22.2.11

The Godhra Verdict and Selective Amnesia

The man who was all along considered the mastermind behind the burning train has been acquitted. This should tell us just how justice is being dished out in this case.

Today, February 22, the Special Investigative Team that was inquiring into the coach that was burned in the Sabarmati Express at Godhra and killed 59 people, mainly kar sevaks, convicted 31 people; 63 have been acquitted. The SIT was not the first investigative agency appointed. It should not be the last. We look forward to an explanation of what the 63 did not do that the 31 did.

The special court has accepted the conspiracy theory regarding the burning of the coach and reports mention that as per the charge-sheet some Muslims living in an adjoining colony had conspired to kill kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya on that train.

The Congress spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan should have kept quiet if she is not aware of the contents of the judgement. Instead, she chose to state, “In political sense, whatever the judgement with regard to Godhra incident, the communal violence that erupted in Gujarat (post the train carnage) remained a blot on democracy...It is a blot on the record of Narendra Modi for which he will always have to answer the people of the nation.”

A politician commenting by sidetracking is dangerous. Not only is this politicking but it will be seen as appeasement of Muslims, even though it is a valid point, except for the ‘blot on democracy’ bit because no political party is innocent. In this incident, the SIT has done a commendable cover-up job for Chief Minister Narendra Modi. 

Let us rewind to September 2008. The Justice Nanavati commission had given Modi, his council of ministers and police officers a clean chit, calling the Godhra case a “conspiracy’’.

When a judge sitting on a case for over six years who has got contrary evidence from another commission of enquiry – refer to my piece in Countercurrents Keeping Alive The Ghost Of Godhra on the U.C.Banerji findings – calls it a conspiracy, he should explain the nature of that conspiracy. He cannot dish out some one-liner like, “It was a part of a larger conspiracy to create terror and destabilise the administration.’’

If indeed it was true, and Modi was let off because he was innocent, then does one not assume it was his business to ensure that no terror was created later? Lumpen elements cannot destabilise the administration. So, who did it? 

Did he or did he not talk about the action-reaction theory? Did Justice Nanavati tell us how that could prove his innocence? How could he be absolved of any lapse in providing “protection, relief and rehabilitation to the victims of the communal riots’’ when statistics, refugee camps, raped women, people burned alive tell a different story? More than 1200 people died to pay for the sin of the Godhra train fire. Modi did visit the bogey almost immediately. Did he go to the Best Bakery that was burnt down by the goons in the state of which he was chief minister?

The Godhra carnage also led to Gujarat’s first POTA case in which there were 131 accused and 106 booked; it was later whittled down to 94. Please note the initial position and let us ask a few queries: Does it take 131 people to pull the chain of the train from outside so that it would give time for enough people to collect and throw petrol? Wouldn’t people who conspire be prepared in advance? Was Justice Nanavati saying that some fellow called Maulvi Hussain Umarji (yes, I repeat, the “mastermind” who has been acquitted!) suddenly discovered that a train would be travelling with kar sevaks? He twiddled this thumb and then, since the Gujarat Forensic Science Laboratory and statements by SIT accuse him, he pulled the chain, whispered in the ears of some Muslim boys to get a few people because the train should not go away. This group lands up there, throws petrol and the tragedy takes place?

When the train was stopped did no one raise an alarm or jump down? Did no one notice the maulvi? What about the station authorities? Did the engine driver just sit there and wait for someone to indulge in “conspiracy”?

Why were police officers transferred after the riots if they were not culpable? 

This case cannot be closed under any circumstances until we get the truth. What happened to the kar sevaks and to their families is tragic. They should have sued the government of Gujarat. But then Modi bhai silenced them with a fat compensation almost immediately.

This is what justice does. The Nanavati Commission was a farce, given extensions 12 times. Besides, the latest judgement lets off those it accused. That should tell us something.

Now the head of the SIT, R. K. Raghavan, says, “I have a mixed opinion on the judgement. I am satisfied with the Godhra train burning verdict, but I am pained as so many lives were lost due to the incident.” How can a person in his position have a mixed opinion on a ‘judgement’? A judgement is declared after cases of people who have died are brought to court. It still has eight cases of post-Godhra rioting pending before it, including Naroda Patia and Gulberg Society. Hope he is ready for more pain.

Meanwhile, Narendra Modi is sitting on his throne with even greater adhesive stuck to his seat busy planning beach resorts for fun tourism.

(c) Farzana Versey

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Published in Countercurrents