#India – Narendra Modi conspired to instigate Hindus post Godhra


29 June 2013, agencies

 

MODI1 

Zakia Jafri‘s lawyer on Saturday alleged before a court here that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had conspired to instigate Vishwa Hindu Parishad workers and other members of Hindu community after the Godhra train burning incident in 2002.Ehsan Jafri, Zakia’s husband and former Congress MP, was one of those who were slain during the riots across Gujarat after the Godhra incident.Advocate Sanjay Parikh, Jafri’s lawyer, made the allegation during the argument before Metropolitan Magistrate B J Ganatra. The court is hearing Jafri’s petition against closure report of Special Investigation Team which gave a clean chit to Modi and others in the face of the charge of complicity in the riots as levelled by Jafri in her complaint in 2008 before the Supreme Court.

“After the Godhra train burning incident, a large number of kar sevaks indulged in provocative slogan-shouting at Godhra railway station and the situation was tense…And what he (Modi) did was to call VHP Gujarat general secretary Jaideep Patel to go to Godhra and Patel instigated other VHP men and Hindus against Muslims. Therefore, Modi conspired with Jaideep Patel to instigate negative and aggressive feelings of RSS, VHP workers against Muslims,” advocate Parikh contended.

“Real conspiracy began with this instruction to Patel. He (Modi) is the chief executor of the conspiracy,” Parikh said, adding SIT failed to probe this aspect of the case.Jaideep Patel, with 81 others, is facing trial in Naroda Gaam case in which 11 people from the minority community were killed.Jafri’s `protest petition’ demands rejection of SIT report and seeks further investigation by an independent agency. Her complaint accuses Modi of being involved in the conspiracy behind wide-spread violence and misuse of the state machinery during the riots.

“There was no need for the Chief Minister to inform a VHP man and be in close contact with him, knowing fully well that after the Godhra incident, tensions may escalate and what was required was restraint and specific measures to strengthen the law and order situation,” Jafri’s lawyer said.”He, therefore, committed an omission in not discharging his duty. He in fact, by his conduct allowed communal tension to escalate,” advocate Parikh alleged, opposing SIT’s conclusion that no case was made out against Modi and others.

Inaction on Modi’s part amounted to conspiracy and abetment, the lawyer said.He further alleged the state government was aware of heavy mobilisation for Maha Yagna at Ayodhya and still did nothing to control the situation by making proper security arrangement.Parikh also submitted a copy of a statement, dated August 15, 2009, given by the then senior state minister Suresh Mehta to SIT.”As per Mehta’s statement, he was sitting next to Narendra Modi in the assembly on February 27, 2002 when Modi said `Hindus should wake up now’. This shows his mindset against Muslims and that he wanted targeted violence against that community,” Parikh alleged.The hearing would continue on July 3.

 

The Importance of Zakia Jafri’s Protest Petition


 (EPW 25MAY2013)

Vol – XLVIII No. 21, May 25, 2013 | Teesta Setalvad

 

The protest petition filed by Zakia Jafri against the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team report, which absolved Narendra Modi of all responsibility for the 2002 killings in Gujarat, is an important step towards justice for all the victims. This article recapitulates the long and diffi cult battle for justice through the courts and exposes the complicity of the SIT in protecting Modi from his crimes.

Teesta Setalvad (teestateesta@gmail.com) is secretary, Citizens for Justice and Peace.

It is not often that the battle against aggressive communalism gets sustained and validated through courts of law. This communalism is not just visible in instances of violence but encompasses the sustained mobilisation that precedes the violence, it includes hate speech and writing, as well as the deliberate debilitation of preventive measures of law and order to prevent such violence and protect the lives and properties of citizens. In the south Asian context, majoritarian communalism, fed in an insidious manner by its minority prototype, has the proclivity to deteriorate into authoritarianism, even fascism. Events, past and present, in Sri Lanka, Pakistan or India are testimony to this. In the cases of all countries of the region, communalists of the majority find ready partners with their mirror-images among the minority.

For over four decades now, aggressive communalism has made deep inroads into the pillars of the Indian republic, executive, legislature and even the judiciary. The calculated, and bloody mobilisation of an ostensibly religious kind by India’s main opposition party from the late 1980s was purely political; it consolidated a vote bank of middle- and upper-class Hindus while demonising the “minority vote bank” as the raison d’être for its existence. This section of Indians, fortuitously a numerical minority yet substantial in numbers at 27 to 30% of the overall vote, has aggressively celebrated the bloody attacks on minorities and on its opposition. Writers and commentators have analysed this phenomenon as the republic’s descent into proto-fascism, with forces of the Hindu right (the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – the parliamentary wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – and its other avatarsthe Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal (BD)) manipulating institutions of democratic governance. Our administration, our police, even our courts of justice barely withstood this systemic onslaught.

Some Success

It is in this unique context that the battle for acknowledgement, justice and accountability for the well-orchestrated state directed and executed crimes of 2002 in Gujarat, needs to be understood. For over 11 years now, a steely band of survivors, backed by groups of civil and legal rights groups and activists have extracted for the first time a degree of acknowledgement, transparency and accountability from an indifferent system. One hundred and sixteen life imprisonments pronounced to, among others, policemen, powerful politicians (one former minister) and strongmen of outfits of the VHP and BD, is a success story in its own right.

What the Zakia Jafri protest petition filed on 15 April 2013 attempts is to take this battle for accountability several steps further, and deeper. In carving out a substantial case of criminal conspiracy planned and executed by the state’s chief minister, who is also its home minister, this unique and historic legal intervention raises serious questions about the systemic build-up of communal mobilisation and inaction by state agencies and actors, the state and government’s specific response to a tragedy like Godhra on 27 February 2002 and their lack of intent to contain the impact and spread of violence.

This protest petition also brings focus on the lacunae in checking hate speech and propaganda, asks for facts about summoning assistance from the military and paramilitary forces, and does a comparative analysis of districts and police commissionerates worst affected by violence (which were 15 in number) and those where the police and civilian officials refused to bow down to political masters. It also highlights the role of whistleblowers, of survivors/activists/legal and civil rights groups, and of the media in pinning down accountability on the political leadership for these mass crimes.

Gathering the Tinder

Gujarat in early 2002 was sitting on a communal cauldron, carefully stoked since October-November of 2001. Records of the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB) that are well-documented parts of the protest petition (annexures to the affidavit of former SIB Gujarat chief, R B Sreekumar) as well as responses received from the office of the chief minister during the course of the investigation, clearly establish that sustained efforts to keep districts and cities of Gujarat on the boil were afoot (reference p 178, paras 426-42 of the protest petition). What these indicate is that the then newly sworn in chief minister, Narendra Modi who had been brought in by the party’s national leadership after a series of bye-election losses in September 2001, was at the helm of the law and order machinery as the state’s home minister but did little to act against this communal mobilisation.

SIB warnings include detailed notings of the aggressive anti-minority speeches being made by BJP leaders as also of the VHP and BD. One such comment, by one Prahlad Patel on his way to Faizabad-Ayodhya, recorded by the SIB would prove to be prescient, “Yeh andar ki baat hai, police hamaare saath hai” (The inside information is that the police is working with us). Despite this climate and the warnings, Godhra – with a poor record of communal violence – was left unguarded and unprepared. Despite platoons of the military and paramilitary being not far away (at Vadodara), they are not galvanised. When the Sabarmati Express arrived five hours late at the Godhra station on the fateful day of 27 February 2002, Gujarat was already sitting on a communal tinderbox.

It is how the Godhra tragedy has been deliberately manipulated that requires a careful and dispassionate study for all those concerned with non-partisan governance. The first information on Godhra received by the chief minister from the district magistrate, Jayanti Ravi, details the sequence of events – aggressive and provocative sloganeering by kar sevaks that caused a mob of Muslims to gather and pelt stones. The reasoning that explains partially, at least how and why a crowd gathered when the train stopped after it had left and the chain was pulled, is thereafter deliberately and consciously obliterated by the government in official statements and releases. The chief minister in the assembly around 1 pm hints at a sinister and Machiavellian conspiracy (paras 50-54 at pp 37-39 of the protest petition and paras 127-74, pp 71-92 of the protest petition).

It is other jigsaws in the puzzle that have fallen into place during the analysis of investigation papers and preparation of the protest petition that point to the chilling manoeuvres by men and women in positions of governance to abdicate their oath to the Indian Constitution and consciously allow a chain of criminal actions to spiral out of control.

Lighting the Fire

Between 9 am, when news of the tragedy at Godhra had been received, and 10.30 am, when an official meeting of home department officials was called by the chief minister, phone call records (that were deliberately ignored by the Special Investigation Team (SIT)) show that the chief minister was in close touch with Jaideep Patel (accused in the criminal complaint). Jaideep Patel, far from being a man from officialdom, was actually a strong man of the VHP, general secretary of their state unit. Despatched to Godhra soon after these telephone conversations it was the same Jaideep Patel who thereafter attended an official meeting at the Collectorate at Godhra (para 69, p 45 of the protest petition) and to whom the chief minister ordered the 54 dead bodies of Godhra victims to be handed over to. It was this VHP man who was given the responsibility of transporting these bodies to Ahmedabad in a motor cavalcade that caused violence in its wake (paras 73-81 at pp 47-50 of the protest petition) and it was Jaideep Patel who handed them over to the authorities at Sola Civil Hospital, Ahmedabad.

Jaideep Patel thereafter was also charged with being an instigator of mobs to commit violence at Naroda Gaam, the next day, 28 February 2002. This close contact between the chief minister and Jaideep Patel, both accused in Zakia Jafri’s criminal complaint dated 8 June 2006 continued right through till 28 February 2002 when the massacres at Naroda and Gulberg were being executed. At 15: 26:06 hours, Jaideep Patel called the chief minister at his official number and had a conversation lasting 141 seconds. Jaideep Patel’s was one of just three calls on this number. Incidentally, all the office and residential numbers of the chief minister for both days show a shockingly low number of calls, raising more questions than they answer. The mobile number of the chief minister has been left deliberately uninvestigated by the SIT (para 106, p 61 of the protest petition).

After these surreptitious indications of the criminal conspiracy that was to unfold, the chief minister, then health minister, Ashok Bhatt, minister of state for home, Gordhan Zadaphiya and Jaideep Patel were in touch and a controversial decision to conduct post-mortems on the bodies of the unfortunate Godhra victims, in the open at the railway yard in full public view of an aggressive crowd of VHP members baying for blood, was taken. The chief minister, who is accused number 1 in this protest petition, was present at Godhra at the railway yard while these illegal post-mortems were allowed (paras 473-77, pp 211-12 of the protest petition).

Law and procedure are exacting about whom the dead bodies are to be given; they require that the bodies remain in the safe-keeping of the police authorities (in this case the Godhra police where the case was registered) until claimed by relatives to whom they need to be handed over with due procedure. Photographs of gruesome and gory remains are strictly prohibited from being displayed or published (para 480, p 214 of the protest petition). Not only were the gory charred remains of the burnt passengers displayed but they were widely publicised in violation of Section 233, 4 (vi), Volume III of the Gujarat Police Manual.

Initiating Investigations

The narrative behind this legal journey is in itself an exploration into systemic efficacy and response. Zakia Jafri, widow of slain former parliamentarian Ahsan Jafri, first filed this criminal complaint before the director general of police, Gujarat. The man to hold this position on 8 June 2006, the date of the complaint, was none other than the many times promoted despite being indicted commissioner of police, Ahmedabad, P C Pande. When the Gujarat police failed to register a first information report (FIR), she along with the organisation Citizens for Justice and Peace approached the high court and later, when relief was denied further, the Supreme Court of India. On 27 April 2009 the Supreme Court seeing merit in the issues raised by the complaint handed it over to the already appointed SIT under former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director, R K Raghavan.

The investigations by the SIT resulted in four reports, three before the Supreme Court. While the SIT, despite contradictory findings, concluded there was no evidence against any of the accused, the amicus curiae (friend of the court) senior counsel Raju Ramachandran reported to the contrary. His report dated 25 July 2011 told the Supreme Court that there was a clear case for the prosecution of Modi and three others, at the least. Based on this contrary advice, the Supreme Court on 12 September 2011 told the SIT to file its final report after considering the amicus’ contrary view and, in the event of this being no different from its conclusions before the Supreme Court, specifically entitled Zakia Jafri to a complete set of the investigation papers to file a competent protest petition. After a battle of five years, the complaint that began with a plea for registration of an FIR had now proceeded to the stage of a charge sheet being filed against the accused.

The SIT did not change its conclusions and filed yet another report stating that no criminal charges were made out. Equally questionable was its adamant refusal to comply with the Supreme Court’s order of 12 September 2011 and give all the investigation papers to Zakia Jafri. The 514-page protest petition is an elaborate testimony to the reasons behind the SIT’s refusal to comply. Its own investigation papers have provided a wealth of further evidence about the complicity of the top political and administrative offices of the state government in paralysing its own administration into inaction, deliberately refusing preventive arrests or the declaration of curfew, allowing funeral processions to be the launching pads of attacks and rioting, etc. By 2013 it is clear that the SIT has not only performed an unprofessional job in a desultory manner, it is today, through its partisan conclusions, becoming a spokesperson for the Modi administration abandoning its role as an independent investigating agency that it was bound to be, given its appointment by the Supreme Court.

Ignoring Evidence

R K Raghavan, A K Malhotra and Himanshu Shukla, the three main spokespersons for the SIT, have cynically misled the Supreme Court when they stated that the funeral processions of the railway burning victims in Godhra and at least five to eight other locations (Khedbrahma, Vadodara, Modasa, Dahod, Anand) were peaceful. The evidence from police control room (PCR) records submitted by P C Pande (accused in the complaint) to the SIT after 15 March 2011 reveal a cold-blooded mobilisation of RSS and VHP workers at the Sola Civil hospital from 4 am onwards on 28 February 2002 in aggressive anticipation of the arrival of the dead bodies.

Repeated PCR messages, that the home department under Modi and P C Pande were trying to conceal, show that both in Ahmedabad and in several locations all over Gujarat, crowds were mobilised to aggressively parade bodies with bloodthirsty sloganeering, inciting mobs to attack innocent Muslims. The then joint police commissioner, Ahmedabad, Shivanand Jha, also an accused in the complaint was jurisdictionally in charge of Sola Civil Hospital in zone 1. As the messages extracted show, repeated PCR messages desperately ask for more “bandobast”, they speak of the staff and doctors of the hospital being under threat, of a 5,000-6,000 strong mob accompanying the bodies and finally one message also says that “riots have broken out” (paras 559-60 at pp 244-47 of the protest petition).

These records also reveal what the SIT was trying hard to conceal: that the Ahmedabad police under P C Pande, the then minister of state for home, Gordhan Zadaphiya (accused in the complaint), and Narendra Modi had enough forces to escort a VHP leader known for his incendiary slogans, Giriraj Kishore, from the airport to the Sola Civil hospital to accompany the processionists, but they did not have enough forces to send to Naroda Patiya where at least 96 persons were massacred in broad daylight and 69 persons at Gulberg society the same day and around the same time as these aggressive processions were being allowed.

Sustained warnings from the SIB, even after the Godhra tragedy on 27 February 2002, show that large sections of the police were aware and knew of what should be expected all over the state now that the Godhra tragedy had happened. As early as 12.30 pm on 27 February a SIB officer, through fax number 525, communicated to the headquarters that there were reports that some dead bodies would be brought to Kalupur Hospital station in Ahmedabad city. The same message said that kar sevaks had given explosive interviews to a television channel at Godhra and had threatened to unleash violence against Muslims.

But it is the panic messages from 1.51 am onwards on 28 February 2002 from police wireless vans positioned at Sola Civil Hospital demanding immediate protection from Special Reserve Police platoons and the presence of the deputy commissioner of police (DCP) zone 1, that are a grave testimony to the planned gory scenario that was to unfold. The message at 2.44 am on 28 February 2002 informed that the motor cavalcade had reached Sola Civil Hospital. Page No 5790 of Annexure IV, file XIV reveals that at 04.00 am a mob comprising of 3,000 RSS workers had already gathered at the Sola Civil Hospital. Again, another message three hours later at 7.17 am (p 5797 of Annexure IV, File XIV of the documents) says that a mob of 500 people was holding up traffic. By 11.55 am a PCR message was sent out saying that the Hindu mob had become violent and had set a vehicle on fire and was indulging in arson on the highway.

The message at 11.55 am (page no 6162 Annexure IV File XV) says that “Sayyed Saheb, the protocol officer had informed Sola-1 that riots have started at Sola civil hospital at the high court where the dead bodies were brought”. Again, there is another message with no indication of time (page no 6172 of 28 February 2002) that states that the officers and employees of the hospital had been surrounded by a 500 strong mob and they could not come out. The message also made a demand for more security for the civil hospital at Sola.

In a cynical disregard of this hard documentary evidence, the SIT, in its first investigation report dated 12 May 2010, in the chairman’s comments dated 14 May 2010 and in its final report dated 8 February 2012 says that the funeral processions were peaceful.

On the morning of 28 February 2002, another SIB message says that a funeral procession was allowed to take place at Khedbrahma, a town in Sabarkantha district, and adds that soon after the funeral procession two Muslims on their way to Khedbrahma were stabbed and the situation had become very tense. All this and more has been ignored by the SIT completely.

Other documentary evidence of deliberate acts of provocation by the likes of Jaideep Patel, Kaushik Mehta (both also accused) and Dileep Trivedi were recorded by the SIB. They made inflammatory false statements of “women being molested at Godhra” and the SIB records that other meetings at Vapi, Khedbrahma, Bhavnagar, etc, are being held by RSS, VHP and the BD to whip up sentiments (paras 631-37, pp 274-76 of the protest petition). One message at Annexure III, file XVIII (D-160) at page no 19, message no 531 from SIB police to K R Singh at 6.10 pm on 27 February 2002, actually records that “on 27 February 2002 at 4.30 pm when the train arrived at the Ahmedabad Railway station, the kar sevaks were armed with ‘dandas’ and shouting murderous slogans ‘khoon ka badla khoon’”.

SIT: Omissions and Commissions

While Modi travelled 300 kms to Godhra and returned the same night, he did not visit any of the refugee camps where women, children and men of the minority community had taken shelter until well after the 21-22 May 2002 visit of J S Verma, the then chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and former chief justice of India. He also announced a discriminatory compensation package for those killed at Godhra and those thereafter. The crucial, and sensational, meeting at his residence on the night of 27 February 2002 is where direct evidence of the conspiracy in operation has been alleged. Officers and others who were present have, over the past 11 years, indicated that clearly illegal orders were conveyed by the accused chief minister. Unlike crucial law and order meetings at times of crises, this meeting has not been minuted.

What transpired at this meeting was first publicly revealed through the report of the Concerned Citizens Tribunal – Crimes Against Humanity – headed by Justices V R Krishna Iyer, P B Sawant and Hosbet Suresh. Thereafter in the course of the SIT investigations, a serving officer of the Gujarat police, Sanjiv Bhatt testified directly and corroborated this. The protest petition makes a strong case for testing this evidence in court. Amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran in his report to the Supreme Court had also clearly opined that it is not for the investigating agency to prejudge the evidence but place it to be tested during trial.

Despite the evidence of intense communal mobilisation, bloodthirsty speeches and actual attacks on Muslim citizens on the day of the Godhra tragedy, there is no appeal for peace and calm by the state’s chief minister and home minister. No preventive arrests were made, despite 19 attacks on minorities in Ahmedabad on 27 February 2002 itself, nor were prohibitory orders issued. There is no clarity either, from the investigation papers, as to when the army was actually called and deployed. The SIT had not bothered to record the statement of major Zameeruddin Shah, in charge of the army operations in Gujarat, nor that of K P S Gill, sent by the central government in May 2002 simply because the violence continued and refused to stop. Hence the protest petition, apart from praying for the charge sheeting of all the accused, also makes a strong case for a transfer of the further investigation to an independent agency.

The failure of the SIT was in its inability to examine the evidence objectively. An honest and robust investigation would have made a strong comparative analysis between those districts of Gujarat that burned and those that withstood the illegal instructions from above while succumbing to rampaging militias of the RSS-VHP-BD combine from below. Bhavnagar and Panchmahals are interesting studies. Superintendent of police Rahul Sharma, despite all attempts to unleash bloodshed, held his own, even though reinforcements and troops were deliberately delayed by his seniors in Gandhinagar. Annoyed at his non-partisan conduct he was transferred by 26 March 2002. Brought to the crime branch, he again made significant inputs about non-partisan charge sheets in both the Gulberg and Naroda Patiya investigations; he was transferred yet again.

In Conclusion

The narrative of the conspiracy of partisan governance and subversion of the justice process runs parallel to a cynical policy of punishing those officers who refused to become collaborators in the planned bloodshed. Unfashionable as it is to quote from Jawaharlal Nehru when he said that “The [real] danger to India, is from Hindu right-wing communalism”, it seems more than appropriate given the continued attempts by the government in power in Gujarat and the party in power, to belittle what has been an onerous and exacting battle, fought at great risk, within the courts.

 

Press Release- Understanding Communal Mobilisation –Lessons from the Zakia Jafri Protest Petition


Press Release

May 7, 2013

The filing of the Zakia Jafri Protest Petition before the Magistrate on 15 April 2013 is a significant landmark in the sustained battle for the Rule of Law, Constitutional Governance and against communal forces and their vicious mobilisation within organs of the state and through unholy alliances with non-state actors. The petition, filed after a sustained battle to get a fair and transparent investigation against a chief minister, cabinet colleagues, senior administrators, policemen and front men and women of the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal will now make a strong case for charge sheeting of 59 accused.

Apart from the individual accused involved in this case, against whom a strong case for criminal culpability and administrative connivance and failure has been made out, the wider issues raised are critical to understand. Communal mobilisation precedes violence. It’s transformation into brute attacks against targeted sections of the population remain fundamental threats to the lasting security of all Indians, communal harmony and the secularisation of the Indian polity.

We believe therefore the wider issues raised through the Zakia Jafri Protest Petition are debated widely to ensure a greater understanding of such mobilisation and to build a resistance to the same in future. Only then can we collectively demand a transparent and accountable system of governance from our representatives and the parties that they represent. The entire text of the Protest Petition can be accessed at

http://www.cjponline.org/zakia/protpetition/Protest%20Petition%20PART%20I.pdf

http://www.cjponline.org/zakia/protpetition/Protest%20Petition%20PART%20II.pdf

Important Issues Raised in the Petition

  • Aggressive Mobilisation of Communal Forces and Response of State Agencies & Government Monitoring and Check on Hate Speech, Hate Writing, Pamphleteering
  • State and Government Response to a Tragedy like Godhra on 27 February 2002
  • Contemporaneous Records that Reveal Government Callousness or Indifference
  • Transparency in Summoning assistance from the Military /Paramilitary forces
  • Comparative Analysis of Districts & Commission records worst affected (15) and those that held their own (SPs/DMs refused to bow down to political masters)
  • Role of Whistleblowers in Pinning down Accountability
  • Role of Survivors/Activists/ Legal and Civil Rights Groups
  • Role of the Political Class
  • Role of Media

Build Up of Violence prior to 27.2.2002

The state intelligence records available to the state government and administration reveal that there was a systematic build up of aggressive communal mobilisation, hate speech etc even prior to February 27, 2003.These details are available in textual and tabular form in the Protest Petition. These provide significant pointers to the workings and operations of the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB) that is sending out warnings and the police administration, home ministry (headed by the chief minister) that is systematically ignoring them. This aspect needs to be understood by us to ensure that such warnings are heeded in future. Reference: Pages 193-202 of the Protest Petition & Paras 457 – 469 at Pages 204-209 of the Protest Petition.

Monitoring & Check on Hate Speech, Hate Writing and Pamphleteering

Responsible sections of the Gujarat administration, senior IPS officers who were on the field manning districts and controlling attempts to provoke violence there as also senior police officer like then ADGP (Intelligence) RB Sreekumar had strongly recommended action under Sections 153 a, 153 b of the PC against certain newspapers and publications that had consciously published provocative and incendiary material not based on facts. Action against pamphlets circulated by the VHP was also advised. However the government and its home department has, to date not taken any action that was recommended.

In fact the Amicus Curiae in the case Advocate Raju Ramachandran has himself recommended prosecution against the chief minister for violation of the law on hate speech. The Protest Petition deals at length on the deleterious impact of hate speech and hate writing and the inaction of the state government. The chief minister had in fact sent congratulatory letters to those Gujarati newspapers that had indulged in such incendiary writing and excluded from praise at least three publications (Prabhat and Gujarat Today) that had been responsible in reportage (Editor’s Guild Report).. Reference at Paras 126-153at Pages 72-85 of the Protest Petition & Para 234 at Page 116 of the Protest Petition

No Appeal for Calm, No Visit to Relief Camps, Discriminatory Behaviour

Quite apart from the infamous meeting on the night of February 27, 2002 about which facts have to be tested – through examination and cross-examination of witnesses during trial — the administration’s lackluster response to protection of lives and maintenance of peace following the Godhra tragedy is itself a testimony to a conspiracy in evidence.  There were no appeals for Restraint, Peace and Calm; No Preventive Arrests were made on February 27, 2002 despite the fact that violence had already broken out and the SIB was warning of widespread communal mobilisation; no issuing of Prohibitory Orders and declaration of Curfew except in Godhra town; worst, the government support to the bandh proved to be a cynical mechanism by which the streets were allowed to be taken over by rabid bands of the RSS-VHP and Bajrang Dal. The SIT has not thoroughly probed the deployment of army and paramilitary and not even examined independent witnesses like the Major in charge of Army Operations and KPS Gill sent in by the Centre.

Indicting Documentary Evidence Ignored

Evidence from Police Control Room (PCR) records submitted by then Commissioner of Police (2002), PC Pande to the SIT after 15.3.2011 reveal cynical and cold-blooded mobilization of RSS workers and VHP men at the Sola Civil hospital from 4 a.m. onwards on 28.2.2002 in aggressive anticipation for the arrival of the dead bodies. Repeated PCR messages, that the home department under Narendra Modi (A-1, who held the home portfolio) and PC Pande (A-21) were trying to conceal, show that both in Ahmedabad and in several locations all over Gujarat crowds were mobilized to aggressively parade bodies with bloodthirsty sloganeering, inciting mobs to attack innocent Muslims. The then joint police commissioner, Ahmedabad, Shivanand Jha, also an accused in the complaint (A-38), was jurisdictionally in charge of Sola Civil Hospital in Zone 1. As the messages extracted in the Protest Petition atPara 559 at Pages 244-247 of the Protest Petition show, repeated PCR messages desperately ask for bandobast; they speak of the staff and doctors of the hospital being under threat; of a 5,000-6,000 strong mob accompanying the bodies and finally one message also says that “riots have broken out.”

Yet the entire Home department under the chief minister and senior bureaucrats and policemen who had been neutralised including Chakravarti (A-25) and PC Pande (A-29) in collaboration with the SIT have strived hard to conceal this evidence. While such aggressive funeral processions were allowed in Ahmedabad, an equally explosive situation prevailed simultaneously in Khedbrahma, Vadodara, Modasa, Dahod, Anand etc. The PCR records, also reveal that while the Ahmedabad police under PC Pande and the home department under Modi and then MOS, home Gordhan Zadaphiya (A-5) had enough forces to escort a VHP leader known for his inciteful slogans, Acharya Giriraj Kishore, from the airport to the Sola Civil hospital to accompany the processionists, shouting filthy hate speeches and murderous slogans. But they did not have enough forces to send to Naroda Patiya where 96 persons were massacred in broad daylight, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. over several hours (according to the charge-sheet though actual figures may be higher). Similarly the daylight massacre of 69 persons at Gulberg society the same day was permitted by a callous administration (PC Pande did not step out of his office barely 1-2 kms away from Naroda and Gulberg; besides he was in close touch with the chief minister’s office (CMO) between 12 noon and 3.40 p.m. that coincided with the height of the violence. Modi allowing and openly supporting the bandh and neutralising his administration, decided to give the RSS, VHP, BD mobs a free run of the Gujarat streets to massacre innocents.

Warnings Ignored (from SIB and PCR messages)

From as early as 12:30 pm on the 27th February: An SIB officer through fax no 525 communicated to the headquarters that there were reports that some dead bodies would be brought to Kalupur Hospital station in Ahmedabad city. “So communal violence will occur in the city of Ahmedabad; so take preventive action.” Another SIB message numbered as Out/184/02 again warned about communal incidents if bodies were brought to Ahmedabad. “Communal violence will occur in the city. So take preventive action.”  The same message said that karsevaks had given explosive interviews to a TV station at Godhra and had threatened to unleash violence against the Muslims.

At 1:51 hours and again at 1:59 hours (early morning ) on the February 28, 2002, there were panic messages by wireless police vans positioned at Sola Hospital demanding immediate protection from Special Reserve Police platoons and the presence of DCP Zone 1.Message at 2:44 hours on 28.2.2002: the motor cavalcade has reached Sola Civil Hospital. Page No. 5790 of Annexure IV, File XIV reveals that at 04:00 am a mob comprising of 3,000 swayamsevaks, that is the members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), had already gathered at the Civil Sola Hospital. At 7.14 a.m. the PCR van again informs the Police Control Room that a large mob had assembled at the hospital. (Page 5796 of Annexure IV, File XIV of the documents). Again, another message three minutes later at 7:17 a.m. (Page 5797 of Annexure IV, File XIV of the documents) says that a mob of 500 people was holding up the traffic. Ten bodies were taken to Ramol, an area near Naroda and a massive funeral rally of over 5,000-6,000 mourners took the bodies to Hatkeshwar crematorium in the afternoon. At 11:55 am a PCR message is sent out saying that the Hindu mob had become violent and had set a vehicle on fire and was indulging in arson on the highway. Message at 11.55 a.m. on 28.2.2002 (Page No. 6162 Annexure IV File XV) saying that “Sayyed Saheb, the Protocol Officer had informed Sola-1 that riots have started at Sola civil hospital at the High Court where the dead bodies were brought.”Again, there is another message with no indication of time (Page No..6172 of 28.2.2002) that states that the officers and employees of the hospital had been surrounded by a 500 strong mob and they could not come out”. The message also made a demand for more security for the civil hospital at Sola. Annexure IV File XIV- Message No. 5907 and 5925 at 11:58 a.m. on 28.2.2002 shows that when 10 dead bodies were taken from Ramol Jantanagar to the Hatkeshwar cremation ground, a crowd of 5,000-6,000 persons accompanied this procession. On the morning of 28.2.2002, a SIB message (on page 258 of Annexure III File XIX, message No. Com/538/28/2/02) says that a funeral procession was allowed to take place at Khedbrahma, a town in Sabarkantha district. The message adds that soon after the funeral procession 2 Muslims on their way to Khedbrahma were stabbed and the situation had become very tense.

Firebrigade Neutralised

Throughout February 28, 2002 while fires were set all over Ahmedabad city, PCR records show that repeated calls from different areas to the Fire Brigade drew went answered. PCR records show that repeated distress calls to the Fire Brigade from different parts of Ahmedabad went unanswered. Reference – Para 827 at Pages 369-372 of the Protest Petition. This is further evidence of the deliberate neutralisation of the administration.

Comparative Violence

The Protest Petition also makes a systematic study of those districts where violence did not break out largely because of the men and women at the helm who refused to abet the wider conspiracy. For an effective understanding of whether the widespread and brutal and systemic violence in 14 of Gujarat’s 29 districts and commissionerates was on account of a pre-planned and systematic neutralistion of the preventive and protective Constitutional mechanisms, the SIT ought to have undertaken just such an exercise. Instead it willfully concealed from the Supreme Court of India the wealth of documentary evidence collected through the SIB (January 2010) and the PCR records of Ahmedabad city (post March 15 2011). Similar PCR data of other parts of Gujarat was deliberately not collected by the SIT.

The role of whistleblower policemen and administrators through the investigations and the past eleven and a half years has been significant. The affidavits and phone call CDs submitted by then SP Bhavnagar and DCP Crime Rahul Sharma have been critical. Today he is being consistently targeted with one chrage sheet and six notices being served on him. Former DGP RB Sreekumar who’s first four affidavits before the Nanavati- Shah Commission provided a thorough documentation of the functionings of the government at the time was also similarly victimised. Lastly Sanjiv Bhatt has also been targeted. Interestingly the evidence of all three whistleblowers has been given little credence by the SIT except when they in small measure support one or the other of SIT’s claims.

The Citizens for Justice and Peace has assisted complainant Zakia Ahsan Jafri in this legal battle. Both Mrs Jafri and her family and the CJP, especially its secretary and band of lawyers continue to carry on this legal battle at great personal risk. On May 1, 2013 the Magistrate that had heard the SIT arguments for six days since April 24, 2013, was transferred. By May 15, 2013, when the next Magistrate takes over, the day to day hearings in this matter are likely to resume.

We hope that this case that has a great significance for the control and containment of state sponsored communal violence is allowed to continue without interruption and delay.

Ram Rahman                                                   Teesta Setalvad

 

Gujarat – Contours of a conspiracy


Frontline May, 2013

A protest petition filed by Zakia Jafri weaves together evidence, from contemporaneous phone and police control room records, pointing to the role of the powers that be in manipulating the Godhra incident to plan the violence against the Muslim community. By TEESTA SETALVAD

Criminal conspiracy under the law is defined as an agreement between at least two persons to commit one or more illegal acts or acts by illegal means. By its criminal intent, such a conspiracy is masterminded under a cloak of secrecy. When, and if, such a conspiracy involves a powerful, constitutionally elected head of a state, it is unlikely that the masterminding of such a series of dastardly criminal acts will be closely recorded (minuted).

The first, sharp indication that the series of acts of commission and omission by the Gujarat government under its Chief Minister in 2002, following the tragedy at Godhra, came in succinct terms from the former Chief Justice of India J.S. Verma, who was heading the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC): “The Commission would like to observe at this stage that it is the primary and inescapable responsibility of the State to protect the right to life, liberty, equality and dignity of all of those who constitute it. It is also the responsibility of the State to ensure that such rights are not violated either through overt acts, or through abetment or negligence. It is a clear and emerging principle of human rights jurisprudence that the State is responsible not only for the acts of its own agents, but also for the acts of non-State players acting within its jurisdiction. The State is, in addition, responsible for any inaction that may cause or facilitate the violation of human rights” (Interim and final reports, 2002). The NHRC was also scathing in its observations regarding the blatantly discriminatory governance displayed by the government of the day —differential rates of compensation and an obdurate refusal to visit the relief camps (1,68,000 persons were forcibly displaced because of the violence and arson) where innocent members of the minority community were housed, having been made to “pay” for the “heinous” crime at Godhra.

The report of the Concerned Citizens Tribunal (Crimes Against Humanity—Gujarat 2002), headed by Justices V.R. Krishna Iyer, P.B. Sawant and Hosbet Suresh, further detailed the gruesome conspiracy, making sharp and telling recommendations. While these reports were being documented, in parallel, chilling corroboration of the depth of the planning behind the perpetrated violence came from serving Indian Police Service (IPS) officers of the Gujarat government, former ASGP Intelligence R.B. Sreekumar, and S.P. Bhavnagar and DCP Crime Branch Rahul Sharma. They filed their affidavits before the Nanavati-Shah Commission within months of the violence. By 2004, when two of the criminal trials arising out of the state-perpetuated carnage, the Best Bakery and the Bilkees Bano cases, had been transferred out of Gujarat for trial, these officers had been examined by the Nanavati-Shah Commission, and Sharma had produced a CD of five lakh phone records that provided more evidence of complicity and planning behind the attacks.

All this material was put together in a criminal complaint by Zakia Ahsan Jafri, assisted by the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), and sent to the by then Director General of Police (DGP) P.C. Pandey, an officer seriously indicted for connivance in allowing Ahmedabad to burn for weeks in 2002. He had been the happy recipient of a series of promotions by the man at the helm, the State’s Home Minister who was, and is, also the Chief Minister. Expectedly, this criminal complaint dated June 8, 2006, was treated with contempt, compelling Zakia Jafri and the CJP to petition the Gujarat High Court and later the Supreme Court of India for an order for the registration of a first information report (FIR) against the 60-plus accused. Today, arguments for and against charge-sheeting the 59 accused (two have since died, former Health and Law Minister Ashok Bhatt and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or VHP, ideologue Prof. K.K. Shastri) have begun before a magistrate’s court in Ahmedabad.

Unique legal effort

The courts will adjudicate on a unique legal effort at pinning criminal and administrative culpability and responsibility on the political and administrative leadership and the frontrunners of non-state actors (from the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, or RSS, and the VHP) who were given the run of Gujarat’s streets. Between 2006, when the complaint was first sent to the DGP, Gujarat, to September 12, 2011, when the Supreme Court gave the complainants the right to approach a court in Ahmedabad, a detailed (if wanting) investigation was completed and, in criminal law terms, the stage was set for charge-sheeting some or all of the accused. In the interim, finding the high-profile Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted by it wanting, the Supreme Court of India had on May 5, 2011, directed the amicus curiae in the case, Raju Ramachandran, to assess the evidence—he found enough material to prosecute accused number 1, the State’s Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, and at least three others. The SIT, in its final report filed on February 8, 2012, gave a clean chit to everyone.

Students of law and politics can learn much from a close study of this legal drama. Serious efforts at weaving together the threads of the sinister and massive conspiracy that had been alleged in the complaint were expected from such a high-profile SIT. From the start, however, the SIT deliberately set its bar low, preferring to look at only stray, discreet and superficial aspects alleged in the complaint, deliberately ignoring the import and consequences of a series of criminal and negligent acts and their impact. It ignored contemporaneous documentary evidence, the systematic use of instigative vitriol by the state and non-state accused, and rigidly refused to record statements of independent agencies like the officers of the Indian Army and Central intelligence who were privy to the consummate failures of the time.

It is no wonder then that it took the complainant, Zakia Jafri, a whole year after the final report was filed by the SIT on February 8, 2012, to get the Supreme Court to order full and complete access to all the documents and investigation reports, on February 7, 2013. The SIT did everything within in its power not just to give a clean chit to all the powerful accused but to deny the complainant her legal and moral right to access all investigation papers to facilitate and lend meaning and authority to a comprehensive protest petition.

Evidence of a cold-blooded conspiracy to manipulate the tragic Godhra incident—from the moment of the terrible news—has emerged. The petition weaves together evidence from an analysis of phone records, as also documentary contemporaneous records, and alleges that the conspiracy involved the Chief Minister, accused number 1, who was in close consultation with the then Health Minister Ashok Bhatt (accused no. 2), Urban Development Minister I.K. Jadeja (accused no. 3) and other co-accused Cabinet colleagues, and especially VHP leader Jaideep Patel (accused no. 21), to fully exploit the tragedy at Godhra for fuelling the meticulously planned massacre of Muslims all over Gujarat. The petition makes the following points:

Phone call records show that Narendra Modi was in close touch with Jaideep Patel immediately after information of the Godhra tragedy came in, even before he met Home Department officials and Ministers. Thereafter, there was a hasty and publicly conducted post-mortem at Godhra, out in the public against all law and procedure while a crowd of VHP workers was present. Narendra Modi was present while this happened. While passions were being so cynically stoked, another decision to hand over the bodies of Godhra victims to VHP strongman Jaideep Patel was taken at a mini Cabinet meeting presided over by the Chief Minister in Godhra, at which the co-accused Ministers were present. Jaideep Patel too was present at the meeting. Senior members of the administration and police were intimidated and neutralised. Other co-accused, the then Gujarat Director General of Police, K. Chakravarti (A-25), the then Police Commissioner, Ahmedabad, P.C. Pandey (A-29), the then additional Chief Secretary, Home, Ashok Narayan (A-28), and other key members of the bureaucracy and police were co-conspirators.

The SIT seems to have deliberately ignored the documentary evidence collected during the investigation. Key field reports from the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB) from all the districts were given to the SIT by January 2010, that is, a full three and a half months before the SIT submitted its first investigation report to the Supreme Court on May 12, 2010. These reports reveal a grim ground-level reality: gross provocations and bloodthirsty slogans by VHP workers from 4 p.m. onwards on the afternoon of February 27, 2002 (“Khoon ka badla khoon se lenge”, blood for blood) while Narendra Modi had still not left for Godhra. The late-night meeting at Narendra Modi’s residence effectively neutralised the police and the administration from doing its constitutional duty. The protest petition states that the credibility of the evidence relating to the critical February 27, 2002, meeting must be tested during trial and that it was not the job of the investigating agency to pre-judge the issue, acting like a court, overstepping its jurisdiction to protect and save the powerful accused. This is also what the amicus curiae, Raju Ramachandran, had opined.

Damning evidence

Evidence from the Police Control Room (PCR) records submitted by P.C. Pandey to the SIT after March 15, 2011 (that is, after the Supreme Court ordered the SIT to further investigate the complaint of Zakia Jafri dated June 8, 2006) reveals a cynical and cold-blooded mobilisation of RSS workers and VHP men at the Sola Civil Hospital from 4 a.m. onwards on February 28, 2002, in aggressive anticipation of the arrival of the dead bodies. Yet, both the SIT reports state that the funeral processions were peaceful. Repeated PCR messages, messages that the Home Department under Narendra Modi (A-1, who held the Home portfolio) and P.C. Pandey (A-21) were trying to conceal, show that both in Ahmedabad and in several locations all over Gujarat, crowds were mobilised to parade bodies with bloodthirsty sloganeering, inciting mobs to attack innocent Muslims. Repeated PCR messages desperately ask for bandobast; they speak of the staff and doctors of the hospital being under threat; of a 5,000-6,000-strong mob accompanying the bodies and, finally, one message also says that “riots have broken out”. Equally volatile mobilisations were allowed simultaneously at Khedbrahma, Vadodara, Modasa, Dahod, Anand, and so on. A cynical government under Narendra Modi and his co-accused have done their best to conceal this evidence. The SIT ignored such hard documentary evidence completely.

The PCR records also reveal that the Ahmedabad Police under P.C. Pandey and the Home Department under Narendra Modi and the then Minister of State, Home, Gordhan Zadaphiya (A-5) had enough forces to escort a VHP leader known for his inciteful slogans, Acharya Giriraj Kishore, from the airport to the Sola Civil Hospital to accompany the processionists. But they did not have enough forces to protect the hapless citizens of Naroda Patiya and Gulberg, where over 200 persons were massacred the same day. Narendra Modi allowed and openly supported the bandh during which RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal mobs had a free run of the streets.

Judicially, the Modi government has received several reprimands, and even warnings, right from the 2004 Best Bakery case to the more recent findings of the higher courts, for its attitude towards the rebuilding of 297 masjids and durgahs wilfully destroyed in 2002. Yet, the same government which has received consistent and serious setbacks on issues relating to constitutional governance won three elections. A serious dilemma or battle between electoral and constitutional governance?

 

Gujarat- Voice of Victims #Narendramodi


Frontline- May17,2013

GUJARAT CHIEF MINISTER NARENDRA MODI’S SPIN doctors have been portraying him as the new messiah of the country. In their enthusiasm to project him as the next Prime Minister, they even claim that he has appeased the minorities (read Muslims), and that they have apparently begun to accept him as a leader worth reckoning.

But the ground reality is something else. “If he becomes the Prime Minister, he will turn the country into another Gujarat. He is the country’s biggest enemy. He does not believe in democracy, peace, communal harmony or anything that India stands for. He has brought so much suspicion and distrust in Gujarat that he will ruin the country,” says Yusuf Pathan, a survivor of the 2002 communal riots in Mehsana district. “Modi is no messiah. Whatever development is seen in Gujarat has come from the Central government. He is fooling everyone by making them believe it is he who is taking Gujarat forward.”

The majority of Muslims across Gujarat will concur with Pathan’s views. Frontlinetravelled to several parts of the State to understand the condition of the minority communities, particularly Muslims, who are perhaps the most persecuted community in Gujarat, and check the veracity of the development claims.

Whether it is access to housing, employment and education or the exercise of fundamental rights, Muslims, who constitute about 9 per cent of the population, are marginalised or treated as second-class citizens. The injustices done to them are so blatant that it is hard to believe that Modi has any desire to appease these sections.

There are plenty of indicators to prove that Gujarat under Modi has no place for minorities. Several recent reports and analyses show that the Muslims of Gujarat are among the poorest and most discriminated against community in the country. Additionally, the employment of tactics such as amending laws to suppress the community establishes Modi’s agenda.

 

 

The Chief Minister sought to curb the freedom of choice of religion by passing the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Law, 2003. This law stipulates that anyone wanting to convert to another religion must take the state’s permission. In 2009, he introduced an amendment to the Gujarat Prohibition of Transfer of Immovable Property and Provisions for Protection of Tenants from Eviction from Premises in Disturbed Areas Act, 1991, purportedly to check illegal transfer of property in the communally sensitive areas of Ahmedabad and Vadodara.

The law essentially requires people from one religion to take permission from the state to sell their property if the buyer is from another religion. Modi has ensured that Muslims and other minorities do not benefit from the various Central government schemes. He sought to prevent the implementation of the Centre’s pre-matriculation scholarship scheme for students from minority communities. The scholarships were not disbursed in Gujarat because Modi felt it would be discriminatory against other religions. Gujarat has been allotted 55,000 scholarships of which 53,000 are for deserving Muslim students. On February 15, the Gujarat High Court, hearing a bunch of public interest petitions, ruled in favour of the scheme.

The danger of having Modi at the helm is that he will divide and rule, because that is the only language he knows, people belonging to the minority community say.

Pathan lost 11 of his family members in the post-Godhra riots at Dipda Darwaza in Mehsana district. This was one of the nine cases into which a further probe was conducted by the Special Investigation Team (SIT). In July 2012, a special court convicted 21 people for rioting and attempt to murder in the Dipda Darwaza case. Pathan earns a living by running a paan shop in Visnagar in Mehsana district. Several riot-affected families have been provided some manner of housing by the relief committees. But, relief and employment and education opportunities are still not available for the victims.

“Though they have been given houses, there are no amenities. There are open sewers and water stagnates in them. One tap has been provided for running water, but it is defunct,” Pathan says. The majority of Muslims in this area are poor. They work as farmhands or as manual labourers at construction sites. Some of them take up odd jobs in small industrial units.

“Whoever wants Modi to become the Prime Minister wants the country to be ruined,” says Abid Khan, who works in a timber yard and also drives an autorickshaw. “Modi does not listen to the poor. He only listens to the rich Muslims who only have their business interests in mind.”

“What has Modi done in the name of development? The human development index of Gujarat is declining,” says Iqbal Sheikh, who is also a complainant in the Dipda Darwaza case.

 

 

An hour’s drive from Visagar is Himmatnagar in Sabarkantha district where families of victims in the Sardarpura massacre have been provided protected housing. This small colony, tucked away from the main highway, has 22 families. Here again there is no sanitation or regular electricity or water supply. About 10 people live in each 10×10 feet room. This small lane of houses borders the Dalit colony on the fringes of the village, and those familiar with the caste system will realise that this is nothing but social exclusion.

“You have visited us before. Nothing has changed since then,” says Basheera Bibi, who lost her husband in the riots. “There is still no public health clinic in the vicinity. The only school, which has up to class VIII, is located far away. We work in the fields. But this year, the agriculture season has been very bad.”

Abdul Khan, a 40-year-old labourer from Himmatnagar, says, since the area is affected by drought there is no work throughout the year. Our rozi roti [daily bread] depends on daily wage employment. For this we have to travel quite far. If I am lucky I earn Rs.50 a day.”

Discriminated by the state

A report by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), authored by Abusaleh Shariff in 2011, sums up the discrimination best. The report explores “the relative development of Gujarat, followed by the socio-religious differentials in the standard of living in the State”. Shariff, who has drawn data from the National Sample Survey Organisation, the Sachar Committee report and the Reserve Bank of India, provides some crucial and telling statistics that testify to the fact that Muslims in Gujarat are marginalised largely because of state policies.

Says the report: “Poverty amongst the urban Muslims is eight times (800 per cent) higher than high-caste Hindus, about 50 per cent more than the Hindu-Other Backward Classes and the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes [S.Cs/S.Ts]. Note that over 60 per cent of all Gujarati Muslims live in urban areas and they are the most deprived social group in Gujarat. On the other hand, rural poverty amongst the Muslims is two times (200 per cent) more than high-caste Hindus.”

He observes that educationally, Muslims are the most deprived community in Gujarat. A mere 26 per cent reach the level of matriculation, whereas the proportion for others, except the S.Cs/S.Ts, is 41 per cent. A large number of Muslim pupils drop out around class V. A disturbing trend was noticed in respect of higher education. Muslims who had the same level of education as other categories in the past are left behind compared with even S.Cs/S.Ts. A startling fact revealed by the study is that upper-caste Hindus have benefited the most from the public provisioning of higher education in recent years.

 

 

On the employment front, it found that a larger number of Muslims in Gujarat are self-employed or do petty trade. Self-employment and petty trade have shown only a marginal income growth in the past two decades in comparison with other sectors of the economy. In Gujarat, foreign direct investments and public investments are channelled into the organised sector where Muslims do not find employment.

Shariff says it must be noted that Muslims generally have better employment opportunities in State public sector enterprises across India, whereas in Gujarat they do not have access to organised and public sector employment.

“There exists deep-rooted poverty and income inequality in Gujarat. Putting the Muslim situation in this larger framework, the empirical evidence suggests that relative to other States and relative to other communities, Muslims in Gujarat are facing high levels of discrimination and deprivation,” he says.

Sophia Khan, a women’s rights activist in Ahmedabad, says, “All the challenges remain the same. Just because there is no visible violence on the streets does not mean that we are not targeted.” She says the issue is about internally displaced people. Severe polarisation has happened during Modi’s tenure and this will continue because he has ensured distrust between communities.

There are few options by way of leadership for Gujarat’s Muslims. Sophia Khan says it is unfortunate that the community cannot mobilise itself, find a voice and provide some able leaders. She says it is inaccurate to say that Muslims are voting the BJP. Where they are a minority, they have no option, mostly because there is no alternative. However, she says, Juhapura, which has three lakh Muslims, is a case in point. The area, which was a ghetto providing refuge to riot-affected people, has become a suburb of Ahmedabad and looks after the needs of the city’s Muslims, who, over a period of time, have literally been hounded out of “Hindu areas”.

She says the BJP fielded a retired Muslim Indian Police Service officer from Juhapura in the Assembly elections, but he lost. “This shows that we will not vote the BJP even if they put up a Muslim candidate. Modi will soon realise the country does not consist of only Gujarati middle class. He does not understand or follow the Constitution. How can he become the Prime Minister?”

In fact, in Modi’s Gujarat, even Christians, Dalits and S.Ts are not spared. For instance, Gujarat’s Christian population is 0.53 per cent. Even that is a threat to the Chief Minister.

The human rights activist Father Cedric Prakash told Frontline: “Christians in Gujarat [especially those who are from the tribal communities or belong to the backward classes] are subject to intimidation and harassment. Recently, the police visited one of our spiritual centres demanding to see the baptism register. This does not happen anywhere else in the country.”

On Easter Sunday, a huge right-wing Hindu rally demanding that Gujarat be declared a Hindu state by 2015 was held in Maninagar, Modi’s constituency, he said.

The plight of the minorities in the State never seems to improve.

 

 

 

#India – Mother courage against #Narendramodi


Dileep Padgaonkar 
21 April 2013, 02:34 PM IST

Zakia Jafri deserves accolades for her grit and determination to get justice for her slain husband.

On April 24,  a magistrate in Ahmedabad will begin daily hearings on a petition filed by Zakia Jafri, widow of the slain Congress leader Ehsan Jafri, challenging the clean chit that the Special Investigation Team gave Narendra Modi’s for his alleged role in the Godhra and post-Godhra violence in 2002. She contends that the SIT overlooked masses of evidence – including dispatches filed by the intelligence department and detailed records of cell-phone calls made on Februray  28, the day on which her husband and 70 others were killed in the city’s Gulberg Society – to save the Gujarat chief minister’s skin.

The calls indicate that as soon as he was he informed about the burning of the train at Godhra, Modi contacted not his senior officials first but the secretary of the Gujarat unit of the VHP, Jaideep Patel, and asked him to go post-haste to the site of the gruesome incident. There Patel ensured that the bodies were handed over to him and not, as is the prevalent practice, to the next of kin. He then hauled them in trucks and, ignoring police warnings, orchestrated a procession of the bodies through the streets of Ahmedabad. This brazen attempt to provoke communal fury had the desired effect: death and destruction on a scale that shamed India.

The fact that the Supreme Court first allowed Zakia Jafri access to a truck-load of documents compiled by the SIT and also permitted her to file the petition was a clear indication that in the eyes of the apex court Modi is not entirely off the hook. That realization probably explains why he sought the death penalty for two individuals convicted for their actions during the riots: Maya Kodnani, who once served in his cabinet, and Babu Bajrangi, a VHP activist. But far from giving himself a freshly minted secular image, this move has triggered indignation in the ranks of Hindu right-wing groups, including the Shiv Sena. And it has further alienated him from his critics within the BJP, especially from L.K. Advani who had doted on Kodnani.

Nor has he succeeded  in detracting attention from Zakia Zafri’s petition. It should finally settle the matter one way or the other. Regardless of its outcome, however, the remarkable courage that this frail and elderly lady has shown over more than a decade to get to the bottom of the communal carnage must command respect and admiration. Despite repeated legal set-backs, she never wavered in her determination, nor did she once fear the consequences of defying the Gujarat strong-man.

No less significant is her undiminished faith in the judiciary. Time and again she has vowed to abide by its verdict once she exhausts all legal remedies available to her as a citizen of the republic. For a woman who has borne untold suffering, such faith is touching beyond words. And such grace and dignity under intolerable pressure is quite simply miraculous.

But tough times await Modi even if the magistrate hearing Zakia Jafri’s petition endorses the SIT’s conclusions. According to a report published in the Sunday Times of India, two senior police officers made numerous calls to the chief minister’s office during two encounters: one that killed Sohrabuddin Shaikh on 26 November 2005 and another that killed Tulsiram Prajapati on 28 December 2006. Modi’s minister of state at that time, Amit Shah, is an accused in these two cases. He was recently given a plum job in the highest echelons of the BJP.

Public pressure will now mount on the CBI to take cognisance of these calls – something that the investigation agency apparently failed to do even though it was in possession of the details. At some point or the other, the kin of the victims, or human rights organizations, or both, will petition the courts to order  a probe. Moreover, even those sections of the media that are enamoured of the Gujarat chief minister’s record in office – effective and clean governance, speedy economic growth, a no-nonsense attitude to security issues etc – will find it hard to ignore the ghost of Godhra that is certain to haunt him in the weeks and months ahead.

As it happens, these weeks and months are crucial for Modi to reinforce his claim that none other than he can lead the BJP-led NDA to rout the two-term, scam-ridden, indecisive UPA in the next general elections. The one who is best placed to thwart his prime ministerial ambitions is not Rahul Gandhi, nor Nitish Kumar nor even his detractors within his own party’s fold but Zakia Jafri. She has emerged as the Mother Courage of an India that abides by the letter and spirit of its Constitution and by the ethos of its pluralistic culture.

It is a pity that there is no such Mother Courage to expose the criminal shenanigans of the likes of Jagdish Tytler and many others who lost their lives in communal riots under the watch of the Congress and that of other self-appointed votaries of secularism for decades.  But that cannot detract attention from what the courts have in store for the zealous prime ministerial aspirant Narendra Modi: either a squeaky-clean image of constitutional rectitude or an image that is forever tainted with bias, prejudice and worse against our minorities

Extracts from the NHRC Report on Gujarat 2002


EXTRACTS ….


Former Chief Justice of India, JS Verma as Chairperson National Human Rights Commission in his Preliminary Report, April 1, 2002:-

“….9. The Commission would like to observe that the tragic events that have occurred have serious implications for the country as a whole, affecting both its sense of self-esteem and the esteem in which it is held in the comity of nations. Grave questions arise of fidelity to the Constitution and to treaty obligations. There are obvious implications in respect of the protection of civil and political rights, as well as of economic, social and cultural rights in the State of Gujarat as also the country more widely; there are implications for trade, investment, tourism and employment. Not without reason have both the President and the Prime Minister of the country expressed their deep anguish at what has occurred, describing the events as a matter of national shame. But most of all, the recent events have resulted in the violation of the Fundamental Rights to life, liberty, equality and the dignity of citizens of India as guaranteed in the Constitution. And that, above all, is the reason for the continuing concern of the Commission.
*
The term ‘human rights’ is defined to mean the right relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts in India (Section 2(1)(d)), and the International Covenants are defined as the “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 16th December 1966” (Section 2(1)(f)).
(ii) It is therefore in the light of this Statute that the Commission must examine whether violations of human rights were committed, or were abetted, or resulted from negligence in the prevention of such violation. It must also examine whether the acts that occurred infringed the rights guaranteed by the Constitution or those that were embodied in the two great International Covenants cited above.
(iii) The Commission would like to observe at this stage that it is the primary and inescapable responsibility of the State to protect the right to life, liberty, equality and dignity of all of those who constitute it. It is also the responsibility of the State to ensure that such rights are not violated either through overt acts, or through abetment or negligence. It is a clear and emerging principle of human rights jurisprudence that the State is responsible not only for the acts of its own agents, but also for the acts of non-State players acting within its jurisdiction. The State is, in addition, responsible for any inaction that may cause or facilitate the violation of human rights.
(iv) The first question that arises therefore is whether the State has discharged its responsibilities appropriately in accordance with the above. It has been stated in the Report of the State Government that the attack on kar sevaks in Godhra occurred in the absence of “specific information about the return of kar sevaks from Ayodhya” (p. 12 of the Report). It is also asserted that while there were intelligence inputs pertaining to the movement of kar sevaks to Ayodhya between 10-15 March 2002, there were no such in-puts concerning their return either from the State Intelligence Branch or the Central Intelligence Agencies (p. 5) and that the “only message” about the return of kar sevaks, provided by the Uttar Pradesh police, was received in Gujarat on 28 February 2002 i.e., after the tragic incident of 27 February 2002 and even that did not relate to a possible attack on the Sabarmati Express.
(v) The Commission is deeply concerned to be informed of this. It would appear to constitute an extraordinary lack of appreciation of the potential dangers of the situation, both by the Central and State intelligence agencies. This is the more so given the history of communal violence in Gujarat. The Report of the State Government itself states:
“The State of Gujarat has a long history of communal riots. Major riots have been occurring periodically in the State since 1969. Two Commissions of Inquiry viz., the Jagmohan Reddy Commission of Inquiry, 1969, and the Dave Commission of Inquiry, 1985, were constituted to go into the widespread communal violence that erupted in the State from time to time. Subsequently, major communal incidents all over the State have taken place in 1990 and in 1992-93 following the Babri Masjid episode. In fact, between 1970 and 2002, Gujarat has witnessed 443 major communal incidents. Even minor altercations, over trivial matters like kite flying have led to communal violence.” (p. 127).
The Report adds that the Godhra incident occurred at a time when the environment was already surcharged due to developments in Ayodhya and related events (also p. 127).
Indeed, it has been reported to the Commission that, in intelligence parlance, several places of the State have been classified as communally sensitive or hyper-sensitive and that, in many cities of the State, including Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Godhra, members of both the majority and minority communities are constantly in a state of preparedness to face the perceived danger of communal violence. In such circumstances, the police are reported to be normally well prepared to handle such dangers and it is reported to be standard practice to alert police stations down the line when sensitive situations are likely to develop.
(vi) Given the above, the Commission is constrained to observe that a serious failure of intelligence and action by the State Government marked the events leading to the Godhra tragedy and the subsequent deaths and destruction that occurred. On the face of it, in the light of the history of communal violence in Gujarat, recalled in the Report of the State Government itself, the question must arise whether the principle of ‘res ipsa loquitur’ (‘the affair speaking for itself’) should not apply in this case in assessing the degree of State responsibility in the failure to protect the life, liberty, equality and dignity of the people of Gujarat. The Commission accordingly requests the response of the Central and State Governments on this matter, it being the primary and inescapable responsibility of the State to protect such rights and to be responsible for the acts not only of its own agents, but also for the acts of non-State players within its jurisdiction and any inaction that may cause or facilitate the violation of human rights. Unless rebutted by the State Government, the adverse inference arising against it would render it accountable. The burden is therefore now on the State Government to rebut this presumption.
(vii) An ancilliary question that arises is whether there was adequate anticipation in regard to the measures to be taken, and whether these measures were indeed taken, to ensure that the tragic events in Godhra would not occur and would not lead to serious repercussions elsewhere. The Commission has noted that many instances are recorded in the Report of prompt and courageous action by District Collectors, Commissioners and Superintendents of Police and other officers to control the violence and to deal with its consequences through appropriate preventive measures and, thereafter, through rescue, relief and rehabilitation measures. The Commission cannot but note, however, that the Report itself reveals that while some communally-prone districts succeeded in controlling the violence, other districts – sometimes less prone to such violence – succumbed to it. In the same vein, the Report further indicates that while the factors underlining the danger of communal violence spreading were common to all districts, and that, “in the wake of the call for the ‘Gujarat Bandh’ and the possible fall-out of the Godhra incident, the State Government took all possible precautions” (p. 128), some districts withstood the dangers far more firmly than did others. Such a development clearly points to local factors and players overwhelming the district officers in certain instances, but not in others. Given the widespread reports and allegations of groups of well-organized persons, armed with mobile telephones and addresses, singling out certain homes and properties for death and destruction in certain districts – sometimes within view of police stations and personnel – the further question arises as to what the factors were, and who the players were in the situations that went out of control. The Commission requests the comments of the State Government on these matters.
(viii) The Commission has noted that while the Report states that the Godhra incident was “premeditated” (p. 5), the Report does not clarify as to who precisely was responsible for this incident. Considering its gruesome nature and catastrophic consequences, the team of the Commission that visited Godhra on 22 March 2002 was concerned to note from the comments of the Special IGP, CID Crime that while two cases had been registered, they were being investigated by an SDPO of the Western Railway and that no major progress had been made until then. In the light of fact that numerous allegations have been made both in the media and to the team of the Commission to the effect that FIRs in various instances were being distorted or poorly recorded, and that senior political personalities were seeking to ‘influence’ the working of police stations by their presence within them, the Commission is constrained to observe that there is a widespread lack of faith in the integrity of the investigating process and the ability of those conducting investigations. The Commission notes, for instance, that in Ahmedabad, in most cases, looting was “reported in well-to-do localities by relatively rich people” (p. 130). Yet the Report does not identify who these persons were. The conclusion cannot but be drawn that there is need for greater transparency and integrity to investigate the instances of death and destruction appropriately and to instil confidence in the public mind.
(ix) The Report takes the view that “the major incidents of violence were contained within the first 72 hours.” It asserts, however, that “on account of widespread reporting both in the visual as well as the electronic media, incidents of violence on a large-scale started occurring in Ahmedabad, Baroda cities and some towns of Panchmahals, Sabarkantha, Mehsana, etc” in spite of “all possible precautions having been taken” (p. 128-129). The Report also adds that various comments attributed to the Chief Minister and Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad, among others, were torn out of context by the media, or entirely without foundation.
(x) As indicated earlier in these Prceedings, the Commission considers it would be naïve for it to subscribe to the view that the situation was brought under control within the first 72 hours. Violence continues in Gujarat as of the time of writing these Proceedings. There was a pervasive sense of insecurity prevailing in the State at the time of the team’s visit to Gujarat. This was most acute among the victims of the successive tragedies, but it extended to all segments of society, including to two Judges of the High Court of Gujarat, one sitting and the other retired who were compelled to leave their own homes because of the vitiated atmosphere. There could be no clearer evidence of the failure to control the situation.
(xi) The Commission has, however, taken note of the views of the State Government in respect of the media. The Commission firmly believes that it is essential to uphold the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression articulated in Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, which finds comparable provision in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966. It is therefore clearly in favour of a courageous and investigative role for the media. At the same time, the Commission is of the view that there is need for all concerned to reflect further on possible guidelines that the media should adopt, on a ‘self-policing’ basis, to govern its conduct in volatile situations, including those of inter-communal violence, with a view to ensuring that passions are not inflamed and further violence perpetrated. It has to be noted that the right under Article 19(1)(a) is subject to reasonable restrictions under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
(xii) The Commission has noted the contents of the Report on two matters that raised serious questions of discriminatory treatment and led to most adverse comment both within the country and abroad. The first related to the announcement of Rs. 2 lakhs as compensation to the next-of-kin of those who perished in the attack on the Sabarmati Express, and of Rs. 1 lakh for those who died in the subsequent violence. The second related to the application of POTO to the first incident, but not to those involved in the subsequent violence. On the question of compensation, the Commission has noted from the Report that Rs. 1 lakh will be paid in all instances, “thus establishing parity.” It has also noted that, according to the Report, this decision was taken on 9 March 2002, after a letter was received by the Chief Minister, “on behalf of the kar sevaks,” saying “that they would welcome the financial help of Rs. 1 lakh instead of Rs. 2 lakhs to the bereaved families of Godhra massacre” (see p. 115). This decision, in the view of the Commission, should have been taken on the initiative of the Government itself, as the issue raised impinged seriously on the provisions of the Constitution contained in Articles 14 and 15, dealing respectively with equality before the law and equal protection of the laws within the territory of India, and the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. The Commission has also noted the contents of the Report which state that “No guidelines were given by the Home Department regarding the type of cases in which POTO should or should not be used” and that, subsequent to the initial decision to apply POTO in respect of individual cases in Godhra, the Government received legal advice to defer “the applicability of POTO till the investigation is completed” (pp. 66-67). The Commission intends to monitor this matter further, POTO having since been enacted as a law.
(xiii) The Commission has taken good note of the “Rescue, Relief and Rehabilitation Measures” undertaken by the State Government. In many instances, strenuous efforts have been made by Collectors and other district officers, often acting on their own initiative. The Commission was informed, however, during the course of its visit, that many of the largest camps, including Shah-e-Alam in Ahmedabad, had not received visits at a high political or administrative level till the visit of the Chairperson of this Commission. This was viewed by the inmates as being indicative of a deeper malaise, that was discriminatory in origin and character. Unfortunately, too, numerous complaints were received by the team of the Commission regarding the lack of facilities in the camps. The Commission has noted the range of activities and measures taken by the State Government to pursue the relief and rehabilitation of those who have suffered. It appreciates the positive steps that have been taken and commends those officials and NGOs that have worked to ameliorate the suffering of the victims. The Commission, however, considers it essential to monitor the on-going implementation of the decisions taken since a great deal still needs to be done. The Commission has already indicated to the Chief Minister that a follow-up mission will be made on behalf of the Commission at an appropriate time and it appreciates the response of the Chief Minister that such a visit will be welcome and that every effort will be made to restore complete normalcy expeditiously.
(xiv) In the light of the above, the Commission is duty bound to continue to follow developments in Gujarat consequent to the tragic incidents that occurred in Godhra and elsewhere. Under its Statute, it is required to monitor the compliance of the State with the rule of law and its human rights obligations. This will be a continuing duty of the Commission which must be fulfilled, Parliament having established the Commission with the objective of ensuring the “better protection” of human rights in the country, expecting thereby that the efforts of the Commission would be additional to those of existing agencies and institutions. In this task, the Commission will continue to count on receiving the cooperation of the Government of Gujarat, a cooperation of which the Chief Minister has stated that it can be assured.

Another closure report, another cover-up ? #Narendramodi


MODI1

Javed Anand, Asian Age, april 20, 2013

SIT’s closure report into the Godhra riots has left far too many questions unasked, and provided answers that are highly questionable

On April 10, a Delhi court rejected, for the second time, the closure report filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in 2009, claiming it could not find any credible evidence to chargesheet Congress leader Jagdish Tytler for his role in the massacre of innocent Sikhs in the nation’s capital in 1984. The CBI has been ordered to reinvestigate yet again.

On April 15, Zakia Jafri, a survivor of the February 28, 2002, carnage at Gulberg Society, filed a 514-page Protest Petition (along with an annexure of 983 pages and nine CDs) before a magistrate’s court in Ahmedabad challenging the closure report filed by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT). The closure report absolves Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and 58 top politicians, BJP and VHP leaders, and IAS and IPS officials of criminal offences that Mrs Jafri alleged in her complaint dated June 8, 2006, were committed by them. Read the petition (www.cjponline.org) to see why it’s more than likely that the SIT’s clean chit is headed for a similar fate.
Mrs Zakia Jafri, now around 75 years of age, was an eyewitness to the gruesome killing of her husband, former Congress parliamentarian Ehsan Jafri, and 68 others at Gulberg Society, Meghaninagar, Ahmedabad, on February 28, 2002. When Jafri finally surrendered to the mob — after six long hours of nearly a hundred desperate phone calls, including to chief minister Mr Modi, drew a blank — he was dragged, paraded around with his limbs chopped, one at a time, before being flung into the raging flame. Mrs Jafri, who has since been living with her son in Surat, says that her fight for justice will continue till her last breath.
Mrs Jafri’s protest petition (backed as it is by official investigation records and documents that SIT made available to her under Supreme Court orders) not only reinforces her earlier allegations, but also accuses the SIT of a blatant cover up job — “SIT has taken great pains to disbelieve and discredit any witnesses who have spoken against the Accused No. 1 or for that matter against any accused” — and prays that all 59 accused be chargesheeted on the basis of already available evidence and that further investigations be ordered.
SIT’s closure report, which comes four years after it began investigations as ordered by the Supreme Court into the incidents following the inferno in the Sabarmati Express near Godhra train station on the morning of February 27, 2002, (in which 59 kar sevaks and others died), has left far too many questions unasked, and provided answers that are highly questionable.
Mobile phone call records establish that on receiving the news of the Godhra tragedy, the first person Mr Modi, then Gujarat chief minister and home minister (Accused No. 1 in Mrs. Jafri’s complaint and Protest Petition), got in touch with was the state’s VHP general secretary, Jaideep Patel (Accused No. 21), even before he spoke with anyone from his home department or police officials. The petition sees this communication as a link in the conspiracy chain, but SIT ignores it.
By evening Mr Modi, health minister Ashok Bhatt (Accused No. 2, now deceased), and minister of state for home, Gordhan Zadaphia (Accused No. 5), reached Godhra. VHP’s Mr Patel too was there. In Godhra, post-mortems of the dead bodies were conducted in the railway yard by a team of doctors not trained for the job, even as Sangh Parivar activists screamed retaliatory murder. Gory photographs were permitted to be taken and later widely circulated (via VHP’s pamphlets, Gujarati newspapers) to inflame passions across the state. The post-mortems were conducted in the presence of ministers, Godhra’s district magistrate and police superintendent. Under whose directions and what was the motive behind such illegal, indecent haste? The SIT closure report does not ask these questions.
Despite the then Godhra district collector Mrs Jayanti Ravi’s deposition before SIT confirming Mr Jaideep Patel’s unusual presence at a mini-Cabinet meeting in Godhra, its closure report insists that Mr Modi never met the rabble-rousing VHP leader in Godhra.
Next, a top-level decision was taken to transport the dead bodies by road to Ahmedabad in the custody of VHP leaders, Jaideep Patel and Hasmukh Patel. SIT admits that this was in violation of existing regulations, particularly Rule 223 (10-b) of Gujarat Police Manual, but the blame for this is placed on a relatively junior revenue officer in Godhra district collector’s office (Mamlatdar), M.L. Nalvaya, ignoring his deposition before SIT that he did so only under instructions from his seniors.
Earlier, at different times — late afternoon and evening — of the Godhra tragedy, mobile phone records show the location of several top officers from the chief minister’s office (CMO) in Meghaninagar. What were these officers doing in Meghaninagar, far away from the CMO in Gandhinagar, in an area where the very next day Ehsan Jafri and 68 others were mercilessly killed in Gulberg Society? The question is left unasked by SIT.
SIT buys the claim of Ahmedabad police commissioner, P.C. Pande (Accused No. 29), that the funeral procession of the dead bodies to Ahmedabad was peaceful. But police control room (PCR) records show repeated frantic messages from the police posted at Sola Civil Hospital from 3 am in the morning of February 28 onwards about violent mobs endangering the lives of hospital staff, blocking traffic, and attacking a high court
judge who happens to be a Muslim.
Around the same time, murderous mobs led by VHP, RSS, Bajrang Dal leaders begin their day-long massacre of Muslims in Gulberg Society and Naroda Patia, Naroda Gaon and elsewhere, claiming nearly 300 lives in Ahmedabad in a single day. Of the 40 persons killed in police firing that day, 36 were Muslims. PCR records also show that on February 28, while Muslim property was set flame across Ahmedabad, the Fire Brigade Department in the city seemed to be on mass leave. Repeated calls by policemen on the ground went answered by Fire Brigade stations.
From the afternoon of February 27 itself, there was a flurry of urgent “alerts” by ground-level state intelligence bureau (SIB) personnel, warning that mobs are assembling in different places in Ahmedabad and other cities. “So communal violence will occur in the city of Ahmedabad; so take preventive action,” reads one such SIB alert.
No such preventive action was taken till noon on February 28 when curfew was finally declared. By that time, however, the carnage was at its height in Gulberg Society, Naroda Gaon and Naroda Patia.
IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt has deposed before SIT that he was present at the meeting called by Mr Modi late evening of February 27, where the chief minister told the assembled IAS-IPS top brass that “Hindus must be allowed to vent their anger”. Amicus curiae Ramachandran has held this to be sufficient prima facie evidence for the prosecution of Mr Modi, adding that it’s for the court to determine the veracity of Mr Bhatt’s claim.
But, perhaps, India’s top investigating agencies are simply incapable of probing into incidents of heinous mass crimes. Or do their failures suggest something more sinister?

The writer is founder trustee, Citizens for Justice and Peace, whose team of lawyers assisted Mrs Zakia Jafri in filing her protest petition

 

Wireless messages dent SIT claim on Narendra Modi


New Delhi, April 18, 2013

Vidya Subrahmaniam, The Hindu

 Extracts show violence before and during funeral processions of kar sevaks

In its closure report submitted to the trial court, the Special Investigation Team that probed Zakia Jafri’s complaint against Narendra Modi and 58 others said there was no evidence to prove that the Chief Minister had sent the bodies of the 2002 Godhra victims to Ahmedabad with a view to parading them before the public.

The SIT quoted Ahmedabad Police Commissioner P.C. Pande to back its claim that there was no parading of the bodies.

Not just this. Anyone reading the report would conclude that peace had prevailed through the time the bodies were transported from Godhra to the Sola Civil Hospital on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, and later too, when the bodies were handed over to the next of kin. There is no mention in the closure report of the charged atmosphere in the hospital prior to the arrival of the bodies in the early hours of February 28, 2002. Nor does the report indicate anywhere that huge, violent crowds accompanied the funeral processions of the victims; indeed that the processions became the trigger for the anti-Muslim violence that rocked the city and State in the Godhra aftermath.

The real story emerges in a series of desperate wireless messages sent out by police and intelligence field staff positioned at the Sola Civil Hospital and other locations on February 27 and 28, 2002. The wireless extracts, annexed to a protest petition filed against the SIT’s closure report by Ms. Jafri in a local court, show the following. One, there was a lot of anxiety over the Modi administration’s decision to send the bodies to Ahmedabad. Two, there were repeated pleas for bandobast at the hospital where crowds had gathered in anticipation of the arrival of the bodies. Three, there were attacks on Muslims by crowds accompanying the funeral processions which set the stage for the large-scale violence that followed.

At 12.30 p.m. on February 27, that is just hours after the Godhra train carnage, a State Intelligence Bureau (SIB) officer sent a fax communication to his headquarters saying there were reports that bodies of the kar sevaks were going to be sent to Ahmedabad. He alerted: “So communal violence will occur in the city of Ahmedabad; so take preventive action.”

The warning was repeated in another message which added that kar sevaks were threatening retaliatory violence in explosive interviews given to a TV station in Godhra. In the early hours of February 28, there were two messages (1.51 a.m. and 1.59 a.m.) from a police van stationed at the Sola Civil Hospital, urging “immediate protection from Special Reserve Police platoons and the presence of DCP Zone 1.”

At 2.44 a.m., a message said the motorcade carrying the bodies had reached the hospital. Another message at 4 a.m. said a mob comprising 3,000 swayamsevaks (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh volunteers) had gathered at the hospital. At 7.14 a.m., the police van again relayed the message that a large mob had assembled at the hospital. Three minutes later, a message said a mob of 500 was holding up the traffic.

At 11.55 a.m., there was a message saying “the hindu mob” had become violent and had set a vehicle on fire and was “indulging in arson on the highway.” Another message at the same time said, “Sayyed Saheb, the Protocol Officer” had informed that riots had started in the hospital. A further message said mobs had surrounded the hospital staff.

There were specific messages from the field about crowds of 5,000-6,000 taking the bodies out in funeral processions. A message at 11. 58 a.m. said: “Amrajwadi-1 informed that 10 dead bodies have been taken for cremation ceremony from Ramol Janatanagar to Hatkeshwar Cremation Centre with crowd of 5 to 6 thousand.” Another message said: “Funeral procession allowed at Khedbrahma town in Sabarkantha district. Situation tense, 2 Muslims stabbed at Khedbrahma.”

There was also a message about 150 Bajrang Dal members from Ayodhya reaching Khedbrahma.

The SIT’s closure report acknowledged that the bodies of kar sevaks had been handed over to the VHP’s Jaydeep Patel but it placed the blame for the decision on M.L. Nalvaya, the local executive magistrate, and said he had issued a letter to Mr. Patel where he mentioned that 54 bodies were being sent with him on five trucks.

The SIT said the five trucks carrying the bodies reached the Sola Civil Hospital between 3.30 a.m. and 4 a.m. on February 28, and that Mr. Patel handed over the letter from the executive magistrate to the Deputy Collector who was waiting at the hospital with the Collector and other officials.

The SIT blandly recorded that “the relatives of the persons who had died at the Godhra carnage were also present in the hospital. Accordingly, 35 persons were identified and their bodies handed over to their relatives …”

The SIT denied that there had been any parading of bodies, and quoted Mr. Pande to back its claim: “Shri P.C. Pande, the then CP, Ahmedabad city has stated that there had been no parading of dead bodies inasmuch as the trucks carrying the dead bodies under police escort reached Ahmedabad city between 0330 hrs to 0400 hrs on 28.02.2002 which means they had started from Godhra at least three hrs earlier and as such there was no one to see them on the highway at dead of night. Shri Pande has also stated that in Ahmedabad city, the dead bodies were kept in Sola Civil Hospital situated on the outskirts of the city and that most of the dead bodies were handed over to their relations after proper documentation by 28.02.2008 morning.”

As for the funeral processions, the SIT said: “… the dead bodies were moved in vehicles and not by foot as the same would have escalated the tension … R.J. Savani (Deputy Commissioner of Police, Zone V) succeeded in persuading the relatives and well-wishers of the deceased to take each body in a vehicle and the funeral procession was guarded by the police up to Hatkeshwar cremation ground … The funeral was over by 1400hrs and the crowd which had gathered on the highway dispersed thereafter.”

No mention of the unrest in the hospital. No mention of arson by protestors. And no mention of the huge crowds that accompanied the funeral processions.

 

Gujarat – Different riot, same story #antisikhriots


MIDDAY

17APR2013

 

Ranjona Banerji, Mid Day 

Just as anyone who lived in Delhi through the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984 or the Mumbai riots of 1992 and 1993 knows what happened, that is true of Gujarat 2002 as well. Trying to get to office on February 2008 – a day after the attack on the Sabarmati Express — was a harrowing experience, dodging mobs out on the roads in Ahmedabad, looting and burning.

The policemen who I saw that day stood quietly in corners, away from the mayhem. They looked away when they were exhorted to help.

What the investigation, broadcast by a news channel this week, into the police wireless reports from February 27 onwards shows is that there were some police officers who were well aware of what was happening and were asking for help even as the situation got out of control. Also evident from the innumerable messages from the State Intelligence Bureau is that there was awareness about the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal gathering forces and fear over the outcome. The riots were not spontaneous or sudden, as claimed by the state and Central governments.

All this was evident on the streets on Ahmedabad. While a restaurant near my residence in that city was being vandalised, people in cars called for hand carts on their cell phones to carry away the discarded furniture. The restaurant only served vegetarian food but its name was ambivalent and could well have been Muslim. The anti-Muslim rhetoric and cries of “revenge” for the Godhra attack were everywhere.

College professors visited the newspaper office where I worked, initially shame- faced and then slipping in lines like “ but maybe they deserved it”, harking back to the raids on the Somnath temple by Mahmud of Ghazni.

The government took too long to respond, the police commissioner never left his office — even though there was mayhem on the streets outside and victims arriving in hundreds in camps a stone’s throw away. The army also came too late. Riots are always shameful and shocking and rarely if even spontaneous. But usually even the most cynically manipulative of governments makes an attempt to control proceedings. In Gujarat in 2002 however it seemed as the riots were allowed to continue — with incidences of violence stretching into months.

There is some anger and resentment — perhaps understandable — that is there is too much focus on Gujarat when rioters elsewhere have escaped. This is definitely true.

Jagdish Tytler appears defiantly free, defending himself on TV when victim after victim named him for the attacks on Sikhs after Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984. The worst example is perhaps Mumbai. The hand of the Shiv Sena in the riots is well known.

The Srikrishna Commission indicted the party from its late chief Bal Thackeray downwards. Nothing happened to the Sena and nothing happened to the investigations into the riots. The case into the1993 bomb blasts which followed the riots has seen closure, with much public attention.

So far, the public discourse about riots has been disquieting, even toxic.

If religious minorities — like Muslims in Gujarat 2002 or in Bombay 1992- 1993 — are the targets then we fall into a lose- lose spiral of accusations of false secularism, demands of ubernationalism, complaints of appeasement and what is nothing short of majoritarian bullying. We seem unable to accept that religion per se — whether it is used by Muslims or Hindus or anyone else — cannot and must not be a justification for violence. Governments do not like to probe riots too deeply because they feel that given the amount mass level anger or hatred exposed, such wounds are best left untouched and ignored.

Gujarat then is the first opportunity to India to clean up its act. It is thanks to the Supreme Court alone — as far as a Constitutional authority goes — that the Gujarat riots have seen any move towards justice.

Unfortunately, the apex court had to step in because of the reluctance of the state government to move on the cases against rioters. Therefore, while there may be inherent unfairness about riots in the past, this is one opportunity to provide a template for justice in the future.

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist.

You can follow her on Twitter @ranjona

 

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