state administration and the police, resulted in the brutal carnage that rocked Gujarat and India. Mass murders took place in Gulberg Society, Ahmedabad city (70 persons were killed, including those missing); Naroda Patiya, Ahmedabad city (83 killed); Ode village, Anand district (27 killed); Sardarpura village, Mehsana district (33 killed); Pandharwada, Panchmahal district (40 killed); Kidiad, Sabarkantha district (65 killed) and Best Bakery, Vadodara city (14 killed).
Pathetic living conditions: Pandharwada relief camp, March 2007
Rape, killings and arson resulting in the loss of lives and property also took place in several other cities and districts of the state. In many parts of Ahmedabad Rural, Banaskantha, Dahod, Gandhinagar, Godhra, Kheda, Patan and Vadodara Rural, brutalities were inflicted on the Muslim minority by frenzied crowds instigated or led by the BJP/VHP and supported by the state administration under pressure from the political leadership in Gujarat.
Additional collateral evidence also supports the charge of conspiracy and other offences by the chief minister and his administration.
Though the most brutal atrocities on Muslims were enacted in the weeks immediately following the Godhra incident, at the time the SIB sent no analytical intelligence reports depicting the gravity of the situation to the Centre. But from April 2002 onwards, the SIB has documented the extent of state involvement and subversion of the criminal justice system in four critical reports. Copies of these reports, dated April 24, 2002, June 15, 2002, August 20, 2002 and August 28, 2002, were appended to ADGP Sreekumar’s second affidavit before the Nanavati-Shah Commission. Significantly, neither the state government nor DGP Chakravarti, to whom these assessment reports were addressed, responded with any comments or queries about their contents. Nor did they initiate any remedial action as suggested.
Numerous illegal instructions were issued by higher authorities to RB Sreekumar. The ADGP recorded these in his personal register and attached this document to the third affidavit he filed before the Commission.
The state government orchestrated its vengeance well. Modi used the instruments of transfer, promotion and post-retirement benefits to cajole, persuade and pressurise officials to follow his illegal agenda.
The declaration of a bandh on February 28, 2002, in response to the Godhra arson, was cleverly manipulated by the chief minister and the octopus-like tentacles of the sangh parivar. Although the bandh was clearly a potential threat to law and order, a communal tinderbox, there were no orders from the state government instructing the organisers to call it off nor were there any directions to the police to treat the bandh as illegal.
Further, as part of its grandiose scheme to manipulate the criminal justice system in favour of criminals who brutalised an innocent minority, the state chose to subvert proceedings at the trial stage itself. The government appointed pro-VHP advocates, including actual office bearers of the VHP, as public prosecutors to conduct cases against those accused of anti-minority crimes – where the accused belonged largely to the VHP and sister organisations. This first came to light during the hearing of the Best Bakery case in the Supreme Court in early 2004. Even as late as 2006, an unremorseful administration appointed Vinod Gajjar, who had previously appeared for the accused in the Gulberg Society massacre, to represent the government in the transfer cases before the apex court.
Moreover, to starve the Nanavati-Shah Commission of relevant data and inputs, officials of the Gujarat home department have been systematically briefing government officials summoned by the commission as witnesses. ADGP RB Sreekumar’s third affidavit describes the attempts made by state home secretary, GC Murmu, to force him (Sreekumar) into supporting the conspiracy theory with regard to the Godhra incident, and other attempts even to intimidate him.
Needless to say, the state government took no action against senior police personnel and other officials who deliberately neglected the supervision of investigation of anti-minority cases – conduct that is in gross violation of Rules 24, 134, 135 and 240 of the Gujarat Police Manual-Vol. III.
In fact, in a number of cases uniformed police personnel were found marching behind or mingling with the mob. In some cases policemen joined in the mayhem and ensured that no resistance could be offered to the rioters even as those associated with the Bajrang Dal, the VHP and the ruling BJP were in the forefront of the rioting. District magistrates/collectors/district police in several of the worst affected districts did not take appropriate action to contain the riots in those areas where mass murder, rape and other heinous crimes were taking place.
The worst indictment against the state of Gujarat is however the state’s unrepentant attitude towards victims of the genocide. Contrary to the claims made by the state administration in its affidavits before the courts and its reports to the NHRC, the ground reality is in fact far from conducive for the successful rehabilitation of riot victims. There is a serious discrepancy between victim survivors’ claims with regard to housing compensation paid and the state’s unabashed efforts to brazen it out with blatant untruths. Instead, victims of the violence have been consistently intimidated into compromising with the perpetrators as a condition precedent for their safe return and rehabilitation in their pre-riot habitats. In some of the worst carnages of the 2002 genocide, in instances of massacre where judicial trials have been stayed by the Supreme Court, victim survivors simply cannot return to their villages. Photographs taken by Communalism Combat illustrate that in many cases the state of their destroyed homes remains unchanged – they are in exactly the same condition as they were five years ago, on the day that tragedy struck. Not only has there been no closure, their wounds fester, their pain renewed at the hands of a callous administration.
Internally displaced persons
The plight of those internally displaced from their homes as a result of the violence is a continuing one. They have no permanent citizenship today, the only proof they have are election cards (recently issued) that may or may not save the day. Relief committees have built them homes on land allotted by the government, land that is often purchased at commercial rates but on an ad hoc basis and not regularised. With elections around the corner, rights groups have petitioned the election commission to ensure that election cards are issued to residents in their new locales.
As far as rehabilitation is concerned, the reality is that survivors and eyewitnesses of the Sardarpura massacre cannot return to Shaikh Mohalla in their native village. They still live as humans in Satnagar, in a neighbouring district. Survivors of the Gulberg massacre cannot return to their middle class housing colony. Survivors of the Ode massacre cannot return to their village. Well over five years after the carnage, only a few victim survivors from Naroda Gaon and Patiya have returned to their locality. Even after Supreme Court orders have been issued, the security provided to witnesses is inadequate and threats continue.
An estimated 2,50,000 individuals were displaced as a direct result of the Gujarat genocide in 2002. Of these, a vast majority have reportedly left the state or have bought or rented accommodation mainly in Muslim localities across the state. An approximate 8,000 families still live in what are currently referred to as “relief colonies” in four districts of Gujarat. Over the past five years, these habitats have become permanent places of residence for those who are too scared to return home. In the People’s Union for Civil Liberties’ right to food petition currently being heard in the Supreme Court, court commissioner, NC Saxena, has recently submitted a report on the pathetic living conditions of Gujarat’s humans. A petition challenging the state of Gujarat’s cavalier approach to compensation was filed by CJP and Communalism Combat in March 2003. In October 2006, for the first time in five years, India’s National Commission for Minorities also visited these “relief colonies” following appeals by several rights groups.
Showing no remorse whatsoever for its part in the killings, five years later, the Gujarat government has failed to provide full – or in most instances, any – reparation to victims and their families, including restitution, rehabilitation and justice. This includes the failure to adequately recompense those families whose houses were partially or completely destroyed. The government of India must ensure that it respects its obligations under both national and international law to provide appropriate and adequate reparation commensurate with the harm suffered by victim survivors and sufficient to enable them to rebuild their lives.
Archived from Communalism Combat, June 2007 Year 13 No.123, Genocide’s Aftermath Part I, Introduction
Credit: Sabrangindia https://sabrangindia.in/article/gujarat-2002-2007-genocide%E2%80%99s-aftermath