Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Post-Godhra Massacre Case: Narendra Modi, Others Get Clean Chit

The Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) has given Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi a clean chit in the post-Godhra Gulberg massacre case and sought its closure as it found no evidence against him. Modi’s clean chit was revealed by a trial court in Ahmedabad on April 10, which said that the SIT had said “it did not find any prosecutable evidence against Narendra Modi and 69 others” in the massacre. Putting a spanner in the works for Modi and others, however, are independent findings by amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran on the Gulberg killings.
The SIT was headed by former CBI Chief R.K. Raghavan and probed the Gulberg Society riots of 2002. It is believed to have said its findings should be treated as a “closure report.”
Though magistrate M.S. Bhatt did not pronounce the court's decision on the closure report, he ordered the SIT to give a copy of it, within 30 days, to the complainant, Zakia Jafri, widow of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, who was among the 69 killed in the massacre.
In his order on a batch of petitions seeking a copy of the report, including the one filed by Zakia Jafri, Bhatt said the investigators had filed a closure report, having found no evidence to justify the filing of an FIR against any of the persons named in Zakia Jafri's complaint in the Supreme Court, accusing Modi and 62 others of direct or indirect involvement in the communal riots.
The court stated: “According to the SIT, no offence has been established against any of the persons listed in Zakia Jafri's complaint. Therefore, as per the Supreme Court's order and the principle of natural justice, the complainant has to be given a copy of the report and related documents.”
No notice was needed to be issued to Zakia Jafri as she had already approached the court for a copy of the report. But the court did not make any reference to the copetitioners who sought a copy, including the Mumbai-based Citizens for Justice and Peace, which has been helping the riot victims in the legal battle.
That the SIT had given a clean chit to Modi and others was known in official circles for some time. But it was officially being confirmed by the court for the first time.
Supreme Court’s Monitoring
The SIT, whose investigations into Zakia Jafri’s complaint were monitored by the Supreme Court, has come to the conclusion that no case is made out against the accused. Hence, it has recommended a closure of the case that has already dragged on far too long and achieved nothing apart from slandering Modi and others. In normal circumstances, there would have been no need for a Supreme Court-appointed (and monitored) SIT. But these are not normal circumstances since the Congress, its stooges masquerading as ‘human rights’ activists and a biased media are intent upon pinning blame on Modi for the sheer vicarious pleasure of maligning him as also to demonstrate their ‘secular’ and ‘liberal’ credentials. Also, in normal circumstances this particular case would have come to a closure with the SIT’s report setting aside the allegations.
However, those who have scavenged on the grief and misery of the families of the victims of the 2002 violence for a decade and converted activism into a profitable business will not allow that to happen. They sought to tar the SIT soon after it was set up, fearing their campaign of calumny would be exposed; they have now shown no hesitation in maligning the SIT for telling the truth which is clearly unpalatable to them, not the least because it strips them of their mask.
SIT First Report
Earlier in May 2010, SIT gave a ‘clean chit' to Modi when it submitted to the Supreme Court its first report on the complaint of Zakia Jafri, whose husband Ehsan Jaffri, former Congress MP, was among the 69 persons killed in the Gulberg Housing Society riots in 2002.
The SIT, in its report, said: “In spite of the fact that ghastly and violent attacks had taken place on Muslims at Gulberg Society and elsewhere, the reaction of the government was not the type that would have been expected by anyone. Modi had tried to water down the seriousness of the situation at Gulberg Society, Naroda Patiya and other places by saying that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. However, this utterance by itself is not sufficient to make out a case against Modi.”
On the allegation that there was undue delay in requisitioning and deployment of the Army though anti-minority violence had broken out on February 27, 2002 afternoon itself in Vadodara and Ahmedabad, the report said, “The deployment of the Army commenced with effect from 11 a.m. on March 1, 2002 and the Army [personnel] had taken up their position[s] after being flown in from the forward areas within 21 hours of requisition by the State government.” The allegation that there was undue delay was therefore not established.
It was alleged that Modi did not visit the riot-affected areas in the initial days, though he visited the Godhra railway station on February 27, 2002 itself. The report pointed out that Modi himself admitted having visited the station the same day and that he visited Gulberg Society and other affected parts of Ahmedabad only on March 5 and 6, 2002. “This possibly indicates his discriminatory attitude and the allegations stands proved.”
Advantage Modi
The SIT report giving a clean chit to Modi in the Gulberg Society massacre during the 2002 Gujarat riots could not have come at a more appropriate time for Modi, who, by all accounts, has started nursing national ambitions now.
The court ordered that a copy of the SIT report and related documents be given to Zakia Jafri within 30 days giving her the right to pursue her private criminal complaint against Modi and others.
For sometime now, BJP supporters here have been insisting that there is no alternative to projecting Modi as the party’s prime ministerial candidate.
The Gujarat Assembly elections are scheduled for the end of the year, which the supporters firmly believe Modi would win for the third time.
The term of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Nitin Gadkari is also coming to an end at almost the same time.
Initially, there was a view that Gadkari would be given a second term. But recent events that brought Gadkari in the news for all the wrong reasons have sealed his fate.
At the same time, it is also common knowledge in BJP circles that the RSS, which eventually decides who should take command of the BJP and which had been backing Gadkari earlier, is also averse to promoting any of the D4 leaders (Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, M Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar).
The Sangh has been wary of Modi as well. But sources said that in the present scenario, Modi enjoys TINA (There is no alternative) factor.
Court Convicts Accused
An special court in Anand on April 9 convicted 23 accused and let off as many in a case it described as "rarest of rare." The court held 23 of the 47 accused guilty. One of the accused died during trial. Section 120(B) of the Indian Penal Code (conspiracy) has been applied to all 23 convicted, while 18 have also been convicted of the charge of murder, four of abetment to crime and one of unlawful activities.
According to the prosecution, a 1,500-strong mob gathered in Ode village on March 1, 2002, and started throwing stones and damaging the property of the people in the minority community-dominated Suriewali Bhagol. A handful of policemen present lobbed teargas shells and then opened fire to disperse the mob. The people dispersed, but the death of a boy, Nishith, in the police firing sparked tension.
Twenty-three persons, including nine women and as many children of the minority community, were burnt to death in a house in Pirwali Bhagol area of Ode village by a mob of over 1,500 on March 1, 2002 following the Godhra train burning incident that had triggered communal conflagration across the state.
Earlier, a court had awarded the death sentence to 11 and life term to 20 in the Godhra train burning incident in which 58 persons, mostly kar sevaks, had been killed on February 27, 2002.
The court's own decision on the matter — whether to accept or reject the closure report – will doubtless be litigated by one side or the other. But whatever the final view taken by the courts on his individual legal culpability for the tragedy of Gujarat, Modi should know this much. The fact that he remained — at best — a mute spectator to the killing of hundreds of innocent citizens and did nothing to ensure justice for the victims afterwards is a moral and political badge of dishonor that will ensure the higher office his supporters seek for him remains out of reach.
Nevertheless, it is an open secret that the Modi government has remained a mere spectator during post-Godhra carnage pogrom resulting in the destruction of over 500 places of Muslim worship and loss of precious lives for which the Gujarat High Court has indicted the state government only, as reported. In fact, all of our sensible countrymen and women must admit that whatever had happened was a blot on our secular credentials.
Modi may be the latest of the persons in power not doing the right thing in the heat of highly charged riots between communities, whoever the instigator was. It takes statesmanship to show right action even at the cost of personal popularity. I recall then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's counsel at the time to Modi to follow Raj Dharma which was sadly not followed. In addition to Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, none of the leaders since Independence including Indira Gandhi, Kumaraswami Kamaraj, Rajiv Gandhi and others followed this dictum when they faced similar challenges.
As case after case is taken up of that unfortunate period of recent history, it is sad that Modi-led Gujarat Government has not thought it fit to tender a public regret over its failure to prevent such large scale killings. The Gujarat chief minister keeps talking of the need to move on, but would not a public apology go a long way in healing 10-year-old wounds?

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