In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- Indian Americans Muslims hail Special Court’s verdict on Gujarat pogrom case, urge tough sentences for the guilty
- Indian American organizations decry partial ban of Indian news portal
- Naroda Patiya massacre: Court convicts CM Narendra Modi’s former minister Maya Kodnani
- Naroda Patiya: 28 yrs jail for Maya Kodnani, Bajrangi gets life term till death
- Godhra ghost haunting, hurting Narendra Modi politically
- Fear stalks Naroda Patiya residents on D-Day eve
- Naroda Patia massacre was a preplanned conspiracy: Court
- Defiant Narendra Modi refuses to apologise for 2002 Gujarat riots
- Death for Kasab: What SC said about media and Indian Muslims
- SC hears petition on re-probe into blast cases
- Terror arrests to divert people’s attention from Gujarat verdict: CLMC
- BJP’s Hindutva plank to bridge gap with Bodos
Opinions & Editorials
- A stunning verdict – Editorial
- The sting in the story – By Ashish Khetan
- Can Modi ever rid himself of the ghosts of the 2002 riots? – By Venky Vembu
- Let the healing begin – By Harsh Mander
- When cops behaved worse than rioters – By Zeeshan Shaikh
- Assam on the boil: Authorities must do more to stem violence – Editorial
Indian Americans Muslims hail Special Court’s verdict on Gujarat pogrom case, urge tough sentences for the guilty
Wednesday August 29, 2012
Indian American Muslim Council (http://www.iamc.com) an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos has welcomed the Special Court’s verdict today in a case pertaining to the brutal killing of 95 people in Naroda Patiya during the Gujarat pogrom of 2002.
The special court convicted 32 people almost a decade after the brutal massacre at Naroda Patiya during the carnage in Gujarat. The verdict is all the more significant since the list of convicted individuals includes former Gujarat Minister for Women and Child Development, Maya Kodnani of the BJP, and Babu Bajrangi, who is a leader of the Bajrang Dal. Both Kodnani and Bajrangi have been found guilty of murder under section 302, and of criminal conspiracy under section 120B of the Indian Penal Code. The court also convicted three individuals of gang rape. This is the second Gujarat carnage case in which rape charges have been proved.
The special court’s verdict represents an important victory in the ongoing struggle for justice in Gujarat. The verdict is also the fruit of patient struggle by the survivors of the Gujarat pogrom, the courage of the witnesses who came forward to facilitate the judicial process and tireless efforts by human rights defenders such as Teesta Setalvad, Mukul Sinha, Shabnam Hashmi and Harsh Mander among many others.
IAMC has urged the special court to take the following actions:
Exercise its authority and punish the guilty to the full extent of the law. It is imperative that the sentence is proportionate to the magnitude of the crime in order to affirm the equality of all citizens under the law.
Probe the allegations made by former DGP Sreekumar as well as former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt about the direct complicity of Chief Minister Narendra Modi in enabling and facilitating the pogrom of 2002.
Investigate the corroborating evidence against Modi brought to light by Justice H. Suresh, who has come forward with an audio tape of his conversation with Haren Pandya (then minister in Modi’s cabinet) in 2002. The tape contains specific information about Modi’s role in the Gujarat violence. Haren Pandya was later shot dead in 2003, and his murder continues to remain unresolved.
IAMC has also called upon the Supreme Court to act on the recommendations of its amicus curiae to initiate criminal prosecution of Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
The carnage in Gujarat involved mass killing, rape and pillage resulting in the brutal massacre of 2000 people, and the expulsion of over 500,000 people from their homes. While the court’s verdict is certainly a step in the right direction, the number of convictions thus far is still a small fraction of the total number of cases related to the Gujarat pogrom of 2002.
“While today’s verdict represents an important step forward, it is important to bear in mind that the wider struggle for justice in Gujarat is far from over,” said Shaheen Khateeb, President of IAMC. “Upholding the rule of law requires that the masterminds as well as executioners of the planned and systematic ethnic cleansing in Gujarat are held accountable and punished for their crimes against humanity. It also requires adequate compensation for and rehabilitation of the survivors” added Mr. Khateeb.
Indian American Muslim Council is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 13 chapters across the nation.
For more information please visit our new website at www.iamc.com.
1) Gujarat riots: Former BJP minister Maya Kodnani, Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi among 32 convicted in Naroda Patiya case
2) Kodnani, Bajrangi, 30 others convicted in Naroda Patia case
3) 2002 Gujarat riots: Former judge says there’s audio tape with evidence against Modi
4) Tricolor in Naroda Patiya
5) A Stunning Verdict
6) We have no orders to save you” – Report by Human Rights Watch
7) Concerned Citizens Tribunal – Gujarat 2002; An Inquiry into the Carnage in Gujarat
6321 W Dempster St. Suite 295
Morton Grove, IL 60053
Sunday September 2, 2012
Indian American Muslim Council (http://www.iamc.com) an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, Indian Muslim Relief and Charities (IMRC) http://www.imrc.ws, the largest relief organization of Indian Muslims based in the US as well as American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin (AFMI)http://www.afmi.org/, a US based philanthropic charity organization, have jointly expressed their grave concern over the directive from India’s Department of Telecommunication (DoT) to block access to certain pages from twocircles.net(TCN), a non-profit based and critically acclaimed news portal. Twocircles.net is dedicated to reporting and covering a range of issues affecting India and Indian Muslims.
The ban on these pages has come in the wake of efforts by the government to block several other sites, ostensibly to control the spread of rumors related to the violence in Assam and Myanmar. However, the TCN pages that have been blocked are completely unrelated to these issues. One of the pages is related to terror stories from Madhya Pradesh that have not been adequately covered in the mainstream media. The other blocked page is related to the violence in Mathura in June 2012, that was sparked by a minor incident, and that led to curfew being clamped in the region.
“Using the violence in Assam and the panic in parts of the country in the aftermath as an excuse to stifle legitimate press coverage of other issues is unacceptable,” said Manzoor Ghori, Executive Director of IMRC. “If there are legitimate concerns about any content adversely impacting communal harmony, these need to be taken up with the news portal before an arbitrary decision is made to block the pages,” said Shaheen Khateeb, President of IAMC.
“Freedom of the press is vital for the healthy functioning of a democracy,” said Dr. Tajuddin Ahmed, president of AFMI. “Any arbitrary decisions blocking access to credible news sources, likeTwoCircles.Net is bound to scuttle the freedoms guaranteed by the Indian constitution,” added Dr. Ahmed.
IAMC, IMRC and AFMI call upon the government to remove the block on TCN’s pages, and adopt an even handed, fair, and transparent approach in regulating the internet.
1) Blocked for ‘violence’, website to sue govt
2) Unheard, Unspoken … and banned
1.American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin
Phone: (248) 442 2364
2.Indian Muslim Relief and Charities
Phone: (650) 856-0440
Naroda Patiya massacre: Court convicts CM Narendra Modi’s former minister Maya Kodnani (Aug 29, 2012, Indian Express)
Maya Kodnani, BJP MLA and a former minister in Narendra Modi government, and a Bajrang Dal leader were among the 32 people convicted today by a special court on charges of conspiracy and murder in the Naroda Patiya case in which 97 Muslims were burnt alive during 2002 Gujarat riots. Kodnani, a three-time MLA from Naroda area who was considered to be close to Chief Minister Narendra Modi, is the first woman to be convicted in a post-Godhra riots case. She and Babu Bajrangi were held guilty under sections 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) of IPC and the prosecution sought the maximum punishment of death sentence for all the convicts. The 57-year-old MLA broke down in court as Additional Principal Judge Jyotsna Yagnik read out her verdict in which she also acquitted 29 other accused. … Kodnani and the other accused, who have been on bail, were taken into custody and shifted to Sabarmati Jail. The Congress latched on to the verdict to target Modi with party leader Digvijay Singh saying that it “has been proved now that BJP’s minister and officials were involved in the Gujarat riots. Everything that happened was at the behest of Narendra Modi.” Law Minister Salman Khurshid said that the judgement enhances faith of the people in the legal system.
While the BJP downplayed the conviction of its MLA saying it was legal process and it doesn’t do “politics on judicial verdicts”, the Gujarat government was quick to distance itself from Kodnani saying she was not a Minister when the riots took place and dismissed demand for Modi’s resignation. “Congress demands CM’s resignation in everything, or attempts to link him with anything. If this is the barometer, then those who have been convicted in the past and are ministers in the central government should also resign,” Gujarat government spokesman Jaynarayan Vyas. Kodnani was arrested in March 2009 when she was the minister following a probe by Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team and had to resign from the post. She became an MLA for the first time in 1998 and won elections twice later from that constituency. She was made Minister of State for Women and Child Development in the Modi government in 2007, believed to be at the behest of L K Advani. She was the first Sindhi leader to become a minister in Gujarat since the state was founded in 1960. …
Kodnani was arrested in March 2009 when she was the minister following a probe by Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team and had to resign from the post. She became an MLA for the first time in 1998 and won elections twice later from that constituency. She was made Minister of State for Women and Child Development in the Modi government in 2007, believed to be at the behest of L K Advani. She was the first Sindhi leader to become a minister in Gujarat since the state was founded in 1960. … One of the accused, Suresh alias alias Richard Chara was also convicted for rape. The court also convicted several of the accused on charges of rioting, arson, unlawful assembly and causing hurt with weapons. The massacre had taken place a day after the Godhra train burning incident of February 27, 2002. On February 28, 2002 when a bandh call was given by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a large crowd gathered in the Naroda Patiya area and attacked people belonging to minority community that resulted in the death of 97 people while 33 others were injured in the violence. …
The trial in the case began in August 2009 and charges were framed against 62 accused. One of the accused, Vijay Shetty died during the course of trial. As many as 327 witnesses, including a journalists who conducted a TV sting operation on the accused, had been examined by the court. Kodnani is the first among women accused of 2002 riot cases to be convicted. In Dipda Darwaja case of Mehsana district, three women were among the accused, but were acquitted on July 30, 2012. In the Naroda Patiya case too, another two women were among the accused, but they got acquitted. Also, among the 2002 riots cases probed by Special Investigation Team in which rulings have come, Naroda is the only case where convicts outnumber those acquitted (32-29). In Godhra Train Carnage case, court convicted 31 and acquitted 63. In Sardarpura case, court convicted 31 and acquitted 42, and in Dipda Darwaja case 22 were convicted and 61 acquitted.
The Naroda Patiya case was probed by eight investigating officers over the last decade with the latest being Himanshu Shukla on behalf of SIT. It was one of the nine cases of Gujarat riots being probed by the SIT, including the Godhra train burning case. Initially, 46 people were arrested by the Gujarat Police, whereas 24 more people were apprehended after the probe was handed over to SITin 2008. In all, 70 people were arrested in the case. Six persons died before the charges could be framed, while two others identified as Mohan Nepali and Tejas Pathak jumped bail and are still absconding.
- Naroda Patiya verdict proof of BJP’s involvement in Gujarat riots: Congress (Aug 29, 2012, IBN)
- Ex-DGP fears for safety of Naroda Patiya judge Jyotsna Yagnik(Sep 3, 2012, Indian Express)
- 2002 Gujarat riots victims get justice, 1984 killers still free (Sep 1, 2012, IBN)
- Naroda Patiya verdict: Who said what (Aug 29, 2012, First Post)
Naroda Patiya: 28 yrs jail for Maya Kodnani, Bajrangi gets life term till death (Aug 31, 2012, Hindustan Times)
A special court awarded an enhanced life imprisonment of 28 years to Maya Kodnani, BJP MLA and former minister in the Narendra Modi government, and gave a life term till death to Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi in the Naroda Patiya massacre that left 97 people killed during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Additional principal judge Jyotsna Yagnik named Kodnani as “a kingpin of riots” in the Naroda area and sentenced her to 18-year life imprisonment after serving a 10-year term. A three-time MLA from Naroda, Kodnani is the first woman to be convicted in a post-Godhra riots case. Yagnik said 55-year-old Bajrangi, the other high-profile accused, would have to spend his entire remaining life behind bars.
The court also awarded enhanced life imprisonment of 31 years to seven others, while 22 people got simple life imprisonment of 14 years. The sentence against one person could not be pronounced as he was not present in the court. Calling the incident a “black chapter in the history of the Constitution”, Yagnik noted, “The climax of this inhuman and brutal act of violence was reflected in the murder of a 20-day-old infant.” The court noted that Kodnani had “led the mob and incited them for riots”.
Rejecting the argument that the riots were a spontaneous reaction in the wake of the Godhra train carnage in which 59 people were charred to death by a Muslim mob, the court said, “This was a pre-planned conspiracy and cannot be mitigated by saying it was a reaction….” It also ordered the Gujarat government to pay Rs. 5-lakh compensation to a victim of gangrape.
- Doctor who armed rioters: The rise and crimes of Maya Kodnani (Aug 30, 2012, The Telegraph)
- Maya Kodnani is no less guilty than Kasab (Sep 1, 2012, Deccan Chronicle)
- Phone log CDs nailed Kodnani (Aug 30, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Fallen hero of Hindutva: End of road for Babu Bajrangi? (Aug 30, 2012, Daily Bhaskar)
The ghost of Godhra continues to haunt chief minister Narendra Modi even as he sets his eyes on a larger political role. And, for this astute politician known for his impeccable sense of timing, time seems to be running out fast. Barely 100 days ahead of assembly elections, the series of convictions in riot cases have only aggravated Modi’s credibility crisis. He may have got a clean chit for his alleged role in the riots, but the association with BJP leaders like Dr Maya Kodnani who was convicted for murder and conspiring to kill Muslims, can not only trip his flight towards the Centre but also spell trouble for him in the state polls. So far, there have been over 190 convictions, including 11 death penalties and at least 100 life sentences, in riots cases like Sardarpura, Dipda Darwaja, Ode and Naroda Patia.
Modi, who tried to drop off his hardliner tag through state-wide Sadbhavana missions, is under a threat of upsetting the Hindu vote bank if he welcomes the verdicts. If he doesn’t, there is a fear that his Sadbhavana talks may ring hollow. Special court judge Jyotsna Yagnik observed that there was a conspiracy by Kodnani and other saffron leaders. This is sure to dent his Sadbhavana image. The verdicts, especially in Naroda Patia, are expected to provide the much-needed ammunition, not only to the Congress but also Modi’s own critics within the NDA and Sangh Parivar who are itching to keep him out of the prime ministerial race. Leading the charge is Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which has been on a collision course with Modi for a few years now. Much before the saffron outfit frowned at his Sadbhavna mission, its leaders were enraged at the demolition of temples in Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad.
VHP leader Dr Pravin Togadia on Friday condemned the Naroda Patia verdict and offered his outfit’s full support to all convicted persons. “VHP will support with all its might all the Hindus convicted in the case,” he told reporters in Surat. The troubles do not end here. Modi’s bete noire Keshubhai Patel is threatening to deeply divide the politically influential Patels. There is nothing Modi has been able to do to stop this BJP veteran from pulling massive crownds in recent days. Beside Keshubhai, a silent revolt already started brewing among Patels against the BJP after the Sardarpura verdict – almost all convicts in the massacre case are Patels. The result was BJP losing the by-elections in Mansa, considered the party’s bastion for 20 years.
In Ode too, Patels shouted slogans against Modi government and the village declared a complete bandh. The story was repeated in Visnagar’s Dipda Darwaja case. Patels clearly feel dejected that Modi, far from making any attempts for their succour, was busy harbouring prime ministerial ambitions. Besides Patels, those convicted in Naroda Patia are Sindhis, Chharas and Dalits, all committed voters of BJP.
This is the first time that Modi is besieged with such crisis; he successfully thwarted a rebellious upsurge against him in 2005 by not less than 69 of his own party MLAs. Sources say VHP may support Patel in a full-fledged manner making things difficult for Modi in certain pockets. On poll planks too, Modi may have to do some hard thinking as Congress has already let loose a cannonade of freebies for the poor.
- Modi’s ride to Delhi gets rougher after Naroda verdict (Aug 29, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Narendra Modi’s role must be probed: Congress (Aug 29, 2012, Youtube)
- Naroda Patiya: Kin of convicts raise slogans against CM, Kodnani, Teesta (Sep 1, 2012, Indian Express)
- Naroda Patia verdict: Sanjiv Bhatt writes scathing letter to Modi (Sep 1, 2012, Times of India)
An eerie silence prevailed in Naroda Patiya on Thursday, a day before a special trial court was to sentence the 32 people found guilty for the massacre during the 2002 riots in the area that had left 97 dead. Some of the residents claimed a group of people owing allegiance to the accused visited their locality late Wednesday night and threatened them with dire consequences if the court gave harsh punishment to those found guilty. On Thursday, women stayed indoors while the menfolk huddled outside their houses in small groups. Sharifabanu Iqbal Sheikh, a resident, said, “Local politicians have threatened us that if harsh punishment is awarded to their leaders, we will have to face the wrath.”
Pesh Imam at local Noorani Masjid, Maulana Shamshuddin Sheikh, said, “After the evening namaaz, movements of other community members had increased. In the night, Patiya residents come to us to discuss the threat.” The Iman [Imam] said he was not expecting a huge crowd that usually comes on Friday since Muslims in neighbourhood were scared. Babu Ahmed Hussain, who owns a pan shop outside Noorani Masjid, said, “After the judgment on Wednesday, members of a particular community from the neighbourhood started taking rounds of Patiya. We fear their activities after the sentences are pronounced on Friday.”
Those running small shops inside Patiya were sitting without customers on Thursday in the otherwise bustling area. Farooq Mansuri, who owns a grocery shop, said he had not kept much stock in his shop lest it’s torched again if violence broke out. Salim Sheikh, an old resident of Patiya, said, “The accused who have been keeping a tab on us even know the houses we have got in the resettlement colonies. Even if we go there to hide, they would come after us. So, we would rather stay back here, like we stuck to our ancestral homes for the last 30 years in Patiya.”
Late Wednesday night, locals got together at a local school and decided to patrol the area in shifts. The police, meanwhile, claimed they are probing the alleged threats. The police have picked up Bhikhabhai Parmar, who had furnished the surety for absconding Naroda Patiya massacre accused Suresh alias Sehjad Danubhai Netalkar against whom the special court has issued a non-bailable warrant. According to public prosecutor Gaurang Vyas, the court warned Parmar and two advocates to bring Netalkar on Friday or face legal action. Netalkar was convicted by the court on Wednesday.
- 25 Muslim families shift a day before verdict fearing violence (Aug 29, 2012, Ahmedabad Mirror)
- Activists hail verdict, witnesses’ courage (Aug 29, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Naroda Patiya riots verdict will spread good message: JD (U) (Aug 31, 2012, The Hindu)
- Babu Bajrangi admits, ‘Proud of killings in Naroda Patiya’ (Aug 29, 2012, Daily Bhaskar)
The special SIT court on Wednesday held that the killing of 97 persons at Naroda Patia was the result of a preplanned conspiracy. This is the third of SIT-prosecuted post-Godhra riots cases, wherein the court has accepted the prosecution’s contention that the riots were not spontaneous reaction to the Godhra carnage, rather they were actually a result of meeting of minds to target members of the minority community. Earlier, two special courts in Anand had upheld the prosecution’s case that criminal conspiracy was hatched by the accused persons before the killings that took place in Ode town in the aftermath of the Godhra incident.
In Naroda Patia massacre case, the defence lawyers maintained that it was reaction of killing of 57 kar sevaks at Godhra a day earlier and the atmosphere was communally charged. They submitted before the court that the spread of word was like virus during that time in Gujarat. However, prosecutors Akhil Desai and Gaurang Vyas highlighted that most of the members of unlawful assembly were armed with weapons. They had argued that many of them were found in possession of alcohol pouches and chavanu. Presence of canisters filled with inflammables with the members of the mob could not have happened without planning, they submitted.
To drive its point home about the conspiracy theory, the prosecution also argued that the rioters had put up obstacles on road so as to prevent cops or relief from reaching the victims. In its verdict, the court has convicted persons like Maya Kodnani, then BJ P MLA who was not even witnessed as having assaulted anybody, of murder, attempt to murder, and assault. This is primarily because the court has ordered the charges under the sections 302, 307, 295, 427, 435, 436 of IPC to be read with sections 120B and 149 of IPC.
In two other cases of Sardarpura and Dipda Darwaja massacres, the SIT court declined to believe that there was any conspiracy hatched. However, another SIT court that heard the Godhra carnage case accepted the prosecution’s case of preplanned conspiracy to burn the bogie.
- ‘Riots verdict enhances people’s faith in legal system’ (Aug 29, 2012, Rediff)
- Cancer on cherished value of secularism, says court (Sep 1, 2012, Times of India)
- Naroda Patiya massacre: SRP jawans incited the mob, say riot victims (Sep 3, 2012, DNA India)
- Naroda Patiya massacre: Former DGP blames BJP govt for ‘police inaction’ (Sep 2, 2012, Indian Express)
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has refused to apologise for the 2002 riots in the state. “One only has to ask for forgiveness if one is guilty of a crime. If you think it’s such a big crime, why should the culprit be forgiven? “Just because Modi is a chief minister, why should he be forgiven. I think Modi should get the biggest punishment possible if he is guilty. And the world should know that there isn’t any tolerance for such political leaders,” he told The Wall Street Journal. He was asked whether he would apologise for the riots which his critics demand.
Modi parried a question whether he sees himself as a future prime minister, saying he was concentrating on Gujarat. “I can’t think beyond that,” he said. The paper said Modi attributed malnutrition problems in his state partly to Gujaratis being largely vegetarian and partly to body, image issues among young women.
“The middle class is more beauty conscious than health conscious- that is a challenge,” he said. “If a mother tells her daughter to have milk, they’ll have a fight – she’ll tell her mother ‘I won’t drink milk. I’ll get fat,” Modi added.
- Guj polls: Hindutva out, core issues focus of parties (Sep 3, 2012, Deccan Herald)
- Narendra Modi comes under attack for comment on women (Aug 30, 2012, Times of India)
- Modi trivialising a serious issue, says Ambika Soni (Aug 30, 2012, The Hindu)
- Surat Congress workers burn Modi’s effigy (Aug 30, 2012, Times of India)
While awarding the death sentence to Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the lone gunman caught for his involvement in the 26 November 2008 Mumbai terror strikes, a Supreme Court bench made observations on the plan to incite communal violence in India, media coverage of the issue and the two other accused in the case. Here are some of the observations made by the Supreme Court bench of justices Aftab Alam and CK Prasad:
“If the appellant (Kasab) had not been caught alive and the investigating agencies had not been able to unravel the conspiracy fully and in all its devious ways, the terrorists might have passed (off) as Indian Muslims and that would have led to devastating short-term and equally debilitating long-term consequences. It would have caused… distrust and suspicion between communities and disturbed the communal peace and harmony of the country. It is not impossible that conflagrations would have erupted in different parts of the country, which the governments would have found difficult to contain.”
In this regard, the selection of the CST (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) as one of the targets for carnage assumes great importance. Trains leave for many parts of the country from the CST. Thus, as news of the carnage spread across the country through the media, travellers would start arriving in different parts of the country, some having lost their near and dear ones at CST, some with a wounded companion and others shell-shocked by the experience of a terrorist attack on the railway station. Their first-hand, eyewitness accounts of the carnage, added to reports in the print media and visuals in the electronic media, could be highly inflammatory and could easily evoke communal violence that would be difficult to contain.
(The deception) was equally distressing for being so deeply untruthful. Indian Muslims may have a long list of grievances against the establishment. Some of the grievances may be fanciful, some may be of their own making and some may be substantive. Nevertheless, no Indian Muslim would even think of venting his grievance like an animal, killing, maiming and wounding innocent people, his own countrymen. This is because he is not only loyal to his faith and community but equally loves his country and fellow countrymen.
Any attempt to justify the conduct of the TV channels by citing the right to freedom of speech and expression would be totally wrong and unacceptable in such a situation. The freedom of speech and expression, like all other freedoms under Article 19, is subject to reasonable restrictions. An action tending to violate another person’s right to life guaranteed under Article 21 or putting the national security in jeopardy can never be justified by taking the plea of freedom of speech and expression. It is beyond doubt that the way their (security forces) operations were freely shown made the task of the security forces not only exceedingly difficult but also dangerous and risky. It is in such extreme cases that the credibility of an institution is tested. The coverage of the Mumbai terror attack by the mainstream electronic media has done much harm to the argument that any regulatory mechanism for the media must only come from within. The shots and visuals that were shown live by the TV channels could have also been shown after all the terrorists were neutralised and the security operations were over. But, in that case the TV programmes would not have had the same shrill, scintillating and chilling effect and would not have shot up the TRP ratings of the channels. …
- ‘But for Kasab’s capture, blame might have fallen on Indian Muslims’ (Aug 29, 2012, The Hindu)
- SC frees Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Shaikh; Mumbai police left red faced (Aug 29, 2012, DNA India)
- Sabauddin and Faheem: the 26/11 accused who never were (Aug 29, 2012, First Post)
- Live TV coverage put national security in jeopardy, says Bench (Aug 29, 2012, The Hindu)
The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to examine a request for further investigation into all the bomb blasts cases since 2002 by a committee which should be headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge and include investigating officers and other experts.
“We are not disapproving any of your concerns. We will examine the issue in the light of the cases that you have referred. We will also have to examine your prayers within the parameters of the laws,” a Bench led by Justice T S Thakur told senior advocate Amarendra Sharan while admitting the plea.
In their Public Interest Litigation, two Mumbai residents have pleaded for a further probe into blast cases, including Samjhauta blast, Malegaon blast, Mecca Masjid blast and Ajmer Sharif blast, by a special committee, besides action against the police officials involved in framing innocent Muslim youths.
“The petitioners submit that the issue is of vital national importance as Muslims in the country are being deliberately targeted and innocent Muslim boys are being blamed for all the blast cases and arrested on fabricated and false evidence,” said the PIL, adding that the investigating agencies were not going to the root of the real conspiracy.
Accusing the investigating agency of helping the right-wing Hindu organisations, the plea further said: “The Muslims in general perceive that their community is being unfairly targeted by investigating agencies…the investigation of bomb blast cases are biased and prejudiced and the real perpetrators are not brought to book.”
- SC notice to centre, states on ‘arrests’ (Aug 27, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Police acting only against Muslims, Yadavs: RJD (Aug 28, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- Ghaziabad RTO issues driving license to IM terrorist jailed in Saudi Arabia (Aug 27, 2012, India Today)
- 105 days in custody: Have Indian, Saudi governments forgot Fasih Mahmood? (Aug 27, 2012, Twocircles.net)
Terror arrests to divert people’s attention from Gujarat verdict: CLMC (Sep 1, 2012, Twocircles.net)
Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee of India while condemning the fresh arrest of Muslim youths from different parts of India alleged that these arrests have been planned only to divert nation’s attention from the historic court verdict in the Gujarat riot case. CLMC has sought Prime Minister’s intervention to stop targeting innocent Muslims. “Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee strongly condemns the arrest of Muslim youths from different parts of India and expressed that the police action is based upon malicious intention and dishonesty. These arrests are the result of nexus between anti Muslim police groups of Hyderabad and Bangalore working with the support of Hindutva outfits. This committee believes that the main intention of these arrests is to divert the attention of people from the court verdict against the criminals of Gujarat genocide and ongoing genocide of Muslim in Assam,” said Lateef Mohammad Khan, General Secretary, CLMC in a statement on Saturday.
“As per the reliable sources of civil liberties, police arrested these youths in illegal manner, detained and tortured them and then as per the practice after completing these formalities declared them arrested. This joint operation of police action started simultaneously from Bangalore, Hyderabad, Nanded and other parts of south India. The notorious police officers of Hyderabad police who were involved in arresting Muslim youths in the name of Mecca Masjid blast investigation are in forefront in this action and violated all rules and norms of Supreme Court of India in connection of arrest, detention and interrogation,” Khan said.
“Actually these arrests are the part of greater conspiracy which is included in Hindutva agenda to target the educated Muslim youths who are in good professions. Those who are arrested belong to Journalism, Medicine, Science and technology as well as students. By this way Muslim will be looked with suspicion in journalism, and in scientific institutes, and their future will be dark in these fields and they will be denied job opportunity in future,” he averred.
Khan questioned the claims of police in connection with the recent arrests. “The police statement on these arrests is nothing but a bundle of lies. The Bangalore police chief Mr. lalkhurma said that police arrested these youths when they are in sleep and a pistol was in their hand. Now the big question is that whether they were sleeping by holding a pistol in their hands and how can they carryout their “operation” with a Pistol? Police also said that computer, laptop, cell phone, hard disk are recovered from them. It is a matter of commonsense that these are the essential materials in day to day life, these are not dangerous weapons,” he said.
At this high time Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee demanded Prime Minster of India to intervene and order high-level enquiry on these arrests and stop the arresting of innocent Muslim youths. CLMC has appealed to people, social activists and political leaders to come forward to condemn these arrests. CLMC has expressed hope that in near future all these youths will be acquitted with honor by the court of law. And state governments of India will once again be in the dock and will tender apology and compensation. CLMC has sent a memorandum to Prime Minster of India urging him to intervene into the situation, stop the arrest of Muslim youths and order high-level enquiry.
- Suspects had no terror record (Sep 1, 2012, Deccan Herald)
- CLMC sees ‘conspiracy’ in arrest of Muslim youth (Sep 3, 2012, The Hindu)
- Youth arrests: Muslim group submits memorandum to PM (Sep 1, 2012, Rediff)
- ‘My brother’s life is an open book’ (Sep 1, 2012, The Hindu)
When Assam was still convulsing with clashes between ethnic Bodos and Muslim migrants early this month, a section of top Bodo leaders was attending a workshop organised by the BJP in Delhi. The BJP has been trying to politically court Assam’s Bodo tribals, citing “common culture and religion” and a “common enemy” – Muslim migrants of Bangladeshi origin.
Although the Bodos – Assam’s largest plains tribe of a Mongoloid-Burmese stock – are largely nature-worshiping “animists” who follow the local “Boutha” faith as well as Christianity, the BJP has sought to reach out to them on a plank of nativity and Hindutva.
In Assam, ties with the Bodos – who now share power with the Congress as a junior ally – could give the BJP ample political leg room in the tribal heartland. It’s not a bridge too far, says CK Das, vice-president of Assam’s BJP unit and a former top bureaucrat.
- Arrested Assam MLA was a Bodo student leader close to militant chief (Aug 28, 2012, Indian Express)
- 7 more bodies found, govt bans bandhs (Aug 29, 2012, Statesman)
- 1 killed, 7 injured in Kokrajhar violence (Aug 29, 2012, Indian Express)
- Act tough, Centre tells Assam (Aug 28, 2012, The Hindu)
Opinions and Editorials
The conviction by a Gujarat court of BJP legislator Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi along with 30 others for their role in the Naroda Patia massacre is the strongest judicial affirmation yet that large-scale communal violence is almost always a product of pre-meditated political planning and calculation. An estimated 95 Muslims, many of them hapless women and children, were hacked to death in Naroda, a minority neighbourhood in Ahmedabad targeted by armed mobs under the indulgent gaze of the Gujarat government in the wake of the February 27, 2002 Godhra train carnage.
The verdict is a landmark one. It is for the first time that an Indian court has convicted a sitting MLA – Ms Kodnani was also a minister in the Narendra Modi government from 2007 to 2009 – for mob aggression against members of a religious community. Secondly, the court has not only upheld the charge of criminal conspiracy against the 32 individuals convicted, it has also found one of them guilty of rape and sexual harassment.
The establishment of conspiracy augurs well for the future of communal violence prosecutions, where the judicial trend so far has been to uphold murder but not conspiracy. It is a victory particularly for the Special Investigation Team that was brought into the picture by the Supreme Court following the failure of the State police to properly prosecute the post-Godhra riots cases. For the families of the Naroda victims, who identified the aggressors braving threats and intimidation and who were able to come forward to some extent because of the protection offered by the apex court, there cannot be a greater vindication than the trial court finding evidence of rape and molestation.
It has been their plaintive cry that the violence was orchestrated and targeted against women, who were subjected to gang rape and worse before being slaughtered. Violence against women is a pattern established over and over in anti-minority pogroms, and the judgment has done yeoman service in foregrounding this fact. Needless to say, the conviction is a huge setback to the Gujarat Chief Minister personally.
The fact that Ms Kodnani led the Naroda killings was common knowledge, yet Mr. Modi made her a minister, even putting her in charge of ‘women and child development’ as if to thumb his nose at the victims. A bigger worry for Mr. Modi ought to be the establishment of conspiracy. The Chief Minister has maintained all along that the “riots” were a spontaneous act by crowds enraged by Godhra. It stretches credulity that Ms Kodnani could enter into a conspiracy with her co-accused without the government getting a whiff of the group’s criminal intentions and conduct, before, during and after the killing.
- Where law wins out – Editorial (Aug 30, 2012, Indian Express)
- Gujarat ’02 riots: Widening the net – Editorial (Aug 30, 2012, Asian Age)
- Just retribution – Editorial (Aug 29, 2012, Deccan Herald)
- Law must deal with communal riots at all levels – Editorial (Sep 1, 2012, Economic Times)
I was over the moon the day TEHELKA’s six-month-long undercover operation on Gujarat riots was scheduled to be aired on AajTak and Headlines Today and couldn’t sleep the previous night. The AajTak editor, QW Naqvi, had called the programme ‘Operation Kalank’ – a blot on the nation and democracy. I remember Tarun Tejpal, TEHELKA’s editor-in-chief, go on about how our investigation was going to change the narrative of Gujarat riots and the politics around it. After all, what we had achieved was groundbreaking. Rioters, conspirators, public prosecutors, Sangh Parivar leaders and a BJP MLA, were all caught on tape confessing to their roles in the 2002 massacre and the systemic subversion of justice in its aftermath. How women and children were hacked and burnt to death, how Ehsaan Jafri was lynched and set on fire, how women were raped, a foetus impaled on a sword straight out of the mother’s womb, how the police had assisted the rioters, how ministers were taking a blow-by-blow account of the ongoing massacre from them, how witnesses were bought or intimidated into silence, how evidence was destroyed, how judges were transferred to secure bail for rioters. All of this was said on record by the very men who did it. It was unprecedented. Never before in the history of Indian journalism had there been a reportage that had caught killers, rapists and rioters giving a graphic account of their crimes. The first-hand accounts left little doubt that it was a State-sponsored pogrom. And it was all in the can. We had also nailed the real story of the Godhra train burning. The star police witnesses were caught on camera telling how police had tutored them to give false testimonies and framed a spontaneous communal riot into a cold-blooded conspiracy. They confessed they were party to a police conspiracy, in which respected Muslim leaders of Godhra were falsely implicated to justify Narendra Modi’s “action-reaction” theory.
We, at TEHELKA, were convinced our story would result in a nation-wide uproar. We had over sixty hours of unedited video recordings. We thought the lies of the Modi administration on the Godhra train burning incident would be exposed. We thought that people would demand immediate action. Modi would be forced to resign. The killers would be put behind bars. And victims would get justice. How wrong we were! The story was aired on October 2007, on AajTak, for over five hours. Spokespersons from different parties came on TV and reeled off the usual platitudes. The next day some newspapers carried it as a front-page story. Honestly, on a personal level, I was expecting awards and recognition. But what followed devastated me as a journalist. The Gujarat state election was round the corner and people – which included some responsible human rights activists and Muslim leaders – started a whisper campaign that the sting operation had been orchestrated and sponsored by Narendra Modi himself. The Congress party, which we thought would make our story a national issue, instead tried its best to skirt the revelations made in the TEHELKA tapes. A few Congress leaders even floated the conspiracy theory that as the Congress party was all set to trounce Modi in the upcoming Assembly election, Modi had hired TEHELKA to whip up the communal sentiments of the Hindus by way of inflammatory statements of the riot-accused. On the other hand, the BJP was accusing us of having conducted the sting at the Congress’ behest. Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi made a statement in Parliament suggesting that the sting operation was the result of a conspiracy hatched by some BJP leaders sitting in Delhi. He even defended the Gujarat government’s decision to ban the telecast of TEHELKA sting in Ahmedabad. Dasmunshi claimed that Central agencies had solid intelligence of the ‘deep-rooted conspiracy’ and the truth would emerge soon. My brother called me from my hometown in UP and said local Congress leaders were asking him how much was I paid by Modi to do this story. A prominent civil rights activist called me and made a probing enquiry into how we managed to get the accused on camera and how they never suspected my intent. …
Two months later, in December 2007, Narendra Modi dealt a sound drubbing to the Congress at the poll. In private conversations, the Congress leaders blamed the TEHELKA story for their electoral defeat. The morning after election results, a prominent English daily began its adulatory lead story on Modi’s poll triumph by saying, in spite of TEHELKA’s “dubious sting operation”, Modi emerged triumphant. Among the few human rights activists who stood by TEHELKA’s story was Teesta Setalvad. Realising the immense evidentiary importance of the TEHELKA tapes, she first moved the Supreme Court, pleading that the court take immediate cognisance of the TEHELKA evidence. At the time, the matter of Gujarat riots had reached a stalemate in the Apex Court. The Court had said the tapes would be examined in due course and refused to intervene. At this point, Teesta moved the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and asked for an inquiry into the TEHELKA expose. The NHRC advised the Modi government to give its consent for a CBI probe. Modi declined. His government claimed that since the Gujarat riots were already being inquired into by the Nanavati-Shah commission and cases were pending in trial courts, there was no need for a CBI probe. Overruling Modi, the full bench of NHRC, headed by Justice Rajendra Babu, by its order dated 5 March 2008, ordered the CBI to conduct an inquiry into the authenticity of TEHELKA tapes and the allegations made therein. “The revelations (made in the TEHELKA tapes) bode ill for the future of the human rights in the country,” the NHRC ruled. After months of despair, I saw this as the first glimmer of hope, that perhaps the work done by TEHELKA would not go waste. I was now hopeful that though the story didn’t get the journalistic recognition it deserved, it would go a long way in securing justice for the victims. The Mumbai wing of the CBI registered a preliminary inquiry and took in their possession the full raw footage, the spy cameras used to record it and the laptop on which it was stored. CBI sleuths recorded my editor’s and my statements. The agency sent the equipment and the footage for forensic examination to a CFSL lab in Jaipur. Six months later, I learnt from newspaper reports that the Jaipur lab found the TEHELKA footage 100 percent authentic.
In March 2008, the Supreme Court constituted a Special Investigations Team (SIT), headed by retired CBI director RK Raghavan, to re-investigate nine major riot cases, including the Godhra train burning, Gulberg Society and Naroda Patiya massacres. I wrote to the SIT and asked to depose before it. Soon, I received a communiqué from Raghavan’s camp office and I was told to appear before him. I appeared before the full panel of SIT, which at the time included Geeta Johri, Shivanand Jha and Ashish Bhatia – all Gujarat cadre IPS officers. I submitted the full raw footage and the transcripts. I made a passionate plea in my meeting with Raghavan. “If I, as an individual reporter, with no powers other than that of a common citizen, can gather so much evidence and peel off so many layers of judicial subversion and miscarriage of justice, I’m sure that your team with full statutory powers and the mandate given by the Supreme Court can get to the bottom of 2002 riots,” I told Raghavan. All along, the SIT members kept a straight face and didn’t say much. I didn’t know at the time that what lay ahead was a tortuous journey for the victims and the witnesses. As time went by, the much-hyped SIT only turned out to be a sophisticated version of the Gujarat police – but only slightly. The field and supervisory officers – from sub-inspectors to deputy SP to Inspector General – who were part of the SIT were all drawn from Gujarat police. Raghavan worked as SIT chief in absentia. He visited Gujarat only once or twice every month. The investigation, for all practical purposes, was again back with the Gujarat police. The probe team recorded my statement about half a dozen times, in five separate cases. It was my first engagement with a police investigation. So far, I had only reported on and critiqued investigations and court proceedings. Now, I was a part of the process. I had reported on the selective application of law. Now, I was experiencing it first-hand. The Investigating Officers mined me for all the evidence that I could provide against the likes of Babu Bajrangi, Mayaben Kodnani and Jaideep Patel.
Every piece of the missing puzzle, as far as the roles of the foot-soldiers was concerned, was carved out of the TEHELKA tapes, corroborated by eyewitness testimonies, and then pieced together to build a case. I was told that the extra-judicial confessions of two rioters – Mangilal Jain and Madan Chawal, both mohalla-level VHP cadres – recorded on the TEHELKA tapes, was the only piece of evidence to establish how Ehsan Jafri was murdered, and was thus valuable. I was told that revelations made by Suresh Richard and Prakash Rathod – both lower-rung Bajrang Dal members – about the role played by Mayaben Kodnani in the Naroda Patiya riots was crucial. The SIT told me that the testimony of Bajrangi in the tapes had filled the critical gaps in the Naroda Patiya investigation. But the claims made by all of them about Modi were dismissed by the SIT as unsubstantiated averments. … Why were Hindu rioters allowed bail? Why were public prosecutors threatening and buying off witnesses? Why were investigating officers weakening the evidence? Where is the written record of Narendra Modi’s efforts, in his Constitutional capacity as the chief minister of the state, in quelling the riots? How many meetings had he held with police officials on those three crucial days? Where are the minutes of those meetings? What did Modi do to ensure an impartial and fair investigation post riots? Why was justice secured in only those cases that were transferred out of Gujarat or tried in Gujarat but monitored by the Apex Court? These questions may seem too many, but the dark truth is that there are far more unanswered questions that dangle over Modi’s head for his role in the 2002 riots. Until they are answered, these questions continue to hold an entire nation to ransom.
- Justice done; what about untold stories? – By Seema Mustafa (Aug 31, 2012, DNA India)
- Much remains undone – By Shoma Chaudhury (Sep 8, 2012, Tehelka)
- Gujarat riots: 10 year quest for justice – By Nikunj Soni (Aug 31, 2012, DNA India)
- It has taken 10 years to start closing some pages of the book of justice – By Tarun J Tejpal (Sep 8, 2012, Tehelka)
Can Modi ever rid himself of the ghosts of the 2002 riots? – By Venky Vembu (Aug 30, 2012, First Post)
The past 48 hours have taught the BJP a harsh lesson in the vicissitudes of the political news cycle. On Tuesday, the party was on a high, having effectively forced the UPA government on the defensive on the scandal involving coal block allocations. Even those who had been critical of the party’s obstructionist stance in Parliament were compelled to concede that the relentless campaign had paid off, with ever more disquieting details of the scandal tumbling out. But barely a day later, the verdict in the Naroda Patiya massacre of 2002, in which former BJP Minister Maya Kodnani was found guilty of murder and conspiracy, has recoiled on the party. Of course, this is a lower court verdict, against which appeals will be made in a higher court. Yet, the fact that the 2002 riots cases, which have been winding their weary way through the judicial process amidst all the political sloganeering, have struck so close to the political establishment and secured the conviction of a former Minister, no less, is deeply damaging for the party. More specifically, the verdict has already reignited the chatter about the extent to which the Gujarat government, and Chief Minister Narendra Modi in particular, were complicit in the riots. More and more will we hear it be asked: Just how much did Narendra Modi know of the riots in real time?
It is one thing that Kodnani was, as the right-wing blogger@offstumped points out, perceived for long as being in the faction within the BJP that was opposed to Modi. Contemporaneous media reports in 2005 (illustratively, here and here) referred to her as being “anti-Modi” and campaigning for Modi’s ouster. This, in turn, has fed conspiracy theories about the root cause of the riots (beyond the proximate cause of the Godhra train burning) and their plausible connections to power dynamics within the BJP. Yet, Modi’s failure over the years to speak with candour about the political undercurrents that eddied beneath the riots has tainted him by association and fed the narrative that he and his government were actually complicit in the riots. Beyond noting, as he did even recently in an interview to the Wall Street Journal, that he and his government had nothing to apologise for in respect of the 2002 riots, he has not addressed the political dynamics that were at play then. Particularly in contrast to the high-decibel barrage of the accusations against him, his silence, which appears stoic, has been self-incriminating. And even if his vocal army of diehard supporters are evidently convinced of his personal innocence, such a strategy has not enabled Modi to dispel the lingering doubts in the minds of those in the middle ground. The legal runaround over the 2002 Gujarat riots may continue for a while, and to the extent that they help secure a semblance of justice to the victims of the riots, that process should continue. In any case, just the fact that convictions are being secured in the Gujarat riots, in stark contrast to the colossal failure to secure any justice for the victims of previous riots (including one of the the most chilling pogroms against Sikhs in 1984 following the assassination of Indira Gandhi) shows that the wheels of justice spin, even if only slowly and selectively.
But even if the cases don’t lead to Modi’s doorstep, the political taint from association is proving hard for him to wipe off. Within Gujarat, of course, he has converted the political campaign against him into an issue of Gujarati pride, and leveraged it for political goodwill. But beyond Gujarat, that victimhood narrative doesn’t enjoy as much resonance, which could prove a liability for him as he looks to spread his wings at the national level, perhaps with an eye on the prime ministership. Modi today is locked in something of an image trap. He has a core group of very vocal supporters who constitute the hardcore “base” of the BJP. But although the disproportionately high decibel level of this base may make it seem larger than life, its support isn’t big enough for him to be catapulted to prime ministership, where, given the current state of disarray in the BJP, the party will need coalition allies to form a government. However, Modi’s efforts to rebrand himself as a development-focussed moderate leader risk losing some of the support from this very base that is the pillar of his politics today.
In that sense, Modi could well turn out to be the LK Advani of the next generation. Within the BJP during the late 1980s and the early 1990s, Advani was the most popular leader among the hardcore base of the party. The Ayodhya campaign that he spearheaded during his term as BJP president saw the party capitalise on Rajiv Gandhi’s many follies and become a formidable parliamentary force. Yet, when the time came for the BJP-led NDA to form a government in the mid 1990s, Advani lost out to the far more moderate AB Vajpayee – simply because for the allies on whom the BJP depended, Advani (of the rath yatra fame) was far too polarising a political figure. In much the same way, Modi today remains a politically polarising figure. Facts count for little in a political environment where both his supporters and his detractors are swayed excessively by faith in their perception.
For diehard Modi fans, this may seem an unfair way of checkmating his ascendance at the last hurdle, when in fact he has carried his home State thrice over (and would likely win in a US presidential-style election against any other leader); has established himself as a ‘doer’. But in the same way that the prospect of Sonia Gandhi becoming Prime Minister faced immense pushback from the political establishment even after she had led her party to victory in the 2004 elections (BJP Sushma Swaraj famously threatened to shave her head as penance for the ignominy of a foreign-born leader becoming India’s Prime Minister), Modi too faces formidable odds at the last hurdle. Which may account for why BJP leaders were on Wednesday on the defensive, and had not much to say in defence of Modi in the context of the verdict. But their deafening silence, which finds an echo in Modi’s own manifest reluctance to speak with candour about the political undercurrents beneath the riots, only taints him and his government even further by association.
- The Naroda Patia judgement has political ramifications the BJP can scarcely ignore – Editorial (Aug 31, 2012, Times of India)
- How will Modi explain his minister’s role in the riots? – By Aakar Patel (Aug 29, 2012, First Post)
- Let hardened criminals live in jail till death – By Rakesh Bhatnagar (Sep 3, 2012, DNA India)
- Why Modi must be a lonely man today – By R Jagannathan (Aug 30, 2012, First Post)
As news filtered in of extended life sentences for 31 persons for the brutal slaughter 10 years ago in Naroda Patiya, a working-class suburb of Ahmedabad, my eyes clouded over. I remembered my first meetings with the traumatised survivors of the massacre in the crowded relief camps in the city, a full decade earlier. I was heartsick and stunned by their stories of incredible cruelty. I wondered if they would ever heal and hope again, and how we would defend the idea of India from the assaults of hatred. Today, 10 years later, I realise that secular democracy is never given to any people: it constantly must be claimed, and reclaimed. So many people and institutions have rallied in stout defence of secular democracy, and of much older ideas – of compassion, justice and truth. Years ago, as I made my way through teeming crowds of broken people sheltered in the Shah Alam Camp, I unexpectedly found a sunlit corner of the dargah among the graves, ringing with children’s laughter. A group of young people from Naroda Patiya had organised classes and play for the children in the camp. I sat among them, all working-class youth – auto and bus drivers, electricians, embroiderers – and heard their stories of loss and trauma. A bond grew between us. Many volunteered to work with us in Aman Biradari, as aman and nyaya pathiks, literally ‘those who walk the path of peace and justice’.
They spoke of mobs led by MLA Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi, mercilessly setting aflame children, women and men. A citizens’ tribunal recorded that “the burning alive of victims was widespread… (When) 6-year-old Irfan asked for water, his assailants at Naroda Patiya made him forcibly drink kerosene, or some other inflammable liquid, before a lit match was thrown inside his gullet to make him explode within”. Initially, justice seemed an impossible mirage. The first Eid after the carnage, I went to Ahmedabad to spend it with my young friends in Naroda Patiya. I found their mothers distraught. For the one Hindu person who died in the massacre, a dozen people had been charged and arrested, including many aman pathiks. Clearly, they wanted to crush their ardour for justice. One of them, Yusuf and his father spent four months in jail. I was worried that this would break their spirit and radicalise them. He told me later that when he was depressed, his father would console him, “Do you know who was imprisoned here in this jail? Gandhiji. If he could spend time here, who are we?” After his release, Yusuf became a bus driver like his father. But he also studied law. Today he works as an assistant with a senior lawyer in Ahmedabad, and was a resolute witness in the Patiya case.
Initial police investigations absolved leaders like Kodnani and Bajrangi from the crime. But the National Human Rights Commission approached the Supreme Court for independent re-investigation, and the highest court established a Special Investigation Team (SIT) which nailed the killers and their leaders. Clinching evidence came from heroic police officer Rahul Sharma. He collected mobile phone records which later established that Kodnani and Bajrangi were actually at Naroda Patiya during the massacre. He was transferred and his evidence buried. But he bravely chose to voluntarily present copies of these phone records to the SIT, for which he has been charge-sheeted by the Modi government. This became crucial collaborative evidence in court of the participation of the leaders in the mass murder. The witnesses braved penury, threats and intimidation, and spurned large sums of money offered to change their statements. Each of their testimonies painted a horrific picture of the slaughter. Farzana Pathan, for instance, described to the court how the mob “pulled away my mother and killed and burnt her in front of my eyes… My elder daughter Farhana was pulled away by a person from the mob. Her clothes were removed and … 4-5 of them raped her”.
Shakilabanu spoke of how the “mob sprinkled petrol on my family members and burnt them alive. My three-month-old niece was thrown in the fire by this mob”. The Naroda witnesses were aided by Citizens for Justice headed by the indomitable Teesta Setalvad. In numerous legal battles being fought in Gujarat, witnesses are similarly supported by brave organisations. She expresses satisfaction that the court reached beyond the foot-soldiers to the instigators and organisers, establishing that none are beyond the arm of the law. Judge Jyotsnaben Yagnik described the massacre as “brutal, inhuman and shameful” and held that it was a “pre-planned conspiracy” which “cannot be mitigated by just saying that it was a reaction to the Godhra train burning incident”‘. She awarded a rare 28 years imprisonment to Kodnani, and incarceration until death to Bajrangi. “I find myself praying that Bajrangi lives a hundred years” laughs Imran, one of the nyaya pathiks.
Sharief responds soberly, “In Shah Alam Camp, when you first spoke to us of peace, justice and non-violence, I wanted to believe. But a part of me insisted that justice would come only from a gun. Today, hearing the judge, I believe. Ahimsa se hi nyaya sambhav hai.” Yusuf, peace worker, bus driver, lawyer and witness, was present in the court the day the judge announced the sentence. “I was elated,” he says. “But then I saw the young sons of some of those sentenced for life weeping for their fathers. I thought of the children who lost their parents in Naroda, and how painful life is for them. These children too are innocent, even though their fathers are not. I wanted to run to the judge and plead with her to set their fathers free. How will they live 21 years without their fathers?” I have much to learn from my young friend.
- Tricolor in Naroda Patiya – By Kashif-ul-Huda (Aug 29, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- The Naroda Patia verdict has renewed public faith in the judicial system – By Mukul Kesavan (Sep 1, 2012, Times of India)
- ‘It is very lonely to fight for justice’ – Teesta Setalvad talks to Shoma Chaudhury (Sep 8, 2012, Tehelka)
- The Modi index – Editorial (Sep 1, 2012, The Hindu)
On August 11, it was not just the rioters who behaved like hooligans but the law enforcers too behaved like rioters, going on mindless rampage of their own and breaking seven teeth of a young boy who wasn’t even part of the riots. The Rapid Action Force allegedly beat up 26- year- old Abbas Ujjainwala on the night of August 11 when he went to Azad Maidan looking for a friend. Abbas, who was at home when the riots took place early in the evening, had gone to Azad Maidan at 9: 30 PM after the riots stopped, to look for his friend who hadn’t returned from the protest meet. On seeing him, the RAF men thrashed him with batons, knocking out seven of his teeth. He was arrested and, incidentally, acquitted by the court on Tuesday. A CCTV installed in Taxi Mens Colony, Kurla, where he resides, came to his rescue. The footage showed Ujjainwala shopping near his house at the time vandals were wreaking havoc at Azad Maidan.
‘I was in the colony when the riots erupted. At 9.30 PM, I was at Azad Maidan searching for a friend when the police apprehended me. They thrashed me, broke my teeth and hit me hard on the head. I was arrested even though I told them I was not part of the protest,’Ujjainwala said, who is hardly able to speak. ‘How can the police first beat up a person and later pronounce him innocent?’ exclaimed Hussain Ujjainwala, father of Abbas. Apart from Abbas, three more acquitted youth were allegedly beaten black and blue by the RAF and the Arthur Road Jail authorities before being set free nearly 14 days later.
All the 23 accused, who were acquitted owing to lack of evidence, were to be sent for an immediate medical check up after Advocate Khalid Azmi filed an application on Saturday on behalf of their family members stating that they d were beaten up in Arthur Road Jail. However, the police have still not sent the acquitted and the accused for medical check up. Further, Abbas claimed he was verbally abused and threatened by the Arthur Road Jail authorities. ‘I was beaten up in such a manner that they left no visible injuries on my body. They mostly assaulted us with punches and kicks,’ Abbas added. FPJ had first reported Abbass torturous ordeal on Monday. However, when Deputy Police Commissioner, Nisar Tamboli, was called for the police version, he said he was unaware of the incident and asked us to contact crime branch officials. Additional Police Commissioner Niket Kaushik was unavailable for comment.
Another acquitted youth, Anees Dawaray ( 23), a garage mechanic, also claims the police at Arthur road jail beat him up. Aslam Ali Shaikh ( 19), a FYBcom student at MD College in Dadar, who was also wrongly picked up by the police on the eve of the riots, has a harrowing account to narrate. ‘Immediately after releasing me from Taloja jail on Tuesday, I had to be rushed to a private nursing home for dressing of wounds. I can barely walk. They beat me on my legs with a stick at Arthur Jail road,’ said a visibly shaken Shaikh.
- Role of Police in Containing Mob Violence – By Arvind Verma (Sep 8, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)
- Revisiting Communalism and Fundamentalism in India – By Surya Prakash Upadhyay and Rowena Robinson (Sep 8, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)
- Riot with many contrasts – By Ram Puniyani (Aug 28, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- Forbesganj Struggle Continues: People Construct Bhajanpur-Sheetalpur Road – By Kunal (Aug 21, 2012, Countercurrents)
Assam on the boil: Authorities must do more to stem violence – Editorial (Aug 30, 2012, Times of India)
With the death toll in Assam crossing 90, ethnic violence in the state is mutating into a dangerous beast. What started as a conflict between Bodo tribals and Bengali-speaking Muslims in the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts has now spread to other districts of the state. And as exemplified by this month’s exodus of northeast people from other parts of the country, the violence in Assam has repercussions that go well beyond the state.
In such a scenario, it’s indeed worrisome that groups with vested interests are looking to fish in troubled waters. This was evident during the recent tit-for-tat statewide bandhs called by the Bajrang Dal and Muslim groups. Meanwhile, the anti-talks faction of the Ulfa has threatened retaliatory violence if targeting of Assamese youth in other parts of the country doesn’t stop.
Though the state government claims that a sizeable number of those taking shelter in relief camps are gradually returning home, the situation continues to remain tense. The Bodoland People’s Front has demanded that inmates of relief camps be rehabilitated only after verifying their credentials. On the other hand, Muslim groups insist that the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) be dissolved altogether.
However, whether it is illegal migration of Bangladeshis or the hegemony of the Bodos in the BTC, the situation has reached a point where diagnosis and remedy of the root cause of the problem ought to be postponed to a later date. What is required is an immediate clampdown on the spreading violence. For this the local administration and security agencies need to get tough with the perpetrators. Meantime, the political leadership of the state must form a united front against the purveyors of communal agendas who threaten to turn Assam into a raging inferno.
- Kandhamal Communal Violence: Four Years Later – A Fact Finding Report (Aug 27, 2012, Countercurrents)
- Assam: The very idea of India is under threat – Part I – By Amaresh Misra (Aug 28, 2012, Times of India)
- Back at you – Editorial (Aug 29, 2012, Indian Express)
- Assam: The very idea of India is under threat- Part II – By Amaresh Misra (Sep 2, 2012, Times of India)