Saturday, March 28, 2009

Justice catching up with the instigators

YESTERDAY, while I was writing about the campaign to stop right-wing Indian politician Narendra Modi , the Chief Minister of Gujarat, from visiting Britain, news came that two of his associates have been charged with instigating riots in 2002 in which Muslims were killed.

The Gujarat pogroms were sparked off after a Muslim crowd attacked a train carrying Hindu pilgrims returning from a controversial ceremony. The train was set on fire and people killed in the blaze. But evidence indicates the the massive "retaliation" which hit Muslim homes, mosques and shops, and left at least 1,000 dead, was not just spontaneous, but organised. Chief Minister Modi, who remarked cynically that "every action brings a reaction" , made sure police did not interfere.

Modi is a leader of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, which is Hindu supremacist, and he could become prime minister of India if the party does well in forthcoming elections. But yesterday came this news in one of India's leading dailies:

Date:28/03/2009 URL:


"Kodnani, Patel supplied lethal weapons to mob"

Special Correspondent
Police were too lenient with senior leaders, says SIT
— Photo: PTI

Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Jaydeep Patel, accused in the 2002 Naroda Patiya riot case, arrives to surrender before the Special Investigation Team, in Gandhinagar on Friday.

GANDHINAGAR: Gujarat’s Minister of State for Women’s Welfare Mayaben Kodnani and State Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Jaideep Patel were accused of “leading and instigating” a violent mob to attack the minorities in Naroda-Patiya and Naroda Gaam localities in the aftermath of the Godhra train carnage on February 28, 2002.

More than 105 people, including about 95 in Naroda-Patiya alone, were burnt alive. Some of the women victims were allegedly physically assaulted before being thrown into burning fire and several houses ransacked and set afire by a mob. Ms. Kodnani then was a member of the Assembly from Naroda and Mr. Patel State general secretary of the VHP.

Some of the police complaints filed by the victims soon after the carnage said Ms. Kodnani, Mr. Patel and a few other sangh parivar leaders were seen among the crowd, “instigating” them to attack Muslims. Ms. Kodnani and Mr. Patel were also accused of “distributing” swords and other lethal weapons.

The police, during initial investigations, however, did not find any “evidence” against these persons and closed the investigations with “A” summary, indicating lack of evidence. A few local Hindus were arrested in this connection.

Appointment of SIT

The appointment of the SIT by the Supreme Court to reinvestigate dozen-odd comparatively gruesome massacres, including the Naroda-Patiya and Naroda Gaam incidents, reopened the case. The SIT found that the police were too lenient with senior leaders.

The Jan Sangharsha Manch, which was representing the riot victims before the G. T. Nanavati-K. G. Shah-Akshay Mehta judicial inquiry commission probing the Godhra and post-Godhra carnages, submitted to the SIT the same set of evidences it presented before the Commission to claim that Ms. Kodnani and Mr. Patel were present close to the scene of the massacres during the crucial period.

Based on the reports of two mobile service companies collected by the former crime branch police official, Rahul Sharma, Manch advocate Mukul Sinha told the SIT that the “locations” of the mobile phones owned by Ms. Kodnani and Mr. Patel clearly showed their presence near Naroda-Patiya and Naroda Gaam during the attack by the mob.

Ms Kodnani had, all along, claimed that she was in Gandhinagar, about 40 km away from the scene of the crime, that day and attending the Assembly.

Declared “absconders”

Ms. Kodnani and Mr. Patel failed to respond to the summons issued by the SIT for questioning them. After they twice failed to appear before the SIT towards January end, they were declared “absconders,” forcing them to seek anticipatory bail from the Ahmedabad Sessions Court. Bail was granted on the ground that they were unlikely to tamper with the evidences and posed no threat to the impartial investigation by the SIT.

The SIT moved the High Court last month, seeking cancellation of the anticipatory bails. Justice Vaghela rejected the grounds on which the Sessions Court granted the anticipatory bails, leaving the two with no options but to surrender before the SIT.

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