Naroda Patiya case: Modi government does a U-turn on Kodnani, Bajrangi #deathpenalty


CNN-IBN | Updated May 14, 2013

Ahmedabad: In a U-turn of sorts, the Gujarat state legal department has written to the chief prosecutor in the Naroda Patiya massacre case, seeking approval for enhancement of punishment for BJP leader Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal’s Babu Bajrangi to be put on hold. The legal department wants the punishment to be put on hold until further instructions.

Earlier the department had given a sanction to the Special Investigation Team to file an application in the High Court seeking death sentence for Maya Kodnani, Babu Bajrangi and nine others. 97 persons were killed in Naroda Patiya during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

In 2012, a special court had sentenced Maya Kodnani to 28 years in jail for the massacre in Naroda Patiya. Kodnani is the sitting MLA from Naroda Patiya.

 

Kodnani, a three-time MLA from Naroda area, who was considered to be close to Chief Minister Narendra Modi, is the first woman and first MLA to be convicted and sentenced in a post-Godhra riots case.

Kodnani was the minister of women and child development in the Narendra Modi government but was forced to resign after a case was lodged against her in the Naroda Patiya massacre of 2002.

The trial court had convicted 32 people and acquitted 29 others in the Naroda Patiya massacre case which took place during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The Naroda Patiya massacre is the largest single case of mass murder during the 2002 Gujarat riots that broke out following the Sabarmati Express train carnage near Godhra station. The case has been probed by a Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigating Team (SIT).

As many as 327 witnesses, comprising eye witnesses, victims, doctors, police personnel, government officials, forensic experts and journalists including Ashish Khetan, who conducted a TV sting operation on the accused, were examined by the court.

 

A Verdict in Gujarat, Silence over Delhi


Mainstream, VOL L, No 39, September 15, 2012

Kuldip Nayar

Every time there is a conviction in the Gujarat riots case, I begin to hope that the day is not far when the real culprit, State Chief Minister Narendra Modi, will be brought to book. The 28-year-long sentence awarded to Maya Kodnani, who organised the massacre at Naroda-Patiya in Ahmedabad, makes me confident that justice can be delayed—the riots took place in 2002—but not denied. Modi lauded her role on the riots so much that he made her a Minister. But the Supreme Court’s Special Investigation Team (SIT) caught up with her crime even after the exoneration by the police which did its best to see that Kodnani’s “involvement does not come on the books”.
The question which nags me all the time is how to punish a Chief Minister who plans and executes the killing of his own people because they belong to a different religion. Some 2000 Muslims were killed, 95 at Naroda-Patiya alone. A similar point confronted me when after the assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi in 1984, more than 3000 Sikhs were killed in the national Capital, New Delhi. The then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, was responsible for blessing all that was plotted to kill the innocent. His infamous remark still haunts me: ‘When a big tree falls, the earth is bound to shake.’
Both in Gujarat and Delhi, the pattern of killing and looting was the same: the public was instigated, the police was instructed to look the other way and the Army’s induction was intentionally delayed. Had there been the institution of Lokpal (ombudsman) in position, it would have probably stepped in to name the culprits, including Modi and Rajiv Gandhi. In the absence of any such remedy what do people, especially the victims, do to get justice? When the protector turns into a killer, there is no remedy for the protected.
In fact, both Gujarat and Delhi have raised a general question about the independence of the law and order machinery. The police is at the beck and call of the rulers and it does not function independently. The police reforms, recommended by the Dharma Vira Committee as far back as 1980, could have retrieved the situation to some extent. It would have meant transferring control of the police to a committee, including the Opposition Leader. But no State has been willing to implement the recommendations. In reality, there is a case for a federal police on the lines of America to pursue cases which transcend the States’ borders or those which fall under the category of segregation, discrimination and such other crimes. There is the famous case of Mississippi in America where the federal police broke the alliance between the local administration and politicians to bring the guilty to justice.
Since the States zealously guard their sway over the law and order machinery, it is difficult to imagine that they would agree to any federal force when New Delhi itself has got politicised. Coming to the minorities, the experience of Muslims in Gujarat and of Sikhs in Delhi bring out the truth that the rulers go to any extent to save their party members. They have different names but in real terms they are the party’s rough necks who have over the years become an instrument of tyranny in the hands of the political masters.

The real disturbing aspect is that more and more Hindus are getting contaminated by the RSS and its parivar. It is heartening to find that one member of the Bajrang Dal, the militant wing of the RSS, has been given life sentence in the Naroda-Patiya case. Still the bigger tragedy is that the majority community looks like turning its back on secularism which, it should realise, can undo India.
The BJP, which expects to win the 2014 elections, does not feel its responsibility in keeping the country safe from parochialism. True, the other national party, the Congress, has become a carbon copy of the BJP, but it still supports the secular ethos. The party’s stand is mostly opportunistic but it draws inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, not Guru Golwalkar. This may be the reason why the Congress, at times, takes a secular stand and confronts the forces which spew communalism.
I was, however, disappointed when the Congress Government neither acted against the Shiv Sena, particularly Raj Thackeray when he instigated the crowd at Mumbai in the name of national chauvinism. Nor did the government move against the Muslim fundamentalists who indulged in violence at Azad Maidan and killed two persons. I am told that the person who goaded the mob at the Maidan is a local Muslim Congress leader. Regretfully, both the Congress and BJP have come to believe that they would get more votes if they talked in terms of caste and community.
Had the Supreme Court not selected the nine cases of fake encounters out of many, no Maya Kodnani would have been punished. But there was no Supreme Court to intervene in the case of the Sikhs’ killings because the Rajiv Gandhi administration had cleaned the stains from the plate. No proof was left behind and the records were fudged. The entire massacre was orchestrated by the ruling Congress and executed according to a pre-prepared plan.
Thanks to young lawyer H.S. Phoolka who made a formidable case from the affidavits of victims. Even then his experience and those of the others who have tried to get justice is that even now the Congress Government is creating impediments at every step to block any persecution further. The conviction in Gujarat is an exception. At least there were still some records which helped the SIT to rebuild the case. But in Delhi, the Congress Government has effaced all evidence lest the guilty of the 1984 massacre could be traced.
There is yet another case of the government’s suppression. I am referring to the killing of 22 Muslim boys at Hashimpura in UP in 1987. The case has not moved from the lower court. The rioting in Assam too has been anti-Muslim. The lesson to be learnt from all these happenings is that the rule of law by itself does not mean anything unless the government is willing to follow it without fear or favour.
The author is a veteran journalist renowned not only in this country but also in our neighbouring states of Pakistan and Bangladesh where his columns are widely read. His website is www.kuldipnayar.com
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Down the memory Lane- #Gujarat #Kashmir


NARODA PATIA, AHMEDABAD, BY Ajay Raina

May 23, 2002. I entered the narrow lane that led me to a cluster of houses where nobody lived now.

I had often heard about this place. Constantly. Since that day on the morning of February 28, 2002 when an entire family had been roasted alive in their vehicle as they were fleeing the mobs from their home. I think there was a picture in the newspapers too. It was in Naroda, on the Ahmedabad – Mumbai Highway, that Mr. Modi’s recall of Newton’s third Law saw its macabre mechanism unfold. The news, that about 90 more Muslims had been killed in a locality adjoining this highway took a while longer to reach me, or perhaps a while longer to sink in. It took me further three months and about a couple of thousand more lost lives to decide to come here and see for myself.

And here I was now, with a video camera and a local friend in tow trying to figure what was the best way to get in past a few Gujarat police personnel who wouldn’t let us. There were not many of them, but what were they doing here? The remaining people of Naroda Patiya were now in a refugee camp at Shah Alam Dargah, unwilling to accompany me to their homes here. Some locals, who may have formed the mobs that day, were still out here watching us. Who were the police protecting here?

We hung around a bit thinking of options; burnt a few cigarettes, gulped down a few cups of tea at the roadside ‘chai tipri’ facing the burnt out, vandalized shell of the Naroda Patiya mosque and ended up being surrounded by a small mob of locals. The police gang immediately came over to free us and took us to their post. I do not remember how exactly our informal interrogation went; how it changed its course into an exchange of views about the events of that day, but it did not take us long to fathom that now we were face to face with the people who may have witnessed, have stood by or even participated in the carnage that day. I particularly remember, that when the policeman in charge described to us how a Bajrang Dal leader ‘speared a pregnant lady and drew out her foetus’; his blue eyes actually seemed to shimmer with pride he was unable to hide from us fellow Hindus.

So, finally realizing that we were just harmless ‘carnage tourists’ with a camera to convince him with, the police in charge accompanied us down the narrow entry lane of Naroda Patiya to a cluster of houses where nobody lived now. What I remember ten years later about that day is a difficult endeavor for me to put down in words; much like taking a printout of a hazy and grainy video recorded by the eye.

We walked down many narrow lanes, from the highway entry point to its dead-end common boundary wall with the family quarters of Gujarat police personnel. Here it was confirmed to us what we had been told or had read earlier. The besieged residents, especially the women and children, had pleaded with the families of police personnel across this boundary wall to let them through, but only at the end of the day when the carnage was over were the hungry, thirsty, tired and fearful survivors of Naroda Patiya let in and put in vans to be transported to Shah Alam Dargah relief camp.

We crisscrossed the lanes of Naroda Patiya many times while all the time accompanied by a running commentary from the Police men who ‘guided’ us. But the details, which they did not hesitate to divulge, were off course common knowledge to most of us already. I guess, we were mostly trying to corroborate what we had heard from the residents in the refugee camps earlier, or had read about in the newspapers or various human rights reports. When we asked to be taken to the infamous well at the other end of the locality, we were advised not to go there, the place had been sealed up. I do not remember clearly, if we were told that the well had been cemented up. It was at this well most of the bodies were speared, cut up, dumped and burnt.

But except for the constant, excited, remorseless, running commentary provided by our accompanists and for our probing questions, our walk down the empty lanes of Naroda Patiya that day was like walking the eerily silent streets of the other world, something one can only experience in dreams or in the broad day light of a living nightmare. Living nightmare it was, to see homes waiting for its people, rotting cooked food in utensils, half eaten rice and vegetables served in a plate …chapattis turned hard like a cardboard piece cut in round shape and clothes put to dry still hanging on clotheslines. While there was neat order in one lane, in the adjacent one, there were cloths, utensils and household items of every kind strewn about all across. It stood out perhaps as the only evidence that a catastrophic violence had taken place here. No, the houses had not been destroyed, or burnt or pillaged or looted; only people had been vanished here. Maybe I don’t clearly remember now if there were a few looted houses and a few burnt structures here as well. I do not remember this too well perhaps because the memory of burnt out shells of apartments (the image of melted down ceiling fans with twisted blades still vivid in my mind) in the richer parts of Ahmedabad across the river Sabarmati; a river that divides Ahmedabad neatly into haves’ and have not’s, Hindu/Muslim areas, where we stayed in a partially burnt, empty Muslim apartment block, is too powerful a memory to override all other memories of vandalism done elsewhere. The evidence of violence of that day was stark and visible however in the Muslim localities across the highway from Naroda Patiya. Here we were accompanied not by police but by a few young boys from the mob that had surrounded us earlier. Most of the houses here were totally or partially gutted, almost all were looted and vandalized and worst of all, the walls had been smeared with soot and saffron coloured slogans that betrayed my religion.

At Naroda Patiya however, in contrast to what we had seen all over Ahmedabad and in the surrounding villages, after so many months, the only other stark evidence of violence visible here was in the absence of people, absence of children playing in the streets, absence of women at a dripping tap in the corner street. An aching absence; almost too painful to bear or comprehend, of any sound of a human voice, children’s laughter or a bird’s chirp. It was as if people had just vanished into the thin air in mid-activity at the start of a just another normal day.

There was no blood anywhere, but a strange stench; not of rotten or burnt flesh but of putrefied cooked food and uncollected garbage. In some homes, it was like the smell one senses when entering a dark space infested with bats, but this place seemed unusually bright here; almost as if washed by light all over, like a film set just lit up and ready for the shooting to begin. Yes, that was how it looked, like a film set which only needed some people to come in and play their assigned roles of normal looking inhabitants performing their routine chores. It almost appeared as if things had been deliberately left untouched here from the day the carnage took place, like a scene of crime that was still in need of investigators to gather their forensic evidences.

It felt difficult to connect the empty locality with the carnage that had happened here only a few months earlier. For my sense of disbelief to break I must have strongly yearned for this brightly lit, almost undisturbed small and neat looking locality to be connected with all its dead at the moment of their pain to form a complete picture of a gross and criminal violation. When I returned to the Shah Alam Dargah relief camp that evening and told the survivors of Naroda Patiya about my visit to their empty homes, my expectation that they would besiege me with questions about the state of their empty homes was only answered with silence, the same kind of silence that Naroda Patiya had greeted me with. At that moment, I sounded to myself as if I had disbelieved their stories, as if I had accused them of exaggerating their losses to me, as if I had felt deceived or cheated by the apparent serenity of their empty homes.

It was only a year later, on March 23, 2003 when I found myself at Nadimarg in Kashmir, at the site of another massacre that I could connect the blood soaked bodies of the dead on cremation pier with the bright light of their empty homes to form a complete picture of a gross and criminal violation, a carnage. I understood then, the silence of the survivors of Naroda Patiya.

Naroda Case: Kodnani, Bajrangi Get Life Term #Justice


Naroda Case: Kodnani, Bajrangi Get Life Term

Naroda Patiya: Maya Kodnani gets 28 years, Babu Bajrangi jail till death

PTI | AhmedabadAug 31, 2012

 

A Special Court today awarded life imprisonment to BJP MLA Maya Kodnani, Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and 29 other convicts for the 2002 riots here at Naroda Patiya where 97 people were brutally killed.

The Court named Kodnani, a sitting MLA and former Gujarat Minister, as “a kingpin of riots” in Naroda area and sentenced her to 18-year life imprisonment after serving 10 years jail term under IPC Section 326 (voluntary causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means).

Bajrangi, another high profile accused, will have to spend his entire remaining life behind bars, it said and described communal violence as “cancer”.

Seven other convicts were given jail term of 21 years by Additional Principal Judge Jyotsna Yagnik. They will also have to first serve 10-year imprisonment under Section 326.

The remaining 22 convicts were given simple life imprisonment (14 years).

The Court had on Wednesday convicted 32 and acquitted 29 persons in the worst riots case in the aftermath of the Godhra train carnage. It did not pronounce sentence against one accused who is absconding.

“Communal riots are like cancer on Constitutional secularism and the incident in Naroda Patiya was a black chapter in the history of the Indian Constitution,” the Judge observed.

“Acts of communal violence are brutal, inhuman and shameful. It (Naroda) was a clear incident of human rights violation as 97 people were killed brutally within a day which included helpless women, children, aged persons. The climax of this inhuman and brutal act of violence was reflected in murder of an infant, who was 20-day old,” the Court noted.

The Judge accepted that one victim, who was also a witness, was gang raped, but due to lack of evidence, the court has not charged anybody for that offence.

However, the court directed the Gujarat Government to pay Rs 5 lakh as compensation to the victim.

Rejecting the defence theory that the communal violence was a reaction to the Godhra carnage, the court said, “This was a pre-planned conspiracy and it cannot be mitigated just by saying it was a reaction of Godhra train burning incident. Nobody can be allowed to take law into their hands because India is a country that upholds rule of law.”

The Court’s inclination was against awarding death penalty in the case.

“Death penalty brings justice and it is desirable to reduce the crime in the society but this court cannot overlook the global trend prevalent in recent years. By 2009, 139 countries had repealed death sentence and there is a global campaign against death penally and progressive societies are advocating for restricting death penalty and this court believes use of death undermines human dignity.”

Regarding Kodnani, the court observed that she was the “kingpin of entire riots” that took place in Naroda Patiya area. She led the mob and incited them for violence. She abetted and supported the violent mob, it said.

Kodanai, who was MLA of Naroda at the time of riots, was made Minister of State for Women and Child Development in 2007 in the Narendra Modi Government. She had to resign after she was arrested in the case in March 2009.

The three-time legislator, who was considered close to Chief Minister Narendra Modi, is the first woman to be convicted in a post-Godhra riots case. Kodnani, who was present in the court, broke down after she was sentenced.

The massacre had taken place a day after the Godhra train burning incident of February 27, 2002.

On February 28, 2002, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) had called a state-wide bandh to protest against the Godhra train carnage. On that a large crowd gathered in Naroda Patiya area in Ahmedabad and attacked people belonging to minority community, resulting in the death of 97 people and injury to 33 others.

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