Monday, May 6, 2013

Gujarat: Conspiracy Most Sinister

THE chief minister of Gujarat since 2002 and the home minister of the state too till today, the role played by Mr Narendra Modi since day one, i.e. February 27, 2002, has been unravelled --- especially in the calculated misuse of his position to stoke the flames of retribution and revenge and also use hate speech himself. As the state’s home minister, he also conveniently ignored the build up of communal mobilisation and violence before 2002. In the first instance, the news of the Godhra incident was manipulated to ignore the provocative behaviour of the karsevaks that had led to a mob assembling near the Godhra station.

At about 1 p m when the state assembly met to discuss the budget, Gordhan Zadaphiya, minister of state for home affairs, read out the statement prepared by home department. Suresh Mehta, the minister of industries, was also present in Vidhan Sabha, sitting next to Modi, when Zadaphiya was reading the note. “I was sitting by the side of Mr Narendra Modi, CM who remarked that ‘Hindus should wake up now’ ” (Statement made by Suresh Mehta on August 15, 2009 to the SIT at Annexure I, Volume I, pp 83-84). The chief minister then went to Godhra by a helicopter on the same afternoon. Gordhan Zadaphiya too left for Godhra by road.

Between the time the meeting with home department officials was called (10.30 a m) and the assembly met, Modi spoke to Ashok Bhatt, another accused and then the minister for health, several times and left for Godhra to reach soon after 12 noon. These calls indicate clearly that part of the sinister conspiracy to milk macabre political mileage from the Godhra tragedy included clear-cut instructions from Modi to Bhatt to hastily conduct the post mortems of the bodies of the dead persons (not all were karsevaks — the Concerned Citizens Tribunal (CCT, Crimes Against Humanity, Gujarat 2002) had clearly recorded that even a station master’s wife simply travelling locally had been killed — out in the open in the railway yard, in the presence of an illegally assembled mob of VHP workers --- since curfew had been declared at 10 a m.

Such a decision to conduct post mortems of the burnt and disfigured bodies out in the open is completely against the law. Post mortems take place after bodies have been identified, in the presence of relatives. If bodies are unidentified there are procedures and rules for public notices to be issued, and bodies are kept in the morgue, etc. There are laws against allowing photographs of these bodies being taken or propagated.

What was the reason for this hasty post mortem if not to stoke hatred and revenge? The Special Investigation Team (SIT) under a former director of the CBI, R K Raghavan, found nothing to say in its closure report about this illegality, ignoring the aspects of conspiracy completely.

After visiting the railway yard where the bodies had been laid out in full public view in violation of the curfew orders, Modi held an official, mini-cabinet meeting at the Collectorate where, irony of ironies, Jaideep Patel, a VHP rabble-rouser, was allowed to be present. It is here that the controversial, criminal and illegal decision to transport the bodies to Ahmedabad in the charge of Jaideep Patel, also an accused, was taken.

The hate speech was a powerful tool used to fan the flames. “An unforgivable, inhuman heinous act has been committed on the soil of Gujarat. This act is an act which no civilised society can forgive. I wish to assure all citizens of Gujarat that Gujarat will not be able to stomach/tolerate/live with such an act. Not only will the guilty get exemplary punishment but such examples will be set that none will ever venture to commit such acts in future” (from the official Gujarat government press release available to Mrs Jafri at Annexure IV File VII of the SIT Records). The tenor and tone reflect the unashamedly partisan nature of Narendra Modi’s mindset at a critical juncture when statewide violence has already broken out --- from the afternoon of February 27, 2002. The SIT has failed to examine or evaluate the tenor of this press release, nor the others attached in the record provided by the Gujarat government, though they have been made available and further demonstrate the discriminatory mindset of Narendra Modi.  However, the amicus curiae in the case, Raju Ramachandran, found clearly and unequivocally that there was material to prosecute Modi under sections 166 and 153A and B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) (amicus report to the Supreme Court dated July 25, 2011).

Modi’s speech on February 27-28, 2002 on Doordarshan’s Gujarati channel concerning the Godhra incident is no less problematic: (Modi steps out from the coach and sitting in the conference room): Sarkar taraf thi…… samuhik hinsa ka trasvadi krutya hua. Itni bhayanakta itni krurata jiske liye shabd nahi hai. Sarkar ne mrutakon ke parivar ko 2,00,000 rupaye dene ka nirnay kiya hai. Sarkar koi bhi kadam uthane se hichkegi nahin aur gunehgaro ko puri saza milegi (Translation: The government………a collective terrorist act was perpetrated. There are no words for such cruelty, such barbarism. The government has decided on a compensation of Rs two lakh for each of those who have lost their lives. The government will not hesitate to take any necessary step and the culprits will be severely punished.) Alas, the same sense of exemplary punishment for the criminals responsible for the post-Godhra massacres has never been a priority for Modi.

Sections of the speech made by Modi at the onset of his election rallies, the infamous Gaurav Yatra, in September 2002 are also worth recalling. He delivered the speech at Becharaji, Mehsana on September 9, 2002. The National Commission for Minorities summoned a copy; field officers of the State Intelligence Bureau of Gujarat Police and ASGP R B Sreekumar found it harmful to public peace and violative of Indian criminal law. What was the result? R B Sreekumar was promptly transferred.

Modi said: “We have resolved to destroy and stamp out all forces of evil, who are a threat to the self-respect of Gujarat.” This was clearly an indirect justification of a policy of carnage against the minorities after the tragic Godhra incident. Referring to relief camps for the riot affected Muslims, Modi said: “What brother, should we run relief camps? Should I start children producing centres there, i.e., relief camps? We want to achieve progress by pursuing the policy of family planning with determination. We are 5 and ours are 25 (Ame panch, Amara panch)!!! Here he was making the claim that every Muslim family produces five children.) 

These remarks from the highest elected representative in a state are nothing short of an attempt to ridicule the plight of refugees from the minority community who were dis-housed because of widespread violence that was not contained. Refugees in these relief camps included the victims of mass massacre, rape and arson. State complicity at the highest level has been judicially held responsible for the sustained spread of the violence. Therefore, ridiculing the camps and thereafter lacing the statement with the poisoned stereotype of the alleged Muslim aversion to family planning during an election campaign clearly has a motive.

This statement also projects the Muslim minority as a stumbling block to progress and patronises an ‘us versus them’ mindset among the populace that then becomes easy fodder for incitement and the outbreak of communal violence. On the whole, the speech displays a definite communal bias, denigration of the minority community, ridiculing and belittling of the holiest scriptures of the minority community particularly the five pillars of Islam, the holy month of Ramzan and observance of Roza. Such references are likely to germinate a sense of hatred, ill-will and exclusivism about the Muslim minority in the minds of the majority community. The claim that nothing happened in the form of riots after the speech is irrelevant, dangerous and untenable, because the sense of exclusivism and sectarianism, obvious in the tone and tenor of the speech, not only goes against the concept of emotional integration of the Indian people but also engenders an intense feeling of alienation among the Muslims towards the Hindu community.  The potent poison of hate speech was and is a useful tool for the chief accused in this case.

Teesta Setalvad People's Democracy 05 May 2013

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